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Intel, Nokia Partner On Smartphones, Mobile Devices

The collaboration optimizes Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo Linux OS for Internet-connected devices, netbooks, nettops, and in-vehicle information/entertainment.

Intel and Nokia on Tuesday announced a long-term partnership to develop smartphones and other computing devices that would run on Intel's microprocessors, giving the chipmaker its first big break into the multibillion-dollar mobile-phone market.

The devices would be based on a mobile version of the Linux operating system. Intel said it would acquire a Nokia HSPA/3G modem IP license for used in future handhelds. The partnership is also expected to expand into other mobile Internet-connected devices, such as netbooks, nettops, in-vehicle information/entertainment, and embedded systems. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"We will explore new ideas in designs, materials, and displays that will go far beyond devices and services on the market today. This collaboration will be compelling not only for our companies, but also for our industries, our partners and, of course, for consumers," Kai Oistamo, executive VP for devices at Nokia, said in a statement.

Among the Linux-based technologies, the partners will use Moblin, an Intel-developed open source operating system for smartphones and other mobile Internet devices. Moblin is optimized for Intel's Atom processor, a low-power chip that's used mostly in netbooks today. Intel has said for quite awhile that it plans to design future Atom chips for smaller devices, including mobile phones.

Besides Moblin, the company said they would also optimize hardware for Maemo, a Linux-based OS developed by Nokia and currently used in its N810 Internet tablet.

The Moblin and Maemo partnership will also seek improvements in audio and graphics capabilities through the help of other open source technologies. Products such as oFono, ConnMan, Mozilla, X.Org, BlueZ, D-BUS, Tracker, GStreamer, and PulseAudio were named as some of the first projects targeted for development.

The Nokia partnership gives Intel a big break in the mobile phone market. As the world's largest mobile-phone maker, Nokia could potentially drive Intel's processors into millions of devices. Currently, most smartphones, including Apple's iPhone, run on ARM-based processors. Intel's Core microarchitecture consumes too much power to be practical in mobile phones. Intel's initial attempts at the smartphone market included its XScale architecture, which powered versions of RIM's BlackBerry handheld; Dell's Axim line of Pocket PCs; and most of Palm's Zire, Treo, and Tungsten handhelds.

For Nokia, Intel's inroads could bolster its presence in the U.S. market. Nokia's modem technology includes protocol software and related digital design for 3GPP standards through WCDMA/GSM and its evolution. Telecoms AT&T and T-Mobile are both standardized on WCDMA/GSM technology.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on smartphone security. Download the report here (registration required).

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