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Sony, IBM, Toshiba provide details of Cell chip

IBM, Sony, and Toshiba have revealed plans for a new Cell processor to run next-generation televisions, computers and game consoles.

The Cell is a multicore semiconductor composed of several processors that work together to handle multiple tasks at the same time. It is designed to be powerful than conventional chips and able to shepherd large chunks of data over broadband networks, Reuters reported.

The three firms gave a glimpse of their respective plans for Cell-powered products, but offered only broad outlines of the technology behind the new microprocessor. Further details of the chip will be revealed in February at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.

Sony said it would launch home servers and high-definition televisions powered by Cell in 2006, and reiterated plans to use the microchip to power the next-generation PlayStation game console. Toshiba plans to launch a high-definition TV using Cell in 2006.

IBM said it would start pilot production of the microprocessor at its plant in East Fishkill, NY, in the first half of 2005. It will use 300mm silicon wafers, which yield more than twice the number of chips per wafer than the 200mm variety.

IBM also announced plans to use the chip in a workstation it is developing with Sony.

Together, IBM, Sony and Toshiba are investing billions of dollars to develop and prepare for mass production of Cell. Intel, a supplier of personal computer microprocessors, has similar plans to introduce dual-core microprocessors next year and has sought out new markets, including home entertainment devices, for its chips.

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