IBM Microelectronics has signed to use Sun's Pico Java chip core in its embedded processors, despite poor demand for Java-based chips so far.
The IBM unit itself has to date scored no Java-based design wins.
The chip units of the two giants have signed a deal in the hope that electronic device makers will select Java technology in future years, fulfilling Java's promise of 'write once, run anywhere' on thousands of products including phones, cars, set-top boxes and games consoles.
But analysts said there is no demand for Java processors and few Pico Java chips have shipped, as the software is not quick enough to perform well in data crunching devices.
Sun Microelectronics' president Chet Silvestri claimed that Java chips are not selling well in the market because custom-made devices using the technology are not ready yet. IBM may speed that process up because, under this licensing deal, it can also provide Power PC chips using the Pico Java core technology.
"All these devices need the processor and the intellectual property on the chip," Silvestri said. "To the run the device you need to merge the chip company [Sun] and the customiser [IBM]."
IBM is the biggest vendor of application-specific integrated circuits (Asics), which are chips designed for a particular purpose such as running a wristwatch or monitoring car emissions.
Sun claimed the move will accelerate OEMs' launches of intelligent network devices and the whole market will be boosted by IBM?s decision to manufacture processors that support Java directly on the chip.
IBM Microelectronics' vice president Luis Arzubi admitted it has no Java chip design wins but claimed discussions are underway.
The IBM deal covers Sun?s Pico Java I core but later this year it may be extended to include Pico Java II, which can run software written in languages other than Java.
Sun already licences Pico Java to hardware firms including Fujitsu, LG, Mitsubishi Electronics, NEC, Rockwell Semiconductor and Samsung Electronics. IBM bought Californian semiconductor company Commquest last month for its chip designs, which run wireless communications equipment.
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