Intel unveils 'Bulverde' mobile chip with camera phone features

by Guy Kewney | posted on 17 September 2003

Fancy a smartphone with a four megapixel camera built in? "Cell phone and wireless PDA capabilities are moving well beyond just making a call or organising personal information," said Hans Geyer, Intel vice president and general manager of its PCA Components Group.

Guy Kewney

He was looking a long way into the future, however, announcing the subject of today's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) keynote, the Bulverde chipset, which, terrifyingly, brings a technology called MMX to the hand-held computer market. When MMX was first announced as multimedia extensions, it was to enhance the original Pentium desktop chip set.

As to when this technology will ship, that's a question you couldn't answer even if you worked for Intel. "Additional details surrounding Bulverde are expected to be available in the first half of 2004," said the official release. One guess (only a guess) would make this available for products on sale as Christmas presents for 2004.

The demonstration of the prototype was part of a keynote by Mike Fister, described as lacklustre by delegates. The demo, however, was exciting.

<1/> Mike Fister

Not only did Intel show a working prototype, but the demo showed the camera detecting a hidden steganography "watermark" in an image.

Geyer's announcement focused on multimedia, including video - which this phone will record. "The ability to send and receive pictures, play rich 3D games or download ring tones, video clips and music are growing in popularity," he said.

To support the ongoing adoption of data services and applications, the underlying technology must be able to deliver enhanced multimedia capabilities and lower power.

Key to the future of this technology is power consumption - a factor which Intel is now rightly focused on. After the revival of the old MMX cryptonym from the deep past, we also got another revenant: Wireless Intel SpeedStep Technology, "a technology which dynamically adjusts the power and performance of the processor based on CPU demand. This can result in up to a 50 percent decrease in power consumption for wireless handheld devices."

Speedstep itself, like MMX originally, was a complete flop, doing nothing more than reducing the clock rate by a trivial amount. Developments in the current Centrino technology were far more useful; it's too soon to know how effective Intel has managed to be in updating these old brand-names.

What Intel has said about Wireless Intel SpeedStep Technology is that it "advances the capabilities of Intel Dynamic Voltage Management" - a function already built into the Intel XScale microarchitecture - "by incorporating three new low-power states: deep idle, standby and deep sleep."

The technology is able to change both voltage and frequency on-the-fly by intelligently switching the processor into the various low power modes, saving additional power while still providing the necessary performance to run rich applications.

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