Digital's new StrongARM chip may make WinCE fly

Digital has introduced a high-performance, low-cost processor aimed at Windows CE-based handheld products such as subnotebook, handheld, and even 'wallet' PCs, as well as smart cellular phones and Internet phones. Digital says the StrongARM SA-1100 CPU - from the same family as the chips already used in the Apple Newton PDA - offers three to five times the performance of competing products, either currently available or on the drawing board, at prices as low as US$29. Mobile computing vendors have welcomed it.

Digital has introduced a high-performance, low-cost processor aimed at Windows CE-based handheld products such as subnotebook, handheld, and even "wallet" PCs, as well as smart cellular phones and Internet phones.

Digital says the StrongARM SA-1100 CPU - from the same family as the chips already used in the Apple Newton PDA - offers three to five times the performance of competing products, either currently available or on the drawing board, at prices as low as US$29. Mobile computing vendors have welcomed it.

"Digital's SA-1100 is a great example of the processors that will allow future handheld and embedded systems to provide fast performance, color displays, and high-speed communications for users," says J. Gerry Purdy, president and CEO of Mobile Insights, in California. "Products like this will greatly expand the market for handheld and embedded systems."

"Microsoft welcomes the SA-1100 microprocessor because it really opens up the envelope for Windows CE performance," says Jim Floyd, handheld PC product manager at Microsoft. "The cooperation between Digital and Microsoft now extends from servers and clusters down to handheld PCs."

"The StrongARM SA-1100 processor is the latest product of a fruitful relationship between Digital and ARM [Advanced RISC Machines]," says Robin Saxby, president and CEO at ARM.

Sandy Benett, chief operating officer at Newton, says, "The StrongARM architecture is an important feature of the MessagePad 2000 handheld computer. It facilitates faster response times, longer periods between battery changes, and voice recording capability. We will continue to work closely with Digital in the future - the StrongARM chip plays an important role in our ongoing product strategy."

According to Stephen Randall, joint president of Psion Software, "Ultimately, AA-battery-powered PDAs [personal digital assistants] will require the kind of performance and functionality expected from connected phones, videoconferencing systems, and desktop devices, including full support for Enterprise Java. We are seeing increasing demand from licensees for industrial-strength, high-end mobile devices. We are developing products based on the SA-1100 that for the first time turn these high-end concepts into reality."

Northern Telecom (Nortel) is developing a cellular, touch-screen, pen-friendly "network telephone" that will deliver a steady stream of high-value services and applications using Java, according to Phil Terrett, senior manager, product line management, advanced wireless terminals division.

Tom Schild, StrongARM portable products marketing manager for Digital Semiconductor, says the StrongARM SA-1100 is already being designed into "wallet PCs," which he described as pocketable computers such as the Palm Pilot but with more functionality.

Features that users can expect to see in StrongARM-based handheld systems include more-accurate user interfaces such as handwriting and speech recognition, color displays, faster synchronisation with desktop systems, soft modems, and integrated communications.

For OEMs, the SA-1100 chip offers the ability to run Java applications off the Web. A highly integrated, single-chip solution with inexpensive packaging, the SA-1100 enables reduction of system costs and added form factor flexibility. An SA-1100 Evaluation Platform is also available to assist designers in product development and to shorten time to market for new products.

The SA-1100 chip typically consumes less than 250 milliwatts of power.

Digital Semiconductor, a Digital Equipment Corp. business in Hudson, Massachusetts is at http://www.digital.com/semiconductor/.

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