February 5, 1996

To power up Internet devices, you need a StrongARM and Java

Tom Davey

Specialized low-voltage microprocessors from Digital Equipment Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. will power new generations of PDAs and Internet terminals made by Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems Computer Co., and Apple Computer Inc.

DEC, of Maynard, Mass., will begin volume shipments of its StrongARM chip in the spring. Oracle plans to use the chip in its second-generation Internet terminal, sources said. Apple later this year will also introduce a version of the Newton personal digital assistant based on StrongARM that will be five to eight times faster than Apple's current model, they said.

The StrongARM, also known as the SA-110, will be available in 100MHz, 160MHz, and 200MHz clock speeds, at prices ranging from $25 to $50 per chip.

Sun, of Mountain View, Calif., announced last week plans for three microprocessors designed around its Java development language, for use in Sun's own Internet terminals.

The first of the chip products, picoJava, will consist of a processor core that Sun plans to license to other chip vendors, which will embellish the design. The first generation of chips will sell for less than $25 and will be built into cellular phones, printers, and other peripherals.

In early 1997, Sun will begin shipping samples of MicroJava, its own customized version of the picoJava core technology. MicroJava will include application-specific I/O, memory, and communications functions. Priced between $25 and $100 each, these chips will be designed for use in Sun's entry-level Internet terminals and consumer products.

Sun will begin manufacturing samples of the UltraJava processor in late 1997. Starting at $100, the chip will be used in more sophisticated Internet devices and will enable users to download three-dimensional graphics and MPEG-2 video streams.

Despite the announcements of specialized chips and other dedicated hardware for accessing the Internet, some corporate users remain skeptical. "I could see a big market for it at home," said John Brown, automation analyst for Moen Inc., a plumbing supply manufacturer in North Olmsted, Ohio. "But I don't see a great impact on me by putting an Internet terminal in here."

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