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Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Trio Gives First Look at Cell Processor

A microprocessor called Cell, which could go into TVs, supercomputers, workstations and games machines, has been unveiled today by Sony, IBM and Toshiba.

Using a 64-bit Power processor core, combined with a number of other processor cores, the chip is initially made in 90nm silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology, but is expected to be moved quickly on to a 65nm process.

According to John E. Kelly III, senior VP, IBM, it is the result of almost four years collaborative work between the three companies aimed at creating "a highly integrated microprocessor designed to overcome imminent transistor scaling, power and performance limitations in conventional technologies."

Technical details of the microprocessor will be presented at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) to be held in February.

The companies are offering few details, but they have confirmed that the new microprocessor is a multi-thread, multicore chip comprising a 64-bit Power processor core and multiple processor cores capable of very high levels of floating point processing. It will also simultaneously run multiple operating systems.

"Massive and rich content, like multi-channel high definition broadcasting programs, as well as mega-pixel digital still/movie images captured by high-resolution CCD/CMOS imagers, require huge amount of media processing in real-time," said Ken Kutaragi, executive deputy president and COO at Sony. "Current PC architecture is nearing its limits, in both processing power and bus bandwidth, for handling such rich applications.

According to Masashi Muromachi, president and CEO of Toshiba Semiconductor, as a result of the collaboration, development of the processor is well under way. "Today?s announcement shows the substantial progress that has been made in this joint program," said Muromachi.

IBM plans to begin pilot production of Cell microprocessors at its 300mm wafer fabrication facility in East Fishkill, N.Y., during the first half of 2005. IBM's first computing application for the processor is a workstation it is developing with Sony Consumer. It could also be used at the heart of the Playstation3.

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