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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Tech giants launch phone alliance
Mobile phone handset
Four of the world's biggest tech companies are allying to push a set of standards for mobile phone chips - and ward off the risk of domination by the likes of Microsoft and Qualcomm.

The new Mobile Industry Processor Alliance was unveiled by two chipmakers: Texas Instruments, which leads the world in supplying the chips at the core of mobile phones, and France's STMicro, which specialises in audio/video chips.

Also on board are cellphone giant Nokia and ARM, the British semiconductor firm whose designs are commonly used in handheld devices.

The alliance aims to "define and promote open standards" in how the interfaces of mobile phones can talk to the chips at their heart, TI said in a statement.

The idea, in principle, is to make sure parts and technology from different vendors will work together - and thus stop any one kitmaker from cornering the market.


One obvious target of the move is the combination of Microsoft and Intel, which have a lock on the vast majority of the personal computer market.

Although Intel has a deal to license ARM technology, some fear that the two could eventually do the same thing to the handheld device market by making sure that their devices talk better to Windows-based PCs than anyone else's.

Although it is relatively easy to make text messaging and address book functions work together, multi-media functions such as pictures, games and calendars are more complicated.

QualComm handset
QualComm is keen to keep control of CDMA
TI and its partners are thought to be concerned that because proprietary systems are easier to join together, Microsoft - and QualComm, which controls one corner of the mobile market - could leverage that into a position of control.

Legal action

QualComm and TI are already at daggers drawn over the cdmaOne cellphone standard which QualComm invested.

The standard is dwarfed by the GSM system worldwide, but nonetheless has a big presence in both the US and South Korea - and TI wants a piece of those markets.

At present, almost all cdmaOne phones use QualComm chipsets, a factor which gives the company huge profit margins.

But TI announced in May that it wanted to get in on that market - and QualComm is now suing it for allegedly breaching a three-year-old confidentiality agreement by announcing its move to investment analysts.

TI said it would fight back.

"Qualcomm has enjoyed many years of selling CDMA chips against little or no competition," the company said in a statement.

"TI intends to establish this market as a level playing field in which open competition prevails and consumers benefit."

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