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Cell architecture to be detailed at ISSCC unveiling tonight

Information about IBM and Sony's Cell processor is due to be revealed later today at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, with the unveiling of PlayStation 3 now expected to follow next month.

Information about IBM and Sony's Cell processor is due to be revealed later today at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, with the unveiling of PlayStation 3 now expected to follow next month.

IBM will be outlining the architecture of the chip, which is aimed both at consumer applications ranging from televisions and media centres to games consoles and at high end "supercomputer" applications, in a presentation at the conference.

Cell is, of course, set to be used in the PlayStation 3 console, which gives the chip an automatic market for tens of millions of units - and it's thought that the PS3 will feature four or even eight of the processors, which are designed to work efficiently together in parallel.

According to details from the presentation which were published this morning by the Wall Street Journal, the high performance processor is aimed at preventing the spread of the Microsoft / Intel hegemony into the living room.

At its heart, it is based on the Power architecture which is already utilised by devices such as Apple's G5 computer systems and, ironically, the Xbox 2 platform, but this core is supplemented with a large number of supplementary processing units which can handle tasks independently.

Interestingly, today's reports about the presentation - which should hopefully also give some idea of how difficult it will be for programmers to adapt their code to the new architecture - all indicate that details of the PlayStation 3 itself will emerge next month.

Indeed, Sony has in the past suggested that it will unveil its next generation console before the end of its financial year on March 31st, but more recently it's been widely assumed that the company would wait until E3 in May to show off the new system.

Regarding the actual performance of Cell and the PlayStation 3, much is still up in the air - not least because while basic concepts behind the technology are known, important facts like how many Cell processors will power the PS3 and just how fast each one is are still a closely kept secret.

However, many within the industry expect that the PlayStation 3, not due to be released until 2006, will be more powerful than rival systems from Microsoft and Nintendo.

"The rumours are that PlayStation 3 will have a little more under the hood [than Xbox 2]," EA Europe studio manager Rory Armes told the BBC in an interview last month.

"Microsoft is obviously a software company first and foremost, while Sony has more experience in hardware," he explained. "I think Sony will be able to push more into a box at cost."

Author

Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.

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