Broadcom's Android alternative: An SoC supporting Symbian, Linux, WM6

In an attempt to blockade Google's Android platform at the big Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Broadcom is putting forth a chip with some real ammunition behind it, supporting the existing big three mobile OSes all at once.

Perhaps the least likely partners you might think you'd ever see on a joint ticket together may not end up being Google and Yahoo after all. In Barcelona this morning, Broadcom -- which makes chipsets for many brands of mobile phones and smart handsets -- threw a big lasso around Symbian, mobile Linux (LiMo), and Windows Mobile, corralling them under a collective tent it calls "OpenOS."

And in that light, the company is unveiling its BCM2153 baseband system-on-a-chip (SoC) processor, which it promises will support all three of these operating systems using CPU technology supplied by ARM. The objective: to close ranks against Google's Android and box it into a very tight corner.

What makes systems-on-a-chip with multiple support so popular among manufacturers is not the prospects of hybridization, but rather the ability to buy larger quantities of materials at greater discounts, and then build upon a single reference design for multiple product lines that differ more in the software department than in hardware -- thus reducing the final bill of materials.

To that end, Broadcom introduced a new reference design it's calling HEDGE, bridging EDGE voice and HSDPA data capabilities into 65 nm processor technology. Using the new SoC and the HEDGE reference design, manufacturers can build a handset that's capable of including a 3.2 Mp camera, built-in GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, 30 fps mobile television, and a Category 8 HSDPA modem with 7.2 Mbps download speeds.

Up to now, Broadcom's leading SoC had been its BCM21551, whose strong points were its advanced multimedia codec support and its HSUPA radio. The BCM2153 (just one "5") does not appear to be touted for its multimedia capabilities; instead, Broadcom is concentrating on its "OpenOS" support.

Live demonstrations of non-branded prototype phones with the BCM2153 have begun today at 3GSM in Barcelona, and limited sampling is also said to begin today, though Broadcom has yet to reveal that publicly nor announce any interim pricing.

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