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Motorola may shift chip strategy

The company's PowerPC processor group is expected to make an announcement Monday that could shift it increasingly away from computers and further toward non-PC markets.

Motorola's (MOT) PowerPC processor group is expected to make an announcement Monday that could shift its business away from computers and further toward non-PC markets.

The move may underscore Motorola's expectation of a shrinking demand for Mac merger PowerPC processors after Apple Computer's purchase of Power Computing's Mac clone operations, which is aimed at shutting down much of the clone market. IBM is expected to join Motorola at the announcement, which is to take place at a company conference in Orlando, Florida.

"There are oodles and oodles of [applications] outside the PC," a Motorola spokesperson said today. He added that there is still a lot of life left for the PowerPC in "non-PC" areas.

Motorola, along with IBM, makes PowerPC processors for the Macintosh and Mac-compatible computers. But some analysts have wondered how long two large companies could continue to focus their efforts on a relatively small processor market. While primarily one company, Intel, supplies a market that consumes close to 100 million processors a year, IBM and Motorola supply roughly 5 million chips annually.

Motorola, in particular, has been active in the non-PC market, making PowerPC microcontrollers. Such chips, typically less complex than the microprocessors found in computers, are used in cellular phones, automobiles, and a variety of other products.

Recent reports have also stated that Steve Jobs, who is now Apple's de facto leader, is considering an Intel-based network computer and Intel-based servers, which could eat into PowerPC sales.

The move will be the latest development in a complete overhaul of the Macintosh market this week, which began with the Power Computing sale. With that deal, Apple has effectively halted its licensing program for most clone manufacturers, saying it would not renew any of its current agreements to license the Macintosh operating system.

Motorola has had to suspend the release of its StarMax 6000 computer line, a long-awaited line based on a new architecture called CHRP, because of a Apple's hard-line stance on licensing of the Mac OS 8 operating system. Some observers have speculated that the cancellation might mean that the Motorola Computer Group is getting out of the clone market all together.

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