Start-up gives PDAs a multimedia boost

MediaQ has licensed technology from ARM to power its new line of chips for multimedia handheld computers and mobile phones

Start-up chipmaker MediaQ is working on a new applications processor for handheld computers and mobile phones that will use technology from UK-based ARM, which licenses designs for power-efficient processors.

The chip, which will compete with products from Texas Instruments, Intel and Motorola, among others, will be aimed at multimedia-capable devices. MediaQ has already partnered with PalmSource, which makes the market-leading Palm operating system, licensing code designed to make Palm software run more efficiently.

MediaQ said on Monday it had licensed the ARM922T processor core as the foundation for a new line of energy-efficient processors. The core will be built into a highly integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) along with MediaQ's own hardware acceleration for multimedia applications. "The popular ARM9-family CPU core will be complemented by our hardware acceleration technologies that will create a uniquely crafted SoC for the mobile market space," said Elie Antoun, MediaQ's president and chief executive, in a statement.

ARM cores are popular with mobile chip makers, allowing them to build efficient chips without inventing all the components from scratch. ARM-based chips power Palm and Pocket PC handhelds, Symbian smartphones and other embedded devices such as set-top boxes. The company is planning to show off some of its latest technology at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco later this month.

The chip designer has remained one of the more successful high-tech firms in the current economic downturn, partly because it sells to chip companies rather than directly to end users.

This week it reported that total revenues for the first quarter ending 31 March were down 4 percent from the same quarter last year, at £31m, but said that royalties were up 33 percent sequentially to £10.3m.

The higher royalties are a result of increased shipments of high-tech gadgets, which may be good news for mobile phone makers looking for signs of consumer demand. "Royalty revenues have again increased as a result of more partners shipping more ARM core-based products and sales of development systems are up over Q4 last year," said chief executive Warren East in a statement.

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