Japanese PDA makers line up behind Intel's XScale

Just two days after the launch of its XScale processor, Intel has already picked up endorsements for its new mobile chip from three Japanese manufacturers of PDAs (personal digital assistants).

The XScale processor comes in two main types: the PXA250, aimed at high-end PDAs, and the PXA210, aimed at mobile phones and entry-level PDAs. The chips are based on processor cores from design house Arm Ltd., just like the company's current offering for PDAs, the StrongArm microprocessor. Intel intends to continue supplying StrongArm chips in addition to XScale.

One of the first companies expected to show an XScale-based processor is Fujitsu Siemens Computer BV, a German-based unit of Fujitsu Ltd. The company has announced plans to show a new PDA, the Pocket Loox, at the Cebit trade show, which begins in Hanover on March 13.

While that PDA has been developed in Europe and will be targeted at the European market, Fujitsu in Japan also has plans to produce an XScale PDA, according to a spokesman in Tokyo.

Toshiba Corp. said it plans to launch a similar product. Expected to be available in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year, the company's machine will be based on a 400MHz version of the new chip and pack built-in wireless functions and dual expansion slots, the company said in a statement.

Casio Computer Co. Ltd. has plans to use the chip too, according to company spokesman Kouichi Nishizawa. Casio was one of the first Japanese companies to produce Windows CE-based PDAs and will soon be launching one of the first machines based on Pocket PC 2002. While it has plans to begin using Intel's new chip in place of the StrongARM processors it currently uses, Nishizawa said the company has no detailed schedule yet.

Intel has backing from three of Japan's seven main PDA makers. Among the others, Sony Corp. said it has yet to make up its mind.

"We are very interested in the chip but we don't have any specific plans," said Mina Naito, a spokeswoman for Sony. Unlike its local competitors, Sony produces PDAs based on the Palm operating system. Palm Inc. will support the XScale in new versions of its operating system.

NEC Corp., which along with Fujitsu and Toshiba launched its PDA business last year, said it currently has no definite plans to use the chip, although it does not rule out using it in the future.

Hitachi Ltd., which has announced plans to enter the PDA market but has yet to release its first model, said it is currently evaluating the chip and could make an announcement as soon as next week.

Sharp Corp., which produces PDAs based on its own proprietary Zaurus platform, uses chips from Hitachi's SH family of microprocessors and has no plans to change that at present, a spokesman said.

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Martyn Williams

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