IBM, Sony and Toshiba unveils new Cell processor

The four companies developing the powerful Cell processor that will sit at the heart of the PlayStation 3 released detailed specifications for the chip Thursday as part of a drive to get it adopted in a wider range of consumer electronics and computer products.

IBM Corp.,Toshiba Corp., Sony Corp. and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI), which are developing the chip together, published details on the Internet of the architecture of the “broadband engine” that sits at the heart of the processor. Details of the media and streaming acceleration processor and software programming language specifications were also made available.

“It’s aimed to accelerate the creation of Cell-based applications,” Nanako Kato, a spokeswoman at SCEI, said of the move to offer more information about the chip. SCEI is the Sony unit responsible for the company’s PlayStation games consoles.

The PlayStation 3 is expected to launch in the first half of next year and be the first Cell-based product on the market. Toshiba has said it’s looking at using the Cell in high-definition TVs, and Mercury Computer Systems Inc. has a deal with IBM that could see the Cell employed in computer systems, reports Macworld.

According to Ted Maeurer, software manager in the STI Design Center - a unit of the three-way joint venture that IBM, Toshiba, and Sony created around the chip - there has always been curiosity about how the chip works. "The level of interest has frankly been difficult to respond to," he said to Business Week.

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT, a Hayward (Calif.) consultancy, says Sony, IBM, and Toshiba are meeting commitments made to software developers and interested hardware manufacturers earlier in the year - and are doing it on time. "Great computer hardware is only a doorstop without great software," he says.

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