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Wednesday, June 08, 2005
IBM to open architecture of new Cell chips

IBM planned to reveal key details of its highly anticipated ``Cell'' microprocessors Wednesday as part of the company's effort to support open-source computing designs.

The specifications were due to be released in Barcelona, Spain, to encourage a deep pool of developers to create applications that can work with Cell when it is released next year.

Cell, which is being jointly designed by IBM, Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp., has nine separate computing engines, known as ``cores,'' to carry out multiple functions at once.

The highest-profile deployment promised for Cell is in Sony's coming PlayStation 3 game consoles, but IBM also expects the chip to be useful in such high-performance systems as supercomputers, medical imaging machines and military hardware.

Chip makers routinely share designs on their systems so that outside parties can write programs for them or build other chips that are compatible. But IBM contends that it is going to exceptional lengths because it will not charge developers licensing fees or force them into nondisclosure agreements.

Jim Kahle, IBM's lead designer for Cell, said the company essentially will ``donate four years worth of intellectual property to the open-source community.''

However, this effort differs from open-source software programs such as Linux, in which a community of programmers has general license to tinker with the product's design and use it wherever they want. IBM retains the rights to make the chips.

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