Motorola prepares to battle XScale

The chipmaker has got approval from PalmSource for its ARM-based DragonBall MX1, designed for next-generation PDAs

Motorola's DragonBall MX1 embedded microprocessor has now been certified for PalmSource's next-generation operating system, enabling the company to provide Palm OS 5 silicon to device makers.

The step paves the way for the introduction of more powerful Palm OS devices, which promise multimedia and improved security and wireless capabilities. Late last year, Motorola lagged behind Texas Instruments' OMAP platform in getting a commitment from Palm to use Motorola processors in OS 5 products. Motorola's certification, announced last week, now puts the company on par with rivals TI and Intel on the Palm platform.

Palm has now committed to OMAP, MX1 and Intel's XScale families of processors, but has only publicly announced a wireless product based on OMAP, due this autumn. Palm is also reported to be planning XScale-based devices, which would be manufactured in Taiwan.

Palm OS 5 is designed to run on any certified ARM-based processor without modification. This approach could allow Palm and other Palm OS licensees, such as Sony and Handspring, scope for greater differentiation than is possible with Microsoft's Pocket PC platform. Microsoft said last year that Pocket PC 2002 would run on any ARM-based chip, but only Intel-based devices have been announced.

Motorola has focused on tight integration with MX1, and claims that the processor achieves more computing power with a lower clock speed than competitors such as XScale. MX1 runs at up to 200MHz, compared with 400MHz for XScale, and integrates colour graphics, and MP3 and MPEG4 media processing, Bluetooth optimisation and other features.

At the PalmSource conference in London, Motorola recently demonstrated a DragonBall MX1 processor and Palm OS 5 encoding and decoding digital video.

Palm also announced last week that graphics chipmaker ATI has joined Motorola, Intel, TI and MediaQ in the Palm OS Ready programme, whcih allows ATI to license parts of Palm OS 5 for its grpahics accelerators.

ATI's Imageon accelerators are designed to enhance 2D graphics and MPEG-4 decoding, and are already used in multimedia PDAs such as Toshiba's e740.

Read previews of the first XScale Pocket PC devices here.

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