Royal Philips Electronics is to step up its competition with chipmakers such as Intel and Texas Instruments next year with a new mobile processor. The surprise is that many gadget buyers will have already been using Philips' Nexperia Mobile Multimedia Processor, since it powers Sony Ericsson's P800 smartphone, as Philips revealed this week.
The tri-band P800, on sale in Europe since November, combines handheld computer, a camera, multimedia playback, Internet connectivity and other features with a standard mobile phone. Its closest competitors are smartphones from Nokia and Taiwanese contract manufacturer High Tech Computing, which are based on competing technology such as STMicroelectronics' Nomadik chips and Intel's Xscale. Texas Instruments, with its OMAP platform, and Motorola are also leading players in the mobile chip market.
"Seeing such multimedia-rich handsets from Sony Ericsson being so successful on the market, and featuring our multimedia processor, is a new proof-point of our mobile multimedia leadership," said Philips executive vice president Mario Rivas in a statement.
The move to sell the Mobile Multimedia Processor on the general market is part of Philips' efforts to take advantage of a new wave of multimedia-enabled mobile phones. The company admitted this week that it had largely missed out on the boom in devices such as mobile phones and DVD players in the 1990s, but it is betting on more advanced gadgets to gain lost ground.
It also reflects a shift in the mobile phone handset business from using purpose-built ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) to general-purpose chips.
Philips Semiconductors, the company's chipmaking division, is roughly the tenth-largest in the world, and is No. 2 in Europe after STMicroelectronics.
Philips said the company is hoping to sign up Samsung, which has grown into one of the biggest mobile phone makers, as a customer. Samsung, Nokia, Siemens and other major mobile phone makers have signed up to create smartphones based on the Symbian operating system, the same used by the P800, although the smartphone market remains unproven.
The Nexperia system-on-a-chip (SoC) includes an ARM9 core from UK-based ARM, a digital signal processor core and hardware accelerators for such multimedia codecs as MPEG-4 and JPEG. It supports colour touch screens, built-in cameras, organiser functions, Bluetooth and Internet access, among other features.
Philips already supplied mobile ASIC chips to Ericsson through VLSI Technology, which Philips acquired in 1999.