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RIM picks Intel for new BlackBerrys

update Maker of the handheld device ends months of speculation by committing to the chipmaker's "Hermon" processors.

update SAN FRANCISCO--Ending months of speculation, Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry e-mail device, said Tuesday that it will use Intel processors in its future designs.

The first BlackBerry devices using the new Intel chips are expected to reach consumers before the end of the year. Prices and model numbers have yet to be determined. The nonexclusive development deal centers on Intel's XScale PXA9xx, a new cellular processor family, code-named Hermon, that runs at speeds of about 1GHz.

Co-chief executive Michael Lazaridis said the partnership with Intel would not change RIM's relationship with its other processor suppliers. RIM's current BlackBerry devices use chips based on the ARM 9 RISC processor architecture, though Lazaridis did not specify which company supplied chips for the BlackBerry. Companies such as Freescale Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung and STMicroelectronics license the architecture for various consumer electronics products.

"One of the challenges for us at RIM is that our customers are asking for more computing power, and as the customer base started to expand, we needed a platform that could handle that," Lazaridis said during the joint presentation at the CTIA Wireless show taking place here.

RIM's initial use of the Hermon series will use a wireless network called EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution), RIM said. The digital mobile-phone technology acts as an enhancement to 2G and 2.5G wireless networks. Cingular and T-Mobile are the two largest wireless carriers that use EDGE technology.

The processor is capable of tapping into UTMS (Universal Mobile Telephone System) wireless networks, a WCDMA-DS based technology used by Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney said, but the processor would need additional field testing before it was ready for consumer products.

Intel sells chips into the handheld market, but these chips tend to be versions of older chips that provide lower levels of performance. For example, an Intel representative said the chipmaking giant's involvement in the next-generation Palm Treo smart phone will continue to use the two-year-old Intel PXA270 family of processors, code-named Bulverde.

Maloney said he wouldn't speculate on Hermon's success in the market.

"Intel is making progress with our handset processors, particularly in the smart-phone space. Some of the handset manufacturers will be successful; some will not. But Palm and RIM are established companies, so we know we will do well with them.

This isn't RIM's first time using Intel chips. The company used 386 chips--the same type Intel sold into the PC market in the early 1990s--in its BlackBerry 950 and 957 handhelds.

But stories of the latest collaboration between the two companies came to a head during this fall's Intel Developer Forum, when the chipmaking giant said it was developing a new breed of processors that only used a half watt to operate.

Intel began hinting at the development back in March, when it said it was developing Hermon in both one-chip and two-chip designs to include low-power capabilities as well as built-in graphics for the cellular market. Maloney declined to say which one Intel was developing for RIM.

Intel and RIM said Tuesday that they will continue working together to develop new wireless technologies and handset features.

Shares in Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM rose earlier this year on reports that it would exchange technology with Intel, using battery-saving technology from the world's largest chipmaker and supporting high-speed wireless technology WiMax.

Reuters contributed to this report.