The announcement has generated a lot of hype. The Infostream chip seems to address most of the problems surrounding previous designs. If it lives up to expectations, Parthus should be in a position to dominate the smartphone chip market.
Irish chip designer Parthus on Tuesday announced the launch of its new chip solution. Called Infostream, it will be based on Symbian's operating system and ARM's 920T processor. It will provide on-chip support for "2.5G" GPRS high-speed mobile telecommunications, GPS location finding, and Bluetooth short-range wireless data exchange.
Many companies are currently developing "smartphones" which incorporate these services, combined with PDA functionality. The idea of a device that knows where it is, can communicate directly with other electronic devices in the same area, and can access the internet on an "always on" basis, is obviously appealing. However, until now there have been major questions concerning proposed solutions' technical and commercial viability.
The problems are cost, power consumption, and time-to-market. Consumers are used to cheap mobile phones, and while the increased functionality of smartphones will command a premium, it will still be easy for solutions to be priced out of the market. Combining the technologies all on one chip would save significant amounts of money - Infostream chips are expected only to cost a few dollars each to make in volume.
Power consumption is also a problem. Battery technology is developing relatively slowly; there will be no point in releasing a device with a battery life so short that it is effectively not mobile. Again, Infostream has an advantage here - the ARM 920T is very power-efficient. Parthus also believes Infostream will "drastically reduce" the time taken for manufacturers to bring smartphones to development.
Effectively, Infostream deals with all the major issues that dogged developers. The platform has already been licensed to Psion for PDAs and to Motorola for smartphones; as well as running Symbian it will also be able to run the Linux and Microsoft PocketPC operating systems, so more licensing deals can be expected before long. As long as it can meet the specifications announced, Parthus will be in a good position to clean up when the market for mobile Internet takes off.