IBM and Freescale Semiconductor are working together to research and develop 45-nanomter chip technology that will find its first practical applications in consumer devices, such as cell phones and other handheld devices.
The two companies will develop this 45-nanometer manufacturing process with an eye toward chips that will have low power consumption but yield high performance, according to the companies Jan. 23 joint announcement.
Specifically, IBM and Freescale will develop 45-nanometer chips that are implemented on 300mm silicon wafers. The two companies will use technologies such as SOI (silicon-on-insulator) transistors and CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor), a standard method for manufacturing processors, memory and other chips, to develop the manufacturing process.
While executives from both companies announced the agreement and the goals of the collaboration, executives were not yet ready to discuss the specifics of how the two would specifically develop these chips.
However, Lisa Su, vice president for semiconductor research and development at IBM, said the partnership could eventually lead to the development of both 32-nanometer and then 22-nanometer chips.
"We have decided that the best way to conduct semiconductor research is to develop strong partnerships," Su said. "It also allows for us to pool our financial resources and bring in the best talent to work on these problems. It gives us a competitive advantage and makes us a much stronger market leader."
Freescale, which is based in Austin, Texas, will bring its background in network communications and fields like the automobile industry to the partnership, while IBM will contribute its vast manufacturing and research facilities. These new 45-nanometer chips will be developed and installed in fabs at IBMs East Fishkill, N.Y., facility.
Although known for its enterprise computing products and technologies, IBM, which is based in Armonk, N.Y., has been looking to create more of a presence in the consumer electronics field.
Earlier in January, it reappeared at the International CES expo in Las Vegas, where it demonstrated how its technologies, especially its Power architecture, has been used in game systems and other devices, like cell phones.
The partnership should produce its first products using 45-nanometer chips by 2008, said Sumit Sadana, vice president for strategy and business development at Freescale. Although his company does have expertise and experience in the automotive space, it will take considerable more time for the 45-nanometer technology to come to products in that particular vertical market, Sadana said.
Throughout the years, IBM and Freescale have had a longtime collaborative history in developing microprocessor technology. Most notable was the development of the PowerPC chip that Apple used in its computers.
In the last year, Apple has moved away from the PowerPC processor and started building its Macintosh line based on processors from Intel.
Freescale has also been part of IBMs Power.org project, which the company established in 2004 to make its Power architecture more open.
This latest announcement is also not the first time that IBM has worked with another company to produce processors that use the 45-nanometer manufacturing process. Big Blue has been in a long-time partnership with Advanced Micro Devices—Intels main rival—to help produce both its65-nanometer and now its 45-nanometer chips.