Today's high-end handheld devices pack 400MHz processors and 64MB of RAM - numbers that fall scarcely short of what you'd expect from a typical desktop system. The big difference, however, is that users expect much more than swelling speeds and feeds from mobile devices.
With a mandate to perform un-plugged and in a pocketable form factor, smart phones and handheld computers have to do their business under power, size and peripheral expansion limitations that desktops don't have. As a result, the most interesting advances in handheld device processors involve not only working faster but also slimmer and smarter.
So while Intel Corp.'s desktop processor product managers now boast Pentium 4 chips dialed up to 2.8GHz, their colleagues in the embedded space must define success differently. The smart-phone-oriented PXA261 and PXA262 processors that Intel launched at the Intel Developer Forum in Taipei, Taiwan, earlier this month, for example, deliver space and power savings by combining an XScale processor core, a digital signal processor and flash memory on a single, 200MHz-to-300MHz chip.
However, as Samsung Electronics Corp.'s talk of a 1.2GHz ARM-based processor at this month's Microprocessor Forum demonstrates, embedded chip vendors haven't stopped plotting how to provide mobile devices with more horsepower. And we count on software developers - handheld-oriented or otherwise - to find uses for it.
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