A Device Called WANDA

Just in time for a predicted surge in the personal digital assistant (PDA) market over the course of 2003, Dallas-based semiconductor Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) unveiled a new chipset and concept design for a device that combines three primary networking technologies, among them Wi-Fi Internet capability.

TI’s newest effort to ramp-up its wireless chipset offerings was announced Monday at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) wireless conference in New Orleans where companies including Hewlett-Packard , Intel , Nokia , Palm , and Microsoft are all vying for top dominion in a tightly cramped market in which converged device technology is all the rage.

Code-named “WANDA,” TI’s tri-wireless PDA is based on the company’s Open Multimedia Applications Protocol (OMAP) processor platform and Microsoft Windows-Powered Pocket PC software.

TI’s OMAP platform functions as a network for the development of differentiated Internet appliances, 2.5G and 3G wireless handsets, PDAs, and other multimedia devices. The platform’s software is based on an open infrastructure that supports multiple operating systems like Java, Linux, Microsoft Windows CE, Palm OS and Symbian OS.

According to TI, WANDA is an acronym for ‘Wireless Any Network Digital Assistant’ because the chipset enables manufacturers to create a cell phone that integrates a wireless local-area network (LAN) for connecting with Wi-Fi hot spots, Bluetooth, a short-range wireless standard, and connectivity to Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) networks, all in one device.

In other words, the WANDA chipset enables a wireless user to make phone calls while simultaneously browsing the Internet, printing, using the headset, or accessing any number of the gadget’s DSP-accelerated multimedia applications, including a digital camera.

While a handful of frontline wireless handset makers already make phones with multiple functions, TI claims it is the first to create a chipset that can integrate Wi-Fi capability with GSM and Bluetooth.

Accelent Systems Inc. based on TI’s specifications created WANDA’s concept design.

According to In-Stat/MDR analyst Cindy Wolf, growth in the PDA market is estimated to increase 20 percent per year over the next five years and many handset makers are in a mad scramble to get their piece of market share by developing the ultimate handheld device.

“The proliferation of integrated PDAs that enable multiple functionalities, including cellular, 802.11 and Bluetooth, will help to facilitate the continued market growth for devices that enable high levels of connectivity and customization,” said Wolf.

The WANDA chipset and concept design will be made available by April of 2003, TI announced Monday.

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