Possible Changes in the
Future"> While the PowerPC will live on at both IBM and Freescale, it may not look the same in a few years, as Freescale continues to pursue markets such as networking and IBM continues to develop new chips such as its Cell processor, Krewell said. "Now there isnt really any reason for IBM to put more development work into the PowerPC 970 family," he said.From its point of view, IBM is executing on a plan it rolled out nearly three years ago in early 2002, not long after CEO Sam Palmisano took office. Over a series of months, IBM refocused its money-losing chip efforts on working with customers to design and build their chips, for which it would receive fees. The group moved to create a custom chip design house and to offer others chip manufacturing services, in addition to making Power chips for its servers as well as PowerPC chips for other devices at its then-new multibillion-dollar plant in East Fishkill, N.Y. Read more here about IBM concentrating on developing custom solutions. At that time, IBM also began laying the groundwork to open up its Power processor architecture and license its PowerPC technology more freely. The company envisions that its efforts to create a virtual Power chip bazaar will encourage more choose the PowerPC chip, combine it with some of their own bits, and turn to IBM for help in designing or manufacturing it. IBM has been able to win new business with design and manufacturing partnership approach. It has agreements to supply chips to the worlds three largest video game console makers, including Nintendo Corp., Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. Its working with Sony and Toshiba Corp. on Cell, a new chip it announced earlier this year. To read more about speculation that the Cell chip would be adopted by Apple as its next-generation computing platform, click here. Sony will use Cell in its PlayStation 3, for example. IBM is also seeking out additional homes for the chip in devices such as workstations. At the same time, IBM will provide PowerPC chips for the upcoming Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendos Revolution game consoles. When combined, the game systems should more than make up for lost Apple business. Apple shipped about 2.1 million Macs during the first two quarters of its fiscal 2005, according to its financial statements. The challenge will be "what do they do with the design services after all the game platforms are done next year?" Krewell asked. "Theyre looking for new design opportunities for Cell, right now. Theyre looking for companies who want to contract with them to design custom systems." The strategy could work out as most chip "makers" are actually so-called "fabless" companies, who design a semiconductor and ship the actual instructions for making the chip to a partner. Some of the largest include Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Chartered Semiconductor, two Taiwan-based foundries that manufacture networking, graphics and general-purpose semiconductors for companies like ATI Technologies Inc. Before TSMC and Chartered rose to prominence, IBM was seen as the premier merchant foundry, and reportedly charged a premium for its services. IBM manufactured chips for Cyrix Semiconductor, for one. Now its attempting to do more of the same. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.
"Its going to put a lot more effort, right now, into Cell, game boxes and the big [IBM Power chip-based] servers. From that point of view, really interesting new developments on the PowerPC may be winding down."