Making Plans for Dual-Processor Phones
The time may soon come when your cell phone has more processors than your personal computer. NEC, Matsushita Electric Industrial, and Matsushita Communication Industrial have decided to employ two microprocessors in
The dual-processors are unlikely to outclass personal computers in terms of power, but the companies' decision does highlight the
Handsets began evolving beyond basic telephony functions around five years ago, when companies experimented with simple games, although it wasn't until the launch of wireless Internet services that the complexity began rising fast. Today's top-of-the-range 2G handsets can run Java applets and, most recently, have begun to sport digital still cameras and GPS receivers.
"For 3G and even 2.5G handsets, the software is so huge. If it is one CPU, the performance is limited, but we have two CPUs so the performance is better," she says.
Under the architecture unveiled Thursday by the two Matsushita companies and NEC, one processor, the C-CPU, will be used to handle the communication protocols while the other, the A-CPU, is used to run applications such as wireless Internet browsing, video conferencing, and phone book management.
NEC has already embraced the idea and is using two processors in its handsets for NTT DoCoMo's 3G W-CDMA network that began commercial service in October 2001. The company's N2001 and N2002 handsets use
Beyond the better performance, there are other advantages too, the companies say.
The platform will be offered to companies that do not posses the technology to design 3G cell phones. The separation of processor functions will help these customers differentiate their products, says Shikimori, because the finished platform will enable designers to chose from a number of different brands of processor for each CPU. At present, Agere Systems and Texas Instruments are working with the three companies on prototypes.
The outline architecture is the result of six months of work between the three companies, which are Japan's top cellular handset makers. In August last year they announced plans to work together on the design and development of 3G handsets, partly in an attempt to replicate overseas the success they have enjoyed in the domestic market.