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MAYNARD, Mass., February 5, 1996 -- Digital Equipment Corporation today introduced the much anticipated SA-110 StrongARM microprocessor, the first processor to combine the performance of a supercomputer with power dissipation low enough to run on AA batteries, and pricing which is geared toward mass-market, consumer electronics products.

"The StrongARM microprocessor family is one of the cornerstones of our merchant vendor strategy," said Ed Caldwell, vice president, Digital Semiconductor, a business of Digital Equipment Corporation. "We see tremendous opportunity to deploy this technology across many mass- market application areas." According to industry analysts, the potential microprocessor volume for the StrongARM target markets -- personal digital assistants (PDAs), electronic organizers, set-top boxes, and video games -- will exceed 29 billion units by 1999.

The SA-110 microprocessor is the first member of the StrongARM family resulting from the architecture license agreement between Digital and Advanced RISC Machines Ltd. (ARM), developer of the ARM 32-bit RISC architecture. "Combining ARM's low-power architecture with Digital's high- performance processor design expertise and CMOS process leadership has created a new paradigm for embedded consumer electronics products -- supercomputer class performance on AA batteries," said Robin Saxby, president and CEO, Advanced RISC Machines Ltd.


Industry watchers see a bright future for the StrongARM technology. According to Jim Turley, senior analyst, Microprocessor Report, "The SA-110 StrongARM processor is a technical tour de force and a milestone for both Digital Semiconductor and the ARM architecture. It offers a nearly unbeatable combination of performance, price and power consumption."

Tim Bajarin, president, Creative Strategies International commented, "The design of the SA-110 StrongARM chip has clearly involved PDA developers, smart phone manufacturers, set-top box suppliers, and even companies exploring the internet computer. This type of foresight heralds a new wave of mobile products which meet consumers' real needs."


The huge market potential for an instant access, low- cost product to 'surf the net' has grabbed the attention of both the computer and consumer electronics industries. The SA-110 StrongARM chip is well-positioned to make this concept a reality.

According to Andy Laursen, vice president of Network Computing at Oracle Corporation, "The explosive consumer demand for inexpensive, high-performance internet access will fuel the need for a low-cost web terminal. StrongARM represents the kind of technology that will put this product within reach of the mass consumer market."


The SA-110 StrongARM processor will greatly enhance the functionality of next generation PDAs and electronic organizers. "Apple's Newton team and the StrongARM design team have worked closely together during the past eighteen months," said Michael Culbert, system architect, Apple Computer, Inc. "We are very excited about this new technology and its potential to carry the next generation of Newton PDAs to a new level. Our customers and licensees will be delighted by the new applications and human interface capabilities this chip can enable."

In addition, application developers targeting mobile workers are porting key applications to the StrongARM platform. Papyrus Associates Inc., a leader in handwriting recognition software has endorsed the StrongARM technology. "The excellent computational capabilities will enable us to offer improved handwriting recognition software," said Bill Kania, president, Papyrus Associates Inc. "Thanks to a mature compiler environment, our software was easily ported to StrongARM."

Dragon Systems, Inc., the industry leader in speech recognition technology, is also enthusiastic about the StrongARM technology. "The performance delivered by the SA-110 will enable Dragon Systems to provide advanced speech recognition capabilities for handheld portable products," said Stephen Breit, manager of special projects, Dragon Systems.


Second generation set-top boxes will drive the movement to real interactive TV and hyper-realistic 3D video games in the $200-$400 range. "Interactive set-top boxes are a demanding product to build -- you need twice the performance of a desktop PC at one third the cost," said Malcolm Bird, chief executive, Online Media, Ltd., a leading supplier of set-top box technology and products. "While the performance of these StrongARM processors is impressive, what sold us on this technology is the price points at which the performance is delivered. This technology will help make interactive TV a reality."


The SA-110, available in 100 MHz, 160 MHz, and 200 MHz internal clock speeds, has set new industry benchmarks in terms of both power- and cost-efficiency, as well as overall processor performance.

The 100 MHz part operating at 1.65 volts, delivers 115 Dhrystone 2.1 MIPS while dissipating less than 300 mW of power. The 160 MHz version delivers 185 Dhrystone 2.1 MIPS at only 450 mW of power dissipation, giving a performance/power ratio (MIPS-per-watt) of over 400. This makes it the most power-efficient processor available today.

The 200 MHz part operates at 2.0 volts and performs 230 Dhrystone 2.1 MIPS while still running on under a watt of power. This device, priced at under $50, achieves the industry's best performance/price ratio at almost 5 MIPS/$ (MIPS-per-dollar). Pricing for the 100 MHz part is less than $29 in 10k unit quantities, while the 160 MHz part is available for $49 in the same quantities.

Cost reduction is a primary focus for the SA-110 product. All three versions are packaged in a low-cost, small footprint, plastic package (144-pin plastic TQFP). The SA-110 can accommodate 3.3 volt input/output levels, allowing system designers to utilize off-the-shelf 3.3 volt memories and other commodity components.

The SA-110 is produced on eight-inch wafers on a 0.35 micron CMOS process at Digital's state-of-the-art Fab 6 facility in Hudson, Mass. Samples are available now, with production scheduled to begin in the spring. Software development tools (compilers, assemblers, debuggers), operating systems, and applications are available through Digital and other third party companies supporting the ARM architecture.

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Note to Editors:

Digital Semiconductor

Digital Semiconductor, a Digital Equipment Corporation business headquartered in Hudson, Massachusetts, designs, manufactures and markets industry-leading semiconductor products including Alpha microprocessors and PCI chips for networking, bridging, and graphics/multimedia, as well as low-power StrongARM microprocessors under license from Advanced RISC Machines Ltd. Mitsubishi Electric Company is a second source for Alpha microprocessors. World Wide Web site:

Digital Equipment Corporation is the world's leader in open client/server solutions from personal computing to integrated worldwide information systems. Digital's scaleable Alpha platforms, storage, networking, software and services, together with industry-focused solutions from business partners, help organizations compete and win in today's global marketplace.

Advanced RISC Machines Ltd (ARM)

ARM designs, licenses and markets high-performance, low-cost, low-power consumption 32-bit RISC processors, peripherals and development tools for embedded control, consumer multi-media, DSP and portable applications. ARM also provides consulting and training. ARM licenses its technology to semiconductor partner companies, who focus on manufacturing, applications and marketing. The versatility of ARM's cores, together with the unparalleled breadth of the partnership's expertise ensures that ARM-based solutions are available to meet almost every customer's processor needs. The ARM semiconductor partners are: Asahi Kasei Microsystems, Atmel/ES2, Cirrus Logic, Digital Semiconductor, GEC Plessey Semiconductors, LG Semicon, NEC, Oki, Samsung, Sharp, Symbios Logic, Texas Instruments and VLSI Technology. Together they make ARM the world volume embedded RISC standard.

To learn more about Advanced RISC Machines and its partners, you can now access ARM through the World Wide Web at http://www.arm.com

Digital, Digital Semiconductor, and the Digital logo are trademarks of Digital Equipment Corporation. ARM is a registered trademark and StrongARM is a trademark of Advanced RISC Machines Ltd. Apple and Newton are registered trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc.


Analyst Comments

"This is truly an impressive feat. With its power-efficient design, the SA-110 could create a real volume opportunity and propel Digital Semiconductor into the wireless market."
Andrew Seybold, Editor-in-Chief
Andrew Seybold's Outlook on Communications & Computing

"With the outstanding performance delivered by Digital Semiconductor's SA-110 StrongARM chip, a device which browses text and enables people to perform financial transactions on the Internet is extremely viable."

Kimball Brown, Vice President
Mobile Computing Service

"Digital Semiconductor has clearly done its homework to apply next generation silicon solutions to high volume and cost sensitive applications based on their SA-1 core. The SA-110 chip along with the robust suite of development software libraries and tools will speed development of new digital appliances."

Walter Miao

"The arrival of the first StrongARM microprocessor from Digital Semiconductor signals a true paradigm shift in the usability of embedded mobile devices. The SA-110 will be the first processor to enable developers of smart handheld devices and organizers to truly deliver the response time and applications users desire within the power restrictions of these devices."

Susan Mason
The Information Architects

"Digital Semiconductor's SA-110, the first implementation of the StrongARM architecture, combines the low cost and power dissipation for which ARM is renowned with high-end embedded processor performance. It's an attractive candidate for demanding mobile and interactive digital media applications."

Andrew Allison
Consultant and Editor of
Inside the New Computer Industry

The above is a Press release from ARM Limited.