IBM, Sony Group and Toshiba today unveiled the advanced microprocessor they are jointly developing for next-generation computing applications and digital consumer electronics devices.
Codenamed Cell, the new multi-core chip comprises a 64-bit Power processor core and multiple synergistic processor cores capable of massive floating point processing.
Cell is optimised for compute-intensive workloads and broadband media applications, including computer entertainment, movies and other forms of digital content, the partners said.
The chip supports multiple operating systems, as well as real-time CE/game platforms.
In addition, the processor is designed to be scalable and can be utilised in a variety of applications, including small digital CE systems within the home, entertainment applications for rendering movies, and scientific applications such as supercomputers.
IBM, Sony Group (which comprises Sony Corporation and Sony Computer Entertainment) and Toshiba promised to disclose more details about Cell at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference to be held in February 2005 in San Francisco.
IBM plans to begin pilot production of Cell microprocessors at its 300mm wafer fabrication facility in New York State during the first half of 2005.
Sony Corporation expects to launch home servers for broadband content as well as high-definition television (HDTV) systems powered by Cell in 2006, while Sony Computer Entertainment promised that its next-generation computer entertainment system would be powered by the chip.
Toshiba expects to launch its first Cell-based product, an HDTV, in 2006.
"Less than four years ago, we embarked on an ambitious collaborative effort with Sony Group and Toshiba to create a highly-integrated microprocessor designed to overcome imminent transistor scaling, power and performance limitations in conventional technologies," said Dr John Kelly, senior vice president at IBM.
Ken Kutaragi, executive deputy president and chief operating officer at Sony Corporation, and president and group chief executive at Sony Computer Entertainment, added: "Massive and rich content, like multi-channel high-definition broadcast programmes, as well as megapixel digital still and movie images captured by high-resolution CCD/CMOS imagers, require a huge amount of media processing in real time.
"In the future, this digital content will fuse and converge on the broadband network, and start to explode."
Kutaragi explained that to access and browse content freely on next-generation entertainment devices, a more sophisticated 3D graphical user interface will become essential and that current PC architectures are nearing their limits in both processing power and bus bandwidth for handling such applications.
Masashi Muromachi, corporate vice president of Toshiba Corporation, and president and chief executive of Toshiba's Semiconductor Company, said: "Today's announcement shows the substantial progress that has been made in this joint programme.
"Cell will substantially enhance the performance of broadband-empowered consumer applications, raise the user-friendliness of services realised through these applications, and facilitate the use of information-rich media and communications."
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