MS, Texas Instruments Team on Wireless Handhelds

Texas Instruments and Microsoft on Wednesday announced the two companies have embarked on a mission to add brains and subtract brawn from future handheld wireless devices.

Working with Microsoft, Dallas-based Texas Instruments has designed an integrated wireless platform that combines TI's digital signal processor-based GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) chip set technology with Microsoft's "Stinger" smart phone technology, which is a stripped-down version of the Redmond, Wash.-based company's Windows CE 3.0 operating system.

The combined technologies allow TI to consolidate a number of different communications and multimedia features on the same platform, making it easier for manufacturers to produce much more intelligent wireless mobile devices while maintaining the smallest possible form factor.

The integrated wireless platform is also designed to support 2.5G GSM/GPRS (general packet radio switching)-enabled wireless handsets and other advanced mobile computing devices. The GPRS standard enables data to be delivered to devices in packet form, the same way wired Internet traffic is moved, enabling broadband wireless services including secure e-commerce, mobile Internet access, and corporate e-mail, TI officials said.

Consolidating broadband and multimedia features onto one platform should also prolong the battery life of a mobile device, TI officials said.

According to TI, as future wireless bandwidth increases from 2.5 to 3G (third-generation), the TI integrated wireless platform will be forward-compatible.

While TI plans to add its digital signal processor-based Open Multimedia Applications Platform (OMAP) to future versions of the device, officials said the platform is already OMAP-compatible. This will make it easier for equipment manufacturers to take advantage of OMAP's increased performance level without having to re-tool the software or redesign the hardware architecture, officials said.

The TI integrated wireless platform is slated for volume production in the later half of 2001.

Combining multiple feature on a single chip platform is an engineering idea that a number of chip makers have been catching on to.

Last September, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel announced it would begin evaluating a new processor core optimized specifically for mobile computing that will put wireless technologies such as 802.11 and Bluetooth directly on the chip, and address low-power and thermal issues critical to mobile computing.

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