TOKYO -- As it seeks ways to branch out from its core PC microprocessor business, Intel Corp.is gearing up to make a big push into cellular phones by upping its stake in Japan's thriving wireless communications market.
The plan includes taking a lead role in the development of key technologies and devices to accelerate the evolution of cellular phones here, and making investments in local companies to generate demand for content-rich interactive services.
Next Monday, Intel K.K. president Nobuyuki Denda is expected present a plan on how the company will leverage the wireless communications boom sweeping Japan, where consumers can alreadytake part in a rich entree of multimedia and Internet access capability over a variety of networks.
Intel is already a major supplier of flash memory chips for cellular phones sold worldwide, and has stated its intention to extend its reach into the digital baseband. Just as it has with the PC, Intel's
plans to attack the market at different angles by presenting a coherent hardware strategy while working on new technologies and helping create more demand for services accessed through
From a technology development standpoint, Intel will announce the establishment a Japan-based technology center dedicated to cultivating new technologies and applications for wireless devices,
said a public relations representative working with Intel. One of those technologies Intel is expected to highlight is the Bluetooth wireless interface.
In stressing new technology for handsets, Intel will follow in the footsteps of a number of non-Japanese handset and basestation OEMs and chip makers that have made Japan an important stomping ground for wireless technology development. These moves are anticipate the higher-bandwidth IMT-2000, or wideband CDMA, standard that is expected to get an early start in Japan in spring 2001.
Recently, Texas Instruments Inc. announced it is putting its product development and R&D team under one roof at its Tsukuba R&D center as it focuses most of its attention on wideband CDMA. And last year, Motorola announced a plan to provide its M-Core RISC CPU free to any company developing products for the Japanese market.
Not to be outdone, Intel is expected next week to describe its own plan to leverage its low-power StrongARM processor for cellular phones. The company is also in the midst of co-designing, with
Analog Devices Inc., a fixed-point, low-power DSP core for wireless devices, which is expected to be completed by the latter half of the year. It is unclear whether Intel will provide specific information about the DSP core at next week's announcement.
And in a strategy mirroring its PC-focused venture capital bent in the U.S., Intel is scouting the Japanese market to invest in promising companies that are creating a demand for wireless services.
The company has already made at least one such investment in Tokyo-based Cybird Co. Ltd., a popular content service provider offering like chat rooms, matchmaking and fortune telling services
that is available exclusively to cellular phone users, said a Cybird spokeswoman, confirming a report by the Nikkei Shinbun. The investment amount was not disclosed.