Intel puts StrongArm on death row

Intel has given developers notice that its SA-1110 StrongArm processor will not be available for much longer.

The chip, which has served as the processor in several generations of personal digital assistants (PDAs) from numerous companies, has been superseded by Intel's XScale line and the company has told developers that it will continue accepting orders for only another six months. The last StrongArm shipments from Intel are due no later than Feb. 6, 2004, according to a notice sent to developers last week.

"Everybody is transitioning off 206MHz StrongArm processors and onto 400MHz XScale processors," said Intel spokesman Mark Miller [cq], referring to the company's XScale chip which was launched one year ago as a successor to the StrongArm.

XScale is already being used in many Intel processor-based PDAs and, with the launch earlier this week of a new version that includes a baseband processor, Intel is hoping the chip will also be popular with mobile telephone handset makers.

The StrongArm processor was the product of a 1995 licensing agreement between ARM Ltd. (then called Advanced RISC Machines Ltd.) and Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), which was later acquired by Compaq Computer Corp. DEC produced several StrongArm microprocessors based on RISC's 32-bit processor core that were put into use in products such as network terminals. In late 1997, Intel struck a deal to acquire the StrongArm technology and business from DEC for US$700 million.

Soon after acquiring the business, Intel announced plans to move StrongArm beyond the computer market and into devices such as digital set top boxes, Web-enabled screen phones, point of sale terminals and mobile telephones. The chip became a favorite of personal digital assistant (PDA) and mobile device developers and customers included Casio Computer Co. Ltd., Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., LG Electronics Inc., NEC Corp., Sharp Corp. and Toshiba Corp.

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