New alliance promotes standards for mobile chips

Chip designer Arm Ltd. and mobile phone giant Nokia Corp. have teamed with semiconductor manufacturers STMicroelectronics NV and Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) to form an alliance that could help vendors bring new types of mobile devices to market more quickly.

The Mobile Industry Processor Interface (MIPI) Alliance, established as an incorporated not-for-profit entity, will work to define and promote open standards for processors used in handsets and other products. It is open to other mobile phone, hardware and software vendors interested in helping define key mobile application building blocks for wireless products, the four companies said Tuesday in a joint statement.

The alliance comes in response to the broad interest in the Open Mobile Application Processor Interfaces (OMAPI) initiative, launched in December by STM and TI. That initiative set out to improve how multimedia applications look and run on General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and 3G mobile phones as well as PDAs and other portable devices.

Although the alliance partners aren’t naming names, their new alliance could also help deflect challenges by Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp., two powerful players in the PC sector, to expand their presence in the fast-growing market for mobile devices.

“The more members who join this new alliance, the better, because there will be other camps, and one of them could include Intel and Microsoft,” said Alan Brown, an analyst at the London office of Gartner Inc. “Intel, in particular, will want to support its own technology in this area.”

The MIPI Alliance aims to complement existing standards bodies, such as the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the founding members said. While OMA focuses on services and 3GPP on air interfaces, MIPI will concentrate on microprocessors, peripherals and software interfaces, according to the statement.

As part of the new alliance, the four founding members will establish 10 working groups to develop specifications in key areas such as camera and display and system control.

Standards are needed to avoid interoperability problems that can occur from the wide range of mobile phones, networks and software used to provide advanced services, such as picture and video messaging as well as interactive gaming, according to the founding members.

Nokia views the MIPI Alliance as an “excellent forum” to speed up development and time to market for mobile multimedia devices by defining open standards, Jari Pasanen, vice-president of Nokia’s mobile phone division, said in the statement. This means that Nokia and other hardware manufacturers, he said, can deploy interoperable building blocks faster and at a lower cost.

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