CTIA : TI puts three wireless technologies in one PDA

Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) has developed a concept design for a PDA (personal digital assistant) that features three wireless technologies, the company said Monday at CTIA in New Orleans.

Meant as a guideline for PDA manufacturers, the concept design incorporates chips for Bluetooth, 802.11b and tri-band GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service) wireless networks. TI codenamed the design WANDA (wireless any network digital assistant), and the Dallas company believes it is the first to put all three wireless technologies into one device, said Mike Yonker, chief technologist for wireless computing products at TI.

Because both Bluetooth and 802.11b use the 2.4GHz frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum to send and receive data, there were a number of coexistence issues that needed to be worked out before the device could be certified as usable and reliable, Yonker said.

TI is using its own single-chip Bluetooth technology, and multichip packages for the 802.11b and GSM/GPRS networks, he said. The company announced last year it was working on a single-chip GSM/GPRS component, which should be ready by the end of 2004, he said.

The cost of coming out with those wireless technologies completely integrated onto a single chip is too prohibitive right now to make it worth the effort, said Will Strauss, principal analyst at market research company Forward Concepts Co. in Tempe, Arizona. The concept design shows that TI is getting results from some of its acquisitions over the last few years, such as Bluetooth company Butterfly VLSI Ltd. and 802.11b developer Alantro Communications, he said.

TI expects the device will sell for under US$500, even before subsidies from GSM/GPRS carriers, Yonker said. It will be primarily targeted at corporate users, although wireless carriers around the world will probably try to come up with innovative pricing plans for consumers, he said.

Devices built using the concept design will run Microsoft Corp.’s Pocket PC 2002 operating system on TI’s OMAP1510 processors. It will be available to manufacturers in April, and products are expected in the third or fourth quarters of this year, Yonker said. The concept design measures 117.7 millimeters high by 74.4 mm wide by 19.6 mm thick, weighs 174 grams, and will come with either 32M bytes or 64M bytes of NAND flash memory, and 64M bytes of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM).

Texas Instruments is on the Web at www.texasinstruments.com.