Intel powers up smartphone chip

The chipmaker is set to make waves in the wireless market with Manitoba, a new integrated chip that it says will enable tiny mobile phones with long battery life and sophisticated applications

Intel is expected to formally introduce its long-awaited chip for smartphones this week, ahead of the 3GSM Congress wireless trade show which begins on Tuesday in Cannes. The chip, code-named Manitoba, will offer enough processing power for sophisticated applications, while its integrated design will allow longer battery life, according to Intel.

Manitoba, also known as the "wireless Internet on a chip", integrates flash memory, a digital signal processor and an XScale processor core onto a single chip. It will be targeted at mobile phone makers developing products for high-speed wireless networks, such as GPRS (General Pack Radio Service) networks. Manitoba will help in the development of phones that let users wirelessly access the Web and play audio files, as well as make basic phone calls.

At 3GSM, Intel will be focusing on Manitoba along with Centrino, a set of technologies including the upcoming notebook processor, Banias, and integrating wireless LAN capabilities.

Intel said that both products are examples of the company's increasing efforts to integrate new technologies into motherboards and directly into chip packaging. "That's where Intel's core competence is. (Integration) is happening with wireless LAN, and with other technologies like Bluetooth and GPRS," said an Intel spokesman.

He said integrating the digital signal processor (DSP), flash memory and application processor would allow for handsets with a sleeker design as well as more sophisticated applications.

Centrino, Banias and Manitoba are all part of Intel's effort to broaden its focus away from the PC industry into the lucrative market for mobile phones and wireless networking. The Manitoba chip is designed to put pressure on chipmakers such as Texas Instruments and Motorola, who already offer integrated wireless processors. Other chipmakers also integrate DSP and application processors onto a single chip.

Intel has said in the past that the chip could deliver twice the performance and half the power of a non-integrated package.

Centrino is expected to launch on 12 March.

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