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Monday, March 12, 2001
IBM, Toshiba, Sony Plan Supercomputer-On-Chip

IBM Corp., Toshiba Corp., and Sony Corp.'s computer entertainment unit Monday announced plans to spend more than $400 million in the next five years to develop a "supercomputer-on-a-chip" architecture for extremely fast broadband network processors in consumer electronics applications. The companies said they will set up the new development center on IBM's campus in Austin to create ICs, based on copper metal interconnects, silicon-on-insulator (SOI) transistors, and low-k dielectric insulation. The highly integrated ICs--code-named "Cell"--will used 0.10-micron design rules, the companies said in an announcement made in Tokyo early Monday.

The new Austin R&D center will employ nearly 300 computer architects, chip designers, and other technical specialists. The result of their work will be consumer-system ICs that are more powerful than IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer, according to the partners. The new architecture will be focused on low power consumption and "ultra high-speed" broadband access on the Internet with the ability to deliver teraflops (trillion floating-point operations per second), according to the companies.

"The processor platform that people have only been able to imagine is now going to become a reality," said Ken Kutaragi, president and chief executive officer of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. He said the new architecture will break bottlenecks in network processors. "With built-in broadband connectivity, microprocessors that currently exist as individual islands will be more closely linked, making a network of systems act more as one, unified 'supersystem,' " Kutargi said. "Just as biological cells in the body unite to form complete physical systems, Cell-based electronic products of all types will form the building blocks of larger systems..."

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