Wireless Systems Design

Alliances Breathe New Life Into PDAs And Smart Phones

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It is often said that hard times in the industry bring about the most innovation. Maybe it's because these tough periods also seem to encourage more cooperation. Without the extra resources needed to branch out into new specialties, many companies are joining forces—and technologies—to get a jump on emerging applications. Currently, adding wireless entertainment to personal digital assistants (PDAs) and smart phones is one of the biggest drivers behind such partnerships. For example, check out the pairing of AMD (www.amd.com) and Metrowerks (www.metrowerks.com) or the one between Motorola (www.motorola.com) and Hantro (www.hantro.com).

The teamwork of AMD and Metrowerks was recently demonstrated in a pre-release version of their OpenPDA platform. With it, the companies hope to ease the troubles of application developers and device manufacturers alike. The goal of this Linux-based software platform is to enable the development of feature-rich PDAs and smart phones running on the AMD Alchemy Solutions Mobile Client Reference Design Kit (RDK).

The Mobile Client RDK is based on the AMD Alchemy Solutions Au1100 processor. As an evaluation and benchmark platform for developing PDAs, Web pads, and other multimedia handheld-computing devices, it already works to slash design costs and time. Thanks to OpenPDA, this RDK is now enabling a richer feature set as well.

By running OpenPDA on the Mobile Client RDK, these two companies have provided designers with a powerful, multimedia PDA hardware and software solution. The solution houses a host of standard applications, including games, a multimedia player, voice recording, an image viewer, synchronization, browsing, and Java technology. In addition, OpenPDA provides a full Personal Information Management (PIM) suite.

Metrowerks plans to release OpenPDA late in the first quarter of this year. The software platform includes an embedded-Linux kernel; Trolltech's (www.trolltech.com) Qtopia multi-language user interface; Insignia's (www.insignia.com) integrated Java Virtual Machine (JVM); and Opera's (www.opera.com) full-featured Web browser. Extended capabilities, such as desktop-synchronization utilities and mobile networking, also are included.

Interestingly, the partnering of Motorola (www.motorola.com) and Hantro (www.hantro.com) runs somewhat parallel to the work of AMD and Metrowerks. Motorola and Hantro also are blending wireless entertainment with a technology platform that simplifies development for smart phones and PDAs.

This story begins with Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector adopting Hantro's video technology for the DragonBall MX platform. By joining their products, the companies plan to give manufacturers access to high-resolution streaming video (see figure). The Hantro video solution set flaunts high video quality, low power consumption, low CPU load, and more.

For manufacturers, the Hantro solution strives to provide a multimedia framework that enables rapid concept-to-market implementation. This framework serves as the basis for Hantro's multimedia messaging and streaming applications. Using the Multimedia Framework, Motorola will enable applications like multimedia messaging and streaming in the DragonBall MX product family.

The Hantro framework combines a variety of the company's ready-made codecs and multimedia protocols. To save development costs, it enables several generations of products from the same codec. Motorola is licensing these software and hardware video codecs to incorporate advanced multimedia technology into the DragonBall MX platform. These real-time video codecs are based on Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG)-4 and H.263 standards. They are scalable from lower resolutions and frame rates up to Common Intermediate For-mat (CIF) resolution with 30 frames per second.

Obviously, the Hantro product suite and the DragonBall MX application microprocessors both work to ease time-to-market and manufacturing issues. The DragonBall MX microprocessors are known for providing high performance with low power consumption. This product family was specifically engineered to help manufacturers deliver high-performance smart phones or advanced wireless-enabled personal digital assistants to consumers who want to access rich applications. Their theory is that users should be able to enjoy applications like real-time and two-way mobile video without burning through a pocketful of batteries.

Hopefully, such cooperative efforts will continue to be forged. They can then continue to nurture wireless entertainment, which is just starting to take off. With the right blending of technology and expertise, the industry may be able to ensure entertainment's success. It just needs to continue working on applications that satisfy developers, manufacturers, and consumers.

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