eWeek Examines IBM's PowerPC Roadmap

Could more next generation game consoles have more in common with Appleis Power Macs than with x86 based PCs? According to a report in eWeek, IBM believes so, and is marshaling its resources to concentrate on delivering processors for a core set of customers.

One well known customer of IBM current 970 processor line is Apple, and IBM uses a similar processor in some of its server offerings, but the eWeek article points out that a new set of processors will be used in next generation gaming systems from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. From the article:

Currently, IBMis PowerPC public roadmap comprises three product lines: the 9XX series, used within the Macintosh and IBMis JS20 blade servers, currently being revamped for the mobile and server markets; the 7XX series, spearheaded by the PowerPC 750GX for embedded applications; and a pair of cores available for licensing.

The real work is behind the scenes, however, where IBM is developing the "Cell" processor for future entertainment consoles sold by Sony Corp.; the processor used by the "Xenon," Microsoft Corp.is next-generation Xbox; as well as the "Revolution," Nintendo Ltd.is next-generation console. IBM has already shipped more than 10 million PowerPCs to Nintendo for use in the current GameCube, each a 485MHz derivative of the G3 called the "Gekko."

[...]In addition, IBM will continue to market the 7XX series of processors, known more commonly as the basis for the Apple G3 line. The PowerPC 750GX builds upon the older PowerPC 750FX, adding a full-speed, 1MB Level 2 cache and the ability to run at 1.1GHz. IBM will still market solution in the 4XX series, but as customizable, system-on-a-chip solutions, Stein said.

IBMis real work is with its gaming-platform customers, including Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Sony, Toshiba and IBM are developing the "Cell" processor, a modular design whose specifications are unknown. However, IBM engineers will apparently disclose more details about the chip at a conference in Vail, Colo., sponsored by the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

According to a technology white paper supposedly authored by Pete Isensee of the Microsoft Xbox Technology Group that was making the rounds of game sites Wednesday, the "Xenon" Xbox 2 will use three 3.5GHz PowerPC custom cores, each with 64KB of Level 1 cache and a shared 1MB of Level 2 cache. The white paperis authenticity could not be confirmed.

The article goes on to discuss other highlights of IBMis roadmap, including a few words about the next upgrade to the G5 which will use the new and troublesome 90nm process. Read the full article at eWeek News. You can check out IBMis PPC processor roadmap at IBMis Web site.