Intel to partner with RIM on next-gen Blackberry device

Santa Clara (CA) - Intel today confirmed rumors on a collaboration with Research in Motion (RIM) to create the next Blackberry handheld. According to a statement, Intel will provide to RIM its first UMTS platform, currently codenamed "Hermon," which will include an Xscale processor than will run at speeds of about 1 GHz.

Microsoft and Intel are gaining traction in the handheld segment: Yesterday, it was Microsoft that announced with Palm, that the next Treo smartphone will run Windows Mobile instead of Palm OS, today it is Intel that says it convinced RIM to integrate an Xscale chip into an upcoming handheld - instead of a processor built by ARM.

Intel's announcement comes after months of speculation and claims that "RIM has selected the Intel PXA9xx processor for its EDGE communications capabilities and its industry-leading application performance." The PXA9xx, currently codenamed "Monahans", is part of Intel's "Hermon" platform that also includes an UMTS baseband chip as well as Intel-built Flash memory. Monahans is scheduled to replace the current XScale core "Bulverde" sometime in 2006 and run at clock speeds that will exceed 1 GHz. The company demonstrated Monahans at its recent Fall Developer forum with a clock speed of 1.248 GHz.

Hermon is likely to include several versions of XScale processors with Monahans covering especially the high-end. There are few features of the chip publicly known so far, but Intel already confirmed that the processor will be able to run videos at VGA resolution (640 x 480 pixel), will offer four times the performance of Bulverde while decreasing the power consumption. Intel declined to comment on other Xscale processors that may be planned for the future.

"Our collaboration with Intel has enabled us to make a fundamental architectural shift that maximizes the benefits of EDGE-based mobile networks," said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO of RIM. "We chose the Intel PXA9xx cellular processor because it provides us with the increased processing horsepower we need for future wireless applications, without compromising battery life requirements."

For Intel, the Blackberry deal could be the most significant step into the handheld market yet. While the company already owns significant shares of the PDA market, it still has work to do in the cellular segment. According to market research firm Gartner, RIM shipped 840,000 Blackberry devices in the second quarter of this year, which represents an increase of almost 65 percent over the 510,000 units shipped in Q2 of 2004. RIM's leads the market share race in the PDA segment with a 23.2 percent market share, followed by Palm with 17.8 percent and Hewlett-Packard with 12.5 percent.