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October 14, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

Intel Corp, which now has three 32-bit embedded architectures in its product line, used the Microprocessor Forum this week to attempt to clarify its position in embedded systems and launch some new products. While Intel used to take a broad brush to the embedded market, selling old model x86 architecture chips to embedded systems manufacturers as bare components, it says it’s now more interested in providing a more focused set of products and tools to embedded customers. The three lines include embedded version of the Pentium processor, the i960 RISC chip and the newly acquired StrongARM business, which uses microprocessor cores from ARM Ltd in conjunction with chip design from Digital Equipment Corp. StrongARM looks as if it will eventually usurp the i960 line (which still managed to sell around 12 million units last year), though Intel won’t admit as much. It says it will sell StrongARM for high performance, but low-power applications such as handheld systems, internet appliances and embedded control systems. The SA-1101 companion chip to the SA- 1110, launched last week was developed under the Digital regime and is being used by Hewlett Packard Co for its recently introduced HPC Professional handheld computer. Intel is working on its own SA-2 and SA-3 next generation products, but won’t say when they are due. Meanwhile, the i960 is now being positioned as an I/O processor for storage and data management products and as part of Intel’s integrated version of the I20 high-performance input-output standard. A new i960 VH PCI processor was launched Tuesday, which integrates a 32-bit 33MHz PCI interface with the i960 core. These are tasks that StrongARM could also perform. Mylex Corp, a long-term i960 user, recently began using StrongARM for its high-end RAID controllers, an indication of what might be to come. Embedded Pentiums are aimed at customers who want PC compatibility, such as point of sale, industrial automation and networking equipment manufacturers. On Tuesday, Intel added 166MHz and 266MHz low-power versions of the Pentium with MMX instructions with packaging designed for products where there are space constraints.

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