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Two years after selling off its Xscale operations, Intel is once again turning its attention to building microprocessors for small devices. But rather than designing Xscale-like chips to form the foundation of devices such as the Palm Treo and RIM Blackberry, the strategy announced today will focus instead on system-on-chips, multifunction circuits that perform a variety of functions from a single piece of silicon.

Intel, which dominates the PC processor market despite inroads by its main rival AMD, stunned many in the industry in June, 2006, when it sold the Xscale communication and application processor business to Marvell, which makes storage and communication chips for consumer devices. The deal was valued at US$600 million.

The idea now is to leverage its existing integrated processors and manufacturing facilities and expertise "to usher in a new category of highly integrated, purpose-built and Web-savvy System on Chip (SoC) designs and products," according to an Intel news release.

The company is today introducing eight such processors targeted at security, storage, communications, and industrial robotics based on its Pentium M platform. It plans to release 15 more embedded processors by the end of next year. One such new model, intended for consumer electronics, is code-named "Canmore" and will be released later this year.

Longer term, Intel is working on its "next-generation platform for Mobile Internet Devices" code-named "Moorestown," scheduled for 2009/2010. Many will be based on Atom, Intel's 45 nm processor core. Pricing was not disclosed.

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