Chandler-based Intel engineers have spearheaded development of a new “wireless Internet on a chip” that will promote the merger of cell phones and handheld computers into a single low-cost device. The new chip, dubbed the PXA800F cellular processor, is expected to be inside consumer products by the end of this year.
The new cell phone/personal computer hybrids will have better performance, longer battery life and more innovative designs than are available in cell phones today, the company said.
“Semiconductor technology has been the driving force for cell phone technology since the beginning and has brought us from the ‘luggable’ phone of a decade or so ago to the ultra sleek handsets we see today,” said Hans Geyer, general manager of Intel's Personal Client Architecture Components Group.
“Now as the industry transitions from voice-only phones to advanced devices that combine voice and data, the ability to effectively . . . combine advanced processing, memory and communications technologies will be required to drive the next-generation of cell phones.”
About 100 employees at Intel's main Chandler campus, 5000 W. Chandler Blvd., worked on the new technology for more than a year. The engineers took elements of designs that were produced at other Intel sites and integrated the technology into one chip. The company is also doing the assembly, packaging and testing of the chips in Chandler. The actual chips are being produced at an Intel wafer fab in Albuquerque, N.M.
The new chip combines processing, memory and communications functions that currently require several chips inside a cell phone onto one piece of silicon smaller than a human thumbnail, said program manager John Santos.
Combining all of the functions on a single chip improves performance by eliminating the need for wires to connect multiple chips, he said. “When you're connecting chips with wires, you burn up some of your performance in those connections,” he said. “By integrating those functions on a single chip, you will have lower power consumption and therefore longer battery life.”
The new chip will also give cell phones the ability to download video from the Internet, take higher-resolution photos and manipulate images before sending them to another phone or home computer, Santos said. “In today's cell phone chips, the majority of their performance is used to make the phone call,” he said. “A little is left to do the games and other applications. With this breakthrough, we're bringing PC-like performance to the handheld.”
The new chip also is likely to reduce the price of cell phones with computer functions from the $350 to $500 price range to $100 to $200 within a few years, Santos said. The result will be to bring Internet connections, integrated cameras, color screens, games and other features into the cell phone mainstream, he said.
Major cell phone and PDA manufacturers have agreed to purchase the chips, but Intel declined to release names.