Intel yesterday ushered in the dawn of its XScale architecture for multimedia phones and advanced PDAs (personal digital assistants) with the launch of two new XScale chips.

The samples, boards and software of the Intel PXA250 and PXA210 processors are now available, with products powered by the chips expected by the middle of this year, according to David Rogers, the communications manager for XScale technology at Intel.

Recently Fujitsu Siemens said it would announce an XScale-based PDA at this year's CeBit exhibition.

Similar to the arrival of Intel's Pentium 4 desktop processor, the XScale chips represent a new level of performance headroom for embedded Intel processors.

The chipmaker expects the performance benefits of XScale to spawn a generation of rich applications for handhelds, Rogers said.

"Wireless data networks are coming, the carriers are implementing them now," Rogers said. "And as that happens, we believe that a lot of applications are going to drop into this space [and] there will be very rich applications that are going to require a lot of performance."

In English, this means Intel expects many devices in the future to be far too small to take its line of desktop or even notebook processors and so the firm's diversifying beyond its StrongARM licence.

Designed for advanced PDAs, the PXA250 is available at speeds of 200, 300 and 400MHz. Though designed for low power, the PXA250 offers a Turbo Mode for application and multimedia acceleration with Intel Media Processing technology.

USB, 920Kbps (kilobits per second) Bluetooth wireless and a 1.84MHz baseband interface are offered as communication interfaces, as well as an enhanced memory support 2.5-volt or 3.3-volt 16bit or 32bit memory. Targeted at simpler handheld devices, the PXA210 runs between 133 and 200MHz and offers variable power 16bit memory.

Built to 0.18-micron architecture, the two new XScale chips use less than half the power of their predecessor, the SA-1110, when operating in run mode. Both chips are tuned for Java and support operating systems from Microsoft, Palm, Symbian, and Linux.