Palm prepares XScale handhelds

The leading PDA maker is set to begin sampling an OS 5 PDA running on Intel's PXA250 later this year, according to a report

Handheld computer maker Palm is set to make a major shift in technology early next year when it begins manufacturing its next generation of portable devices, according to an industry report.

In the next few months Palm is due to switch away from its Motorola Dragonball designs to more advanced hardware running on processors with an ARM core, similar to those which already power Pocket PC devices from HP, Toshiba and others. Palm will begin mass production of the ARM-based devices with Taiwanese manufacturer Asustek in the first quarter of 2003, with a target of 200,000 for the quarter, according to a report from Taiwan high-tech industry news service Digitimes.

The devices will be based on Palm's OS 5 and the Intel Xscale PXA250 processor, according to the report. The companies will begin sampling devices later this year, Digitimes said.

The PXA250 is the latest ARM-based processor from Intel. So far, only one PDA on the market uses the PXA250: Toshiba's e740, which launched earlier this week. Intel has said that the chip, which runs at 400MHz instead of the 206MHz of Intel's earlier StrongARM, will provide more performance at a lower power than the older chips.

If the report is accurate, it would be Palm's first Taiwan subcontracting arrangement. Pocket PC makers routinely subcontract their production to Taiwanese companies, and in fact Asustek has produced Pocket PC devices for NEC. Palm has also partnered with TI and Motorola, both of whom make their own variety of ARM chips, and the company is expected to eventually produce a range of handhelds using a mix of processors.

Palm's existing products are the last mass-market computers using derivatives of Motorola's 68000 chip, the processor behind the original Apple Macintosh and many others and once seen as the only plausible competition to Intel's x86 range.

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