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XScale chips gain multimedia power for portables

Additions include security and longer battery life

Intel updated its XScale processor family on Monday with the launch of the PXA270 series at the Intel Developer Forum in Taipei.

The new chips bring multimedia extensions from the desktop Pentium 4 family to the XScale line of chips, designed for personal digital assistants, mobile phones, and smart phones, according to David Rogers, wireless marketing manager for Intel.

This Wireless MMX (multimedia extensions) technology will allow users to play high-quality video as well as three-dimensional games on their handheld devices.

The PXA270 processors were formerly known by the Bulverde code name.

Intel's XScale technology has been gaining prominence as an applications processor for the wireless world.

Most of its success has come in the PDA world, with devices on the market from industry leaders Palm, HP and Dell.

The earlier generation PXA260 series chips are also starting to appear in smart phones from Samsung, among others.

Outside of the recent success of Palm's Treo 600, consumers and businesses have not demanded high-powered handheld devices mainly because wireless carriers have not followed through on promises of high-speed wireless networks over which to exchange video and data.

Battery life will also improve with the inclusion of Intel's SpeedStep technology. SpeedStep is a technique where the chip senses the amount of power needed to complete a given task and alters the amount of power flowing through the chip depending on the application requirements, according to Rogers.

Mobile phones with integrated cameras have taken off with consumers in the consumer market even though most of those cameras take relatively poor pictures.

Another enhancement built into the PXA270 processors centers around security. Intel added a dedicated hardware engine for security that also contains software to improve commonly used security products such as VPN applications, according to Rogers.

Manufacturers will be able to include digital-rights management technology in devices based on the new processors through a protected area of the chip.

Entertainment industry companies are very sceptical about licensing their content for wireless devices without some type of DRM technology, but consumer advocates are worried about the prospect of limited ownership rights for movies and music.


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