TAIPEI, Taiwan Wireless Internet devices, seen as a promising development field in Asia, has a host of companies from the Asia-Pacific region scrambling to forge design and production ties with Intel Corp. and other U.S. players.
More than 100 Asian wireless developers have joined Intel's Personal Internet Client Architecture (PCA) developer network, and a long list of Asian developers showed up at the recent Intel Developer Forum here, including Eton, GVC, Mitac and PocketNet from Taiwan, LG Electronics and ZIO from South Korea and ArcSoft, Aspire and CES Wireless from China.
"Asia-Pacific is emerging as one of the key design and production centers for wireless Internet devices," said Ron Smith, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Wireless and Computing Group.
According to Smith, next-generation wireless Internet terminals, cell phones and PDAs will be tailored to individual consumers and will run only the applications they need. To achieve that level of customization, Intel is trying to push developers to come up with a range of applications.
"To do that, you cannot bury them in a signal processor and the communications stack, and do them in assembly code language," Smith said. "They have to be written in a high-level language and be developed on a scalable microprocessor architecture."
Intel's architecture is designed to decouple the computing and communications stacks so that applications can be developed on a general-purpose platform. PCA defines three elements: a flash-memory subsystem; signal and baseband processing along with an interface capability; and a central processing unit with various peripherals for display and I/O interfaces.
"Intel's PCA is a basic architecture theme which pairs its Xscale RISC core with its Micro Signal Architecture DSP core and its flash memory to serve both PDA and future cell phone markets," said Will Strauss, president of market research firm Forward Concepts.
For now, Intel is pushing software houses to port their current PC software to PDAs. Very little software is being ported to cell phone applications. Intel is expected to announce its cell phone chip by the end of the first quarter of 2002.
Industry executives at the Taipei forum sought to dismiss the notion that Intel has to play catch-up in communications. Regarding Intel's lack of RF expertise, for instance, Smith said Intel doesn't have to make every component. "We can engage in partnerships, or we can have an interface between our baseband communications with RF from other companies," he said. "It is unlikely that all these technologies will be integrated with the baseband anyway, because they tend to be on a different chip."
Intel also wants to exploit its leadership position in flash. It recently announced the availability of its 0.13-micron flash memory chip and a new StrataFlash memory that doubles storage in the same package as older devices.
By 2007, some forecasts predict the wireless industry will be shipping 1 billion cell phones annually. "Intel expects to be one of the few companies other than foundries that can dedicate manufacturing capacity to a significant percentage of that market," said analyst Strauss.
Majeed A. Kamran is technical editor of sister publication EE Times Asia.