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Intel Ditches Mobile Phone Processors 104

An anonymous reader writes "Intel is planning on selling off their XScale applications processor and 3G processor businesses for around $600 million to Marvell. From the article: 'Marvell is best known for its NIC (network interface card) chips, including wireless chipsets, and for other embedded, network infrastructure, and storage processors. The company has not previously competed in the market for mobile phone chipsets. However, it says it knows how to produce chipsets for high-volume consumer applications, which it has done for 11 years. Marvell earlier this year acquired a UT Starcom business unit in China that is working on mobile phone processors.'"
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Intel Ditches Mobile Phone Processors

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  • by Eightyford ( 893696 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:13PM (#15616971) Homepage
    DC just bought AMD.
  • Headline is stupid (Score:5, Informative)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:16PM (#15616988) Homepage Journal

    ...and cribbed directly from the article - where it was also stupid.

    XScale is not, repeat not a "mobile phone processor" although I'm sure it's used there. In fact they specifically sold the PXA line, which includes the processor in my iPAQ.

    It never ceases to annoy me when someone is so lazy that they can't even write their own headline - especially when it's wrong. If you're going to plagiarize, why not copy something that's actually correct?

    • In Soviet Russia, plagiarism edits slashdot.
    • by nerdyH ( 702091 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:36PM (#15617112)
      Have another drink, drinkypoo, and make more blather about nothing. H/L is accurate. Intel also sold baseband phone processors to Marvell. Though PXAs are used in PDAs, mobile phones are probably 95 percent or more of their volume, I'd guess. Intel did not sell the whole XScale line... just the xscale's that go into phones.
      • I realize that English is a difficult and convoluted language, but if you say "mobile phone processor" that means a processor used only in mobile phones. It really is just that simple in this case. Sometimes it's hard, sometimes people just want to be obstinate and defend misuse of language. What really amazes me is that programmers will so frequently defend such behavior, when they should really be the ones who are most aware of the need for precision. Change a word, move a word or two around, and the mean
    • Well, the Xscale is used in the Blackberry 8700G - which is a mobile phone / PDA.
    • Because who's ever heard of a PDA doubling as a mobile phone? That's crazy-talk!
  • by celardore ( 844933 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:18PM (#15617002)
    Many mobile phone producers have their own completely adequate chipset solutions. I'm not sure how many cellphone producers rebrand chips they use though. I am sure that if a phone provider needed Intel hardware for whatever reason, they could simply buy and or rebrand the chips or rights from Intel if the need arises.
    • yeah, they could, unless it was a PXAxxx type processor more than two years from now, in which case they'll have to buy it from Marvell :P

      Some people don't mess with intel stuff though... AFAIK all the motorola phones (for example) are based on motorola chips.

    • RIM is also using the Intel Xscale chips in the Blackberry.
      From TFA on, Intel will keep making the chips for Marvell until Marvell finds another manufacturing solution - probably TSMC or the like, my guess is.
    • Perhaps it is because, as he_humeister mentioned, that they are losing money in the area.

      I also think it may be because of the nice tight relationship with Intel now-a-days... Just a thought. :-)
  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:19PM (#15617011) Homepage Journal
    Wow, that Pentium basket must be awfully durable for Intel to be putting all their eggs in it. Or maybe Intel prefers not to be in a market in which there are about a dozen players (namely, providers of ARM-based system-on-chip products).


    • Or maybe it's because they've been losing lots of money on the unit. If they'd actually made money on it, you'd think they'd keep it. Although then you'd wonder why Itanium is still around...
    • Query:
      Do you know of a powerful (> 1GHz) and inexpensive (< $200) ARM mobo/chipset solution?
    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @08:33PM (#15617380)
      Most/many decisions are not driven by a sane business plan, but by the latest Wall St fashion. If you're not doing "it" (whatever "it" is), then you get punished on Wall St, particularly if your stock is looking a bit stagnant/down. So industries follow these trends: diversification, refocussing on core business (divestment), off shoring, sigma 6, whatever.

      This quarter's fashion seems to be divestment.

      Anyway, Intel were not making much money (??were making a loss??) on their PXA line. The PXA plays in a highly competitive market with a lot of players (TI, Samsung,...) and very little brand loyalty (No Intel Inside message). Intel has never held up well to that sort of competition and have got out of many businesses when things got hot (RAM, 8051, USB chipsets,...).

      • What is the opposite of brand loyalty ? I cringe whenever I see "Intel Inside" because to me that's a warning of all the stupid glitches and thermal issues I'm going to be dealing with. Chipsets spontaneously combusting and setting the internal cabling on fire. CPUs throttling down because the heatsink can't cope with the P4's horribly inefficient high clockspeeds. Video getting garbled because aforementioned heatsink is blowing 150' hot air from the CPU to the board/graphics chip, pressure-cooking the
    • I hear you about having just x86. Seems risky. But you realize they have abandoned Pentium, right? There's only one Pentium left to be released. Everything else is Core .
      • What do you think core is? It's still a freaking Pentium Pro. It's a Pentium Pro that's had a lot shit tacked on, and now (finally) gotten a slimdown redesign, but it's still a Pentium Pro deep down.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Sure 'nuff... it's had a strange history. Core is a Pentium M with SSE3 tacked on, (x2 dfor the dual cores..),. Pentium M is based on a Pentium III M... pretty much a die shrink, P4-style bus to make the chipsets easier, and probably some other stuff. P3M was a workover of the Pentium 3 to use less power (not even done by Intel -- they hired a outside co. to do the work). At the same clock speed, the Pentium 3M would kill the Pentium 3 performance-wise, and use like 1/4 as much power. Pentium 3
        • Then I can just as easily say it's all the 80386. Because these new fancy chips may have new names like core, and they may have been derived from Pentium Pros, but Pentium Pro was derived from 386, and so we all know they're all just 80386s deep down.
          • Bah, that's not far enough either, because the 386 was just a 286 with a memory management unit tacked on...
            • Whatever happened to the 186? Why do you hear of 286, 386, 486, and 586, but never 186?
              • Whatever happened to the 186? Why do you hear of 286, 386, 486, and 586, but never 186?

                The 80186 was an 8088/86 hybrid with on-chip peripherals. It was intended for embedded applications. The old unisys ICONs used them.

                (that was from memory, but Wikipedia [] backs me up on this. God I must be old to not only remember this stuff but also the NEC v20 and MOS 65xx histories...

              • 188 was a bit more successful, due to allowing lower cost designs (at lower performance).

                Both integrated some extra logic to simplify design. This meant it had more pins, which led to it being the first Intel CPU in the family delivered in a PLCC package instead of a DIP.

                Perhaps concidentally, the Motorola 68K family also had a chip that didn't go far, the 68010 (and 68012 and 68008), which integrated some logic and implemented some changes necessary for full virtualization. Apollo used this chip and I thin
          • Wrong, the Pentium Pro was the first x86 chip not derived from the 80386. It had a front end designed for decoding the same Instruction set as the 80386, but at the architectural level, the two aren't even remotely related. The Pro was the first Intel chip to decode x86 instructions in micro ops (a special instruction set never exposed externally) it is these the Pro executes, and the architecture is other very different.
            • I think the 8086 was the first x86 chip not derived from the 80386. It also was microcoded, like every other processor of its day. Microcode is an internal format not expose externally. 486 was the first processor in the family to break from microcoding, they "compiled the microcode" for common instructions, giving them much faster execution by putting them into fully decoded logic instead of micro-ops.

              Pentium also broke down instructions into ops, stuffing them into separate pipes. And since it had paralle
    • intel has a architecture license for ARM processors it had to buy one even after it took over the StrongARM from digital

      now what happens ?

      realistically I see more legs on a chip marketed from a company other than intel BUT

      INTEL IS going to be pushed out of alot of markets simply because it does not have a solution for them now that Xscale is not in the stable

      this is bad for intel but I suspect it makes a easy argument at exec level (well as these easy as these things can be ) because they want to be seen to
    • Spending the last couple of years working for a consumer of XScale processors, I can tell you Intel's XScales are severely lagging behind Freescale, Samsung, and others. The Intel chips are slower, have less features, and are more expensive than the Freescale and Samsung offerings. Large consumer electronics customers are dropping them, especially as Samsung will offer better deals on processor+flash+ram offerings than Intel can. Because they're all based off the same ARM cores the application-level softwar
      • Intel really just pulled a Pentium IV with XScale. It was basically a StrongARM core jacked up in mhz. The new ones run like 700 mhz, but they're the same architecture as the 100 mhz StrongARM they ran a decade ago. Very poor integration, power consumption not that great, just not a good chip, except if you look at the mhz. Like you say, they kind of got their pants beat.
        • The new ones run like 700 mhz, but they're the same architecture as the 100 mhz StrongARM they ran a decade ago. Very poor integration, power consumption not that great, just not a good chip, except if you look at the mhz. Like you say, they kind of got their pants beat.

          I guess that explains why everyone prefers them in the PDA and mid-size embedded market then. And I mean everyone from Gumstix to Palm TX to Dell Axiom.

          I have no idea what you're talking about power consumption wise: can you name anothe

          • My guess is that Intel has realized that the StrongARM architecture was designed for PDAs (specifically, the Newton), and PDAs are a rapidly shrinking market

            Huh? Everybody I know has a PDA they carry with them all the time. They also have a cellular radio built in.
          • I cannot comment on the technical background of the XScale except that I constantly had the feeling the design was rather old. You constantly could read about new ARM generations, new extension modules like a hardware java acceleration etc... yet XScale was XScale no new features only a bunch of more MHz while others moved towards newer ARM cores. The reason why you can find mostly XScales in pdas probably is, the intel brand recognition on those devices, speaking of windows + intel, which basically pushed
    • No they're just waiting until they launch the low-power, embedded Itanic.
  • Marvell? (Score:3, Funny)

    by theheff ( 894014 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:22PM (#15617033)
    I thought cell phones powered by standard CPU chips was only something you see in comic books...
    • Cute joke, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Valdrax ( 32670 )
      I'd hardly call a super-low power consumption embedded processor without a floating point unit a "standard CPU chip."
      • The new phillips 90nm lpc3180 has not only floating point, but vectorized floating point, and some of the lowest power consumption available. Mono runs great on it. That seems pretty standard to me. ARM really is the new first class citizen of the CPU world, long after x86 pushed everyone else out.
  • by vivek7006 ( 585218 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:24PM (#15617041) Homepage
    Intel has lost billions of dollars since late 90s on this. EE-times gives some more details ?articleID=189602065 []

    During the course of the past decade Intel invested between $3 billion and $5 billion in the assets it sold to Marvell, says Will Strauss, an analyst for Forward Concepts. Intel spent nearly $2 billion on a single acquisition to bolster those communications chip efforts. It was a major rat hole of unparalleled magnitude.
  • Now to figure out how to pick the cellphone that has mutated and has special powers..
    • by Anonymous Coward
      And to sign our lives and first born children away just to get the programming specs!
    • Like making video calls, playing MP3s, playing games?

      Hell, My landline phone cant even remember its phonebook through a power cycle, and anyway the phone book is so un userfriendly, its never had more than one number in it.

      I think both my mobiles already ahd supoer powers. My Nokia now even has "Frogger" - I am just waiting for "Lounge Suit Larry"

  • by mantar ( 941076 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:48PM (#15617179)
    Interesting... I also heard that Intel is looking to off-load their telecom subsidiary, Dialogic. I wonder what's going on with these guys?
  • Any significant cell phone vendor has its own digital ASIC team doing a fully dedicated logic ASIC. Impossible to be feature (or cost!) competitive by doing this any other way.

    The alternative model is Qualcomm which develops a full chip set (everything, RF front end to the Sigma-Delta ADC/DAC that drive the speaker and hear the microphone.)which then gets bundled into assorted CDMA phone sets.

    These chips don't require cutting edge speed, rather they are totally cost vs. feature driven. (How many toys and ga

  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @08:36PM (#15617394) Homepage Journal
    In a story here a month or so ago about Intel abandoning their embedded business (which I can't find because the search function isn't working), I wrote that they were doing no such thing as long as they held on to ARM (XScale).

    Now, we see they're not.

    Hm. Lots of eggs going into only one basket. Is this because they took a financial hit on Itanium?


  • You would think with just about every PDA on the market being XScale powerered, that they would be making tons of cash, at least on that...
  • This is the result of the pressure that AMD put on Intel. They can no longer afford to spend money on loss-making operations. It would make sense if they got rid of the Itanium as well. Surely it must be redundant now that they have Woodcrest.
  • ...only hindsight is 20/20. Foresight is 0/20, if that.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Marvell just isn't marvelous when it comes to providing documentation. Just try to get any information on any of their chips in the cheap consumer routers.
  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @09:16PM (#15617541)
    DaVinci is Texas Instruments single chip solution for mobile phones and multimedia rich embedded devices. They mixed a TI DSP chip in with the ARM core( anyone remember OMAP ) for a high performance single chip solution. Prior to this, smartphones used one processor for the radio and one processor for the GUI/applications. The holy grail here is one processor for everything significantly reduces cost. Intel DSPs are not near as popular as TI's and so it's a no-brainer to use TI's stuff in this case. /05/163242&from=rss []
    and roducts.html?DCMP=DSP_DaVinciCatalog&HQS=Other+PR+ thedavincieffectpr []

    • Further, I've heard a lot of people griping about (for example) the OMAP processor in the Nokia 770, which runs at 220 MHz -- saying "My xscale runs at 400 MHz, this is seriously underpowered." Sadly, this is far from the case.

      The fact is that Intel royally screwed up the xscale processor - in a past life, I worked at an embedded Linux company, and once we'd switched from a 200 MHz OMAP chip to probably a 300 MHz XScale, our performance went way down. I/O, in particular, was atrocious on the XScale.

      Add to t

      • I don't yet know about the Nokia 770 but I think you might have run into the PXA255 fiasco. A PXA250 running at 206MHz ran circles around the PXA255 running at 400MHz. Intel screwed up that chip so bad that cache had to be turned off in many cases and I think there was one other bug in it which also greatly reduced its speed.

        Simply amazing how Intel has blown not only the desktop CPU market but also the handheld/etc market.

    • OMAP (even OMAP3) is still an applications processor, it does not do baseband processing, you need a separate chip for UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA. The DSP and coprocessors are for imaging, audio, and video. The ARM sucks as a DSP; you're not going to be able to do H.264 VGA encode/decode in software on an ARM.
  • will it finally be correct to call x86[_64] the "Intel architecture" (as a bunch of knumb-nuts called it back at the Apple switch) or is IA64 still hangin on for dear life?
  • this potential deal could really cause a quake in the world of wireless (please throw red flags if i am wrong) hynix, infineon, and the like could really jump on board something this sweet and take advantage as Marvell would now have somewhat a threshold over the mobile environment (again, throw red flags if i am wrong). Micron was a suitor for hynix but it all fell through quite badly and infineon makes a pretty stout product. Samsung seems to integrate them well and the products come out top notch. Marvel
  • Does this mean that Core beat ARM, cause I always though it was the other way around.
  • by LordMyren ( 15499 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:19PM (#15617831) Homepage
    This is pretty weird news, pretty unexpected. Intel's been trying to make inroads on embedded for years, they know there's huge volume there. StrongARM and XScale were kind of their front line warriors in that battle. Presumably, they're going to be relying on convincing people to use low voltage Core's in the future. Continuing an ARM based line would only draw attention away from their amazing x86 market. It still seems flaky though, given that x86 hasnt been used as a SoC in a long time; 80186 or so. Cell phone with a north bridge, anyone?

    On the other hand, while StrongARM was a reasonable contender in the ARM market, the initial XScale models provided virtually no real enhancement over StrongARM, and often increased power consumption in the process. This was a long time ago, but I remember some rather tempermental items on the Errata sheets. Intel simply wasnt cracking heads like the silicon giant it wanted to be. It just wasnt an impressive processor in any respect. Its probably three or four years old now, and Intel's decided the experiment has come time to wind down.

    All this as newer faster better ARM cores keep showing up.

    I really want to see what Intel's next move is. I am certain they're not going to drop the embedded sector, I know they realize how big it is, how massively its growing. What they're next heading is after this move, that should prove quite interesting.

    • Actually there's embedded x86 processors on market. Not from Intel but RDC. There's some conflicting information on web, but RDC R3211 is actually x86 and for example Linksys WRT54GR uses it and runs x86 Linux.

      There's also NS/AMD Geode. Of course not everyone agrees which use should be categorized as embedded. Probably neither Geode nor RDC is used on cell phones.
  • They did that because AMD will do so
  • 1. Motorola sells / spins off its microprocessor division (ColdFire, et. al.) into Freescale.
    2. Intel sells its XScale microprocessor.

    Collectively, this makes a significant portion of the >= 16 bit microprocessor market. (Sorry... I'm being conservative here. I suspect that both are 32-bit, but since I've been drinking a bit this evening, I'll error on the side of caution... )

    What does this say for the state of (and the future of) the embedded microprocessor world?
    Are they saying that these markets are
  • Must have been because they were intimidated by that chip that ran 250 times faster than a mobile phone processer that was in the news a couple of days ago...
  • Too bad (Score:2, Insightful)

    Xscale was one of the better product lines from a small hardware
    developer perspective - good docs, good cast of supporting tools,
    resonably inexpensive parts that could do a lot. Now it's going to
    Marvell, whose tight assedness about documentation and NDAs makes
    even Broadcom look like a bunch of free-love hippies. sigh...
  • Too bad it's going to Marvell - these guys are apparently pretty hostile towards open source software, not releasing specs.
  • The XScale design was inherited by DEC, I constantly got the feeling once Intel took over they simply had it as a sideprocessor, never being happy with having a licensed core instead of their own. I did not look into the XScale development over the years too much, but did Intel ever integrate newer arm cores, or modules like the java vm extensions. I just wonder because most ARM processor manufacturers ramped up their procs with newer designs, why I had the feeling from an outside perspective that intel wa
  • There was a lot of speculation that part of the reason for Apple's switch to Intel was that Intel might offer better pricing, development, etc. on XScale, which would then find a home in new iPods. If this was indeed the case, I bet there's one steamed Steve in Cupertino.
  • My Sharp Zaurus SL-C3100 (a PDA) has an XScale processor, and runs ucLinux under the hood.

    Does anyone see this change impacting Sharp's PDA products?

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