In the Chips
By Carlo Longino, Fri Feb 14 11:14:00 GMT 2003

Intel makes a mobile move, Lucent goes speeding, and ...


Trade show season is firing up in the wireless industry, with the next few months seeing several major industry events. Companies are getting into the act and trying to get a jumpstart on competitors by announcing products they plan to highlight at the shows.

The biggest such announcement was from Intel, which released details of its "Manitoba" chip, the culmination of a $30 billion effort to put the PC chip giant's processors into mobile devices. While Intel is a strong player in the flash-memory market, it's well outpaced by rivals such as Texas Instruments and Qualcomm in the mobile processor sector. The chip, code-named Manitoba but with the much catchier official title of PXA800F, combines microprocessor and flash memory functions with the digital signal processor for managing in-phone functions. TI says it's not worried, however, and that the real deal lies in integrating a phone's radio chip, something it says it will do next year.

Lucent Technologies also unveiled its new "Turbo Decoder" chip this week, saying the new chipfor 3G terminals, developed by its Bell Labs unit, can decode data at up to 24 megabits per second and meets certain UMTS enhancement standards. Of course, the fastest network around today is NTT DoCoMo's 2.4 Mbps network, so Lucent says it doesn't plan to license the technology until 2006, but if a carrier needs that speed sooner, their number can be found in the Murray Hill, New Jersey, phone book.

Motorola said this week that it would release a high-end smartphone that uses the Linux operating system, and that the open-source OS would soon power most of its phones. Motorola will still continue to push Java as its language of choice for developers, and many analysts said the move was more a part of their Java strategy than an endorsement of Linux. NEC is the only other company thus far to commit to creating a Linux-powered mobile phone.

Pundits have begun previewing the shows in anticipation of expense-account meals and corporate entertainment, starting off with next week's 3GSM World Congress in Cannes. The show should see 3G handsets and IP-based networks (which of course are nothing new to TheFeature readers), while CTIA Wireless next month won't see a lot of network infrastructure news, but rather technologies to help carriers lower the cost of running their networks.

More areas non grata for US mobile phone users: the New York City council this week voted to override a mayoral veto and make the use of phones in public performances illegal and punishable by a USD 50 fine. The ban - which includes listening to, dialing, or talking on a phone, as well as even just letting one ring - covers concerts, movies, plays, and other performances, as well as galleries and libraries. Word is still out on whether the NYPD will be creating a special squad to crack this new kind of crime "ring". And in Texas, the state legislature is again considering a bill that would make driving while talking a no-no. My, how times change, as it was until only a few years ago that Texans could still drink a beer while riding around.

And finally, from the Fence-Sitting Department, comes news this week that text messaging may or may not be having an effect on young Americans' grasp of the written language. One 13-year-old girl in Wisconsin says she accidentally slips text lingo into her schoolwork. An 18-year-old college student says it's not an issue because he bothers to proofread his work. One linguist says texting is making kids' writing sloppy. Another linguist says anything that encourages people to communicate is fantastic. The debate continues...