UK chip designer ARM will unveil its 64-bit processor design for handheld computers on Wednesday at the Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, California.
The processor, called Jaguar, uses features more often found in servers, but will be used to power a new generation of broadband wireless devices that use third generation (3G) mobile networks.
Chips based on existing ARM designs already power most popular handheld devices. Microsoft said last month that its new handheld operating system would only support Intel's StrongARM SA-1110 processors, which were already used by Compaq's popular iPaq line. Microsoft rival Palm is also moving its operating system across to chips based on ARM processors.
But consumers may have a long wait before the 64-bit devices appear in products, said Pete Magowan, executive vice president of sales and marketing at ARM. "We should be able to deliver on the licence deals in the second half of next year," said Magowan. "Then it is likely to be another two years after that before the OEMs start shipping the end product."
To help OEMs develop products based on its chips, ARM has developed what it calls PrimeXsys. "This is where we take an ARM processor, combine it with peripherals and software support, and give that to the manufacturer," said Magowan. ARM has closed "its first couple of deals" with manufacturers including chip maker STMicroelectronics.
Jaguar will use super-scalar techniques, but will have to do so without greatly increasing power consumption or breaking the space constraints of wireless devices. Widening the data path and address space to 64 bits, while also using super-scalar cores that execute more than one instruction every cycle, are ways in which core processor speed can be increased.
Applications such as video streaming, voice recognition and global positioning are likely to be those that benefit most from 64-bit power on handheld devices. The company has said it could recruit partners to develop its next chip architectures, in the same way that Intel recruited Hewlett-Packard for its IA-64 64-bit design.
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