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Intel to power up smart-phone chip

The company hopes to make waves in the wireless market with "Manitoba," which it says will allow cell phones to offer more sophisticated applications and longer battery life.

Intel is expected to formally introduce its chip for smart phones this week, ahead of next week's 3GSM Congress wireless trade show.

The chip, code-named Manitoba, will offer enough processing power for more sophisticated applications, while its integrated design will allow longer battery life, according to Intel.

Manitoba, also known as the "wireless Internet on a chip," integrates flash memory, a digital signal processor and an XScale processor core onto a single chip. It will be targeted at mobile phone makers developing products for high-speed wireless networks, such as GPRS (General Pack Radio Service) networks. Manitoba will help in the development of phones that let people wirelessly access the Web and play audio files, as well as make basic phone calls.

At 3GSM, Intel will focus on Manitoba along with Centrino, a set of technologies that will include the processor code-named Banias, a chipset and a Wi-Fi module.

Intel said that both products are examples of the company's increasing efforts to integrate new technologies into motherboards and directly into chip packaging. "That's where Intel's core competence is. (Integration) is happening with wireless LAN, and with other technologies like Bluetooth and GPRS," an Intel representative said.

The representative said that integrating the digital signal processor (DSP), flash memory and Xscale will allow for handsets with a sleeker design and more sophisticated applications.

Centrino, Banias and Manitoba are all part of Intel's effort to create products outside the PC realm, such as ones for the lucrative market of mobile phones and wireless networking. The Manitoba chip is designed to put pressure on chipmakers such as Texas Instruments and Motorola, which already offer integrated wireless processors. Other chipmakers also integrate DSP and application processors onto a single chip, although the inclusion of memory is more unusual.

Centrino is expected to launch March 12.

ZDNet UK's Matthew Broersma reported from London.