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The Great Cell Phone Chip Race

Intel Corp. is introducing a microchip that supercharges the power of cell phones to access the Internet, display digital photos, play music and perform other complicated tasks.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant bills the PXA800F processor, which could appear in consumers' cell phones starting in the third quarter, as the company's first "highly integrated" cellular chip. The new chip was announced Thursday.

Intel previously bundled as many as five chips to perform the same array of functions, requiring more battery power and manufacturing headaches than if cell phone makers could install a single piece of silicon.

Albert Fazio, principal factory engineer for Intel's technology and manufacturing group, said the new chip would allow wireless phone makers to build smaller devices or pack existing models with more features. Intel has yet to announce any manufacturers that will use the chip.

"You may argue, `Hey, I don't need a cell phone to get any smaller. What's it going to do, fit in my ear?"' Fazio quipped. "But think about the clamshell design, where the area available for electronics is reduced because of the large display. You can have more space available for displays or other types of electronics on your cell phone or handheld computer with this chip."

In development since 2001 under the code name Manitoba, Intel's new chip will run up against competing offerings from Texas Instruments Inc., which has 50 percent of the market. Representatives of the Dallas-based company said they weren't worried about Intel's latest.

"Quite frankly, what really matters is, where is the complete system solution," said Alain Mutricy, a vice president in the wireless business unit at Texas Instruments, which sells integrated chips as well as other electronic components to cell phone manufacturers. "I don't think you can claim to be introducing a revolution if you only have the processor."

By Rachel Konrad