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Intel Debuts Mobile Processor

The chip, code-named Bulverde, has features that will help devices capture higher-quality pictures, extend battery life, and improve multimedia performance.

Intel on Wednesday unveiled its next-generation processor for cell phones, PDAs, and other wireless devices. Code-named Bulverde, the chip contains features that will help devices capture higher-quality pictures, extend battery life, and improve multimedia performance.

The processor was unveiled at Intel's Developer Forum 2003 in San Jose, Calif.

Bulverde is a key component of the chipmaker's Personal Internet Client Architecture, a development blueprint for designing wireless devices that combine voice communications and Internet access capabilities.

For some time, Intel has increasingly focused development efforts on faster, low-power processors for mobile hardware while also building new products for its mainstay desktop and server markets.

"There's still going to be a lot of standard desktop PCs around for a long time, but it's increasingly becoming a commodity market and even a stagnant market in some ways," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at market researcher Illuminata. "A lot of the exciting stuff going on is in various types of mobile computing. That's where additional systems are going to be sold and where the big growth is."

Bulverde will be the first processor that incorporates Intel's Wireless SpeedStep technology, which dynamically adjusts the power and performance of the processor based on CPU demand. The technology is meant to significantly decrease power consumption by handheld devices.

SpeedStep advances the capabilities in Intel's Dynamic Voltage Management technology, a function already built into the company's XScale microarchitecture. SpeedStep adds three new low-power states, deep idle, standby and deep sleep.

Intel's innovation in the mobile market has pushed the industry toward the use of general-purpose processors over the specialty chips that have traditionally dominated, Haff said.

"From a developer's point of view, you'd love to always use general purpose processors to run applications, written in high-level languages, that can be moved across a number of different processor platforms," Haff said.

However, most general-purpose chips have been too expensive and too slow, and have used too much power. "You're really getting to the point now where those general-purpose processors are perfectly suitable for (mobile) applications, and that's just fine with the developer," Haff said.

Bulverde will include Intel's Wireless MMX technology, unveiled last year, which provides an advanced set of multimedia instructions to help bring desktop-like performance to mobile devices within an acceptable power-consumption rate.

Intel didn't disclose a release date or pricing for Bulverde, but said it would release additional details in the first half of next year.

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