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Motorola hosts modems on Pentiums

Motorola introduces software-based modems that use a Pentium processor to perform modem functions.

Motorola's Information Systems Group has introduced software-based modems that use a Pentium processor to perform modem functions.

By using the "host" Pentium processor rather than special modem chips, software modems are expected to be less espensive because less hardware is needed. Motorola (MOT) says that only a phone jack connector is needed with its product.

A major advantage of software-based modems is that, in many cases, upgrading to technologies such as 56 kbps is basically a process of installing a software upgrade.

The SM34DFV is a V.34 28.8-kbps fax-modem that will have full-duplex speakerphone capability and answering machine functions. Support for enhanced caller ID and distinctive ring for differentiating fax, data, or voice calls will also be offered.

Motorola plans to provide free upgrades to 33.6 kbps standards. Features that could be offered in the future include videoconferenceing as well as simultaneous voice and data communications.

A 150-MHz Pentium is the minimum level of processing power needed for the software modem, according to Motorola. As MMX-enabled processors become available in 1997, Motorola will take advantage of the multimedia-specific processing abilities to provide higher performance for these modems.

However, these modems will not be available at retail outlets unless you are buying a new computer with one of these modems bundled, said Motorola. The modem will only be included in new PCs, according to the company.

The additional price for a PC vendor offering a software modem on a new PC could be less than $20, according to a source familiar with the announcement, compared with more than $100 for most 28.8-kbps modems available today.

In related news, PCtel recently announced plans to show its MMX-enabled modem product at Comdex in Las Vegas and is set to ship its product in January, when the MMX-enabled Pentiums will begin shipping in PCs.