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Sony, IBM, Toshiba Unveil ‘Cell’ Microprocessor

San Francisco, Calif. — IBM, Sony, Sony Computer Entertainment and Toshiba jointly unveiled at the International Solid State Circuits Conference, here, a new jointly developed microprocessor code named “Cell,” which is said to feature “supercomputer-like floating point performance with observed clock speeds greater than 4GHz.”

The chip, which is expected to be used as the heart of a next-generation PlayStation 3 device, when it is introduced, is capable of driving multiple entertainment and communications functions.

The companies said that Cell’s multicore architecture and ultrahigh-speed communications capabilities deliver “vastly improved, real-time response for entertainment and rich media applications, in many cases 10 times the performance of the latest PC processors.”

The chip incorporates advanced multiprocessing technologies used in IBM’s sophisticated servers, Sony Group’s computer entertainment systems and Toshiba’s advanced semiconductor technology, the companies said. “Cell will become the broadband processor used for industrial applications to the new digital home.”

The microprocessor design will support multiple operating systems (including Linux) simultaneously. Supported operating systems can include computer entertainment and consumer electronics applications as well as guest operating systems for specific applications, the companies said.

It features eight synergistic processors and top clock speeds of greater than 4GHz.

“We are confident that Cell will provide major momentum for the progress of digital convergence, as a core device sustaining a whole spectrum of advanced information-rich broadband applications, from consumer electronics, home entertainment through various industrial systems,” said Masashi Muromachi, Toshiba Semiconductor Company’s CEO, in a prepared statement.

Initial production of Cell microprocessors is expected to begin at IBM’s 300mm wafer fabrication facility in East Fishkill, N.Y., followed by Sony Group’s Nagasaki Fab, this year. IBM, Sony Group and Toshiba expect to promote Cell-based products, including a broad range of industry-wide applications, from digital televisions to home servers to supercomputers.

Cell was developed by a team of IBM, Sony Group and Toshiba engineers at a joint design center established in Austin, Texas, since March 2001.