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Intel, Philips team for design services

The two companies are offering consumer-electronics manufacturers services ranging from designing a device's internal components to creating a user interface or chassis.

Philips Components and Intel opened the doors to a new design shop this week, aimed at bringing new consumer-electronics devices to market quickly.

The joint effort will provide a range of design and manufacturing services for a fee to companies that sell consumer-electronics devices in the mobile, automotive and home markets, representatives from Philips and Intel said.

The group, dubbed Pronto++ Software and Systems, will provide services ranging from designing a device's internal components to creating a user interface or chassis for a product.

Pronto++ services will also include manufacturing and management of online content distributed to those devices. Philips and Intel have signed up a number of customers they say will be announced later in the year.

The companies will charge various fees for using Pronto++ services, but they have broader motives. Pronto++ allows Philips to offer up its device design and manufacturing expertise to a wider audience, for example. Meanwhile, Intel hopes to gain broader uptake for its XScale chip, which is currently used in PDAs and networking equipment, but not consumer electronics.

Intel for years has licensed reference designs--that is, blueprints for building PCs and other items--to companies that use its chips. Teaming up with Philips, though, will expand the repertoire of design ideas available to its customers.

The new service will let smaller manufacturers bring new products to market 30 percent to 50 percent faster, cutting lead times from about nine to 12 months to about six to nine months. The time savings will come about in part because manufacturers will be able to reuse design elements across multiple devices, representatives from Philips and Intel said.

Most of the devices will use similar components, though they will look different. Roughly 60 percent to 70 percent of the components--things such as processors, screens and memory chips--used to manufacture Pronto++ devices will be the same. Much of what makes the devices different will be their user interfaces and chassis design, the companies said.

Additionally, Philips and Intel say they can reduce the cost of manufacturing customers' devices by combining the component purchases from several different customers to take advantage of component makers' discounts for large purchases.

By using these two techniques to cut costs, Pronto++ can lower the barriers to entering the consumer-electronics device market for companies such as PC markers, telecommunications companies and even automakers, representatives from Philips and Intel said.

Pronto++ will be a "one-stop shop for OEM customers...after they've done their market research," said Sugata Sanyal, director for Pronto++ at Philips Components in Sunnyvale, Calif. Many of the designs offered through the program will be based on upcoming Philips products, he added.

"We're announcing our own product...so all of these things are debugged and in place," Sanyal said.

The Pronto++ system will be based on Intel's XScale processor. It will initially use the XScale PXA250 processor, a low-power chip that runs at clock speeds of 200MHz to 400MHz. The designs will work with several different operating systems, including Linux and Windows CE.

Philips and Intel expect the devices they will help design and manufacture to range in price from $200 to $1,000 and to debut later this year and start shipping next year.