AMD launches low-power processor for handhelds

Breaking into the market for processors used in handheld computing devices, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has begun sampling its Alchemy Au1100 processor, a low-power chip designed to be used in mobile and handheld devices.

The Au1100 is a follow-on chip to the Au1000 processor that AMD acquired when it bought Alchemy Semiconductor Inc. in February, an acquisition seen by analysts as an important step for the Sunnyvale, California company to break out of its traditional focus on desktop and mobile PC processors into the market for embedded processors used in handheld devices, such as PDAs (personal digital assistants).

Able to run at speeds ranging from 333MHz to 500MHz, the Au1100 includes a MIPS32 processor core, an on-chip LCD (liquid crystal display) controller, a 10/100 Ethernet controller and a USB (Universal Serial Bus) device and host controller. The processor is able to run a variety of operating systems commonly found on handheld devices, including Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE, Linux and Wind River Systems Inc.'s VxWorks, AMD said.

The 400MHz version of the chip is priced at US$29.50 in quantities of 10,000.

The market for embedded processors, particularly for those used in mobile computing devices, has heated up in recent months. AMD arch-rival Intel Corp. has been particularly aggressive, pushing its ARM-based XScale line of embedded processors.

Both Intel and AMD see great potential in the market for low-power, high-performance chips used in handheld computing devices. Citing analyst estimates, AMD expects this market to reach US$26 billion with 1.3 billion units shipped by 2007.

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