Motorola to Release DragonBallARM Chips Next Year

Yesterday, Motorola laid out its plans for integrating ARM chips into its DragonBall product line in 2001. The DragonBall product line will be expanded in the first quarter to two different cores. The core is the heart of the processor and responsible for its main function, processing data. They will be selling both the DragonBall68K, which they already offer at several different speeds, and DragonBallARM. The ARM-core-based processors will let developers to take advantage of future wireless applications while the 68K-core processor will let Palm legacy applications to be used and improved.

"Announcing the addition of the ARM core technology to DragonBall processors is significant because it gives developers and manufacturers choice and scalability," said Ed Valdez, director of marketing for Motorola's Wireless Communications division.

This is clearly a play by Motorola to keep all PalmOS-based handheld manufactures as customers. Palm has already announced that they will be switching to ARM-based chips at some point in the future. If Palm re-writes their OS so that it will work on ARM-based chips, then all the Palm clones would have to switch processors as well. However, Palm didn't immideatly jump on board with the new DragonBallARM processors. Palm officials said that the company has not committed to "any particular flavor" of ARM technology.

Palm has talked a bit about their overall strategy for changing processors. There won't be an overnight change with no backwards compatability. For at least some time, the new devices will be able to emulate the old ones. Michael Mace, Palm's chief competitive officer, said, "We're going to do a very careful, deliberate phased transition," he said. "It's not going to be an overnight thing."

Palm clearly needs to upgrade its processors but soon. The inability of Palm's current APIs to handle multitasking is going to hobble the evolution of the Palm into a multipurpose communication device.

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