IBM Pushes Button on Xbox 360 Chips

The company said that it has begun production of the chips that will power Microsoft's next-generation video game and entertainment console.

IBM said Tuesday that it has begun production of the microprocessors that will serve as the brain of Microsoft Corp.s next-generation video game and digital entertainment console, the Xbox 360.

Due to arrive in consumers hands in late November when the Xbox 360 is planned to debut, IBM said that the chips offer dual-source processing capability and feature a wide range of specialized technology developed in tandem with Microsoft. The processors are being built at both the companys East Fishkill, N.Y. fabrication facility and by contractor Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing in Singapore.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft is betting on the Xbox 360, which will retail starting at $299, to help fuel its push into the digital living room. While its current Xbox console is focused purely on games and online multiplayer capabilities, the Xbox 360 will offer a range of entertainment applications, including the ability to download music and television programming, and exterior ports for interfacing with portable media devices such as rival Apple Inc.s iPod and Sony Corp.s PSP.

IBM reported that the chips feature three of its 64-bit PowerPC cores, with two simultaneous threads, and clock speeds greater than 3GHz. The Armonk, N.Y.-based firm said the chips, built using the companys 90 nanometer Silicon on Insulator technology, also harbor 165 million transistors apiece along with a 21.6GB per second FSB (Front Side Bus) architecture that was custom-designed to meet the Xbox 360s software throughput and latency requirements.

"The Xbox 360 chip set was designed from the ground up specifically for high-definition gaming and entertainment," Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president at Microsoft, said in a statement. "Working with IBM gave us the flexibility to design a processor to give game developers the kind of targeted power they need to make great games."

In August, Infineon Technologies announced that it would be building the high-density DRAM memory chips for the new console, along with two others chips that will power security functions and a wireless gaming controller. Xbox 360 will offer 512MB of graphics DRAM, a 700MHz dynamic DDR controller and an enhanced DRAM chip for high-definition graphics processing.

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Executives at IBM and Microsoft said that an aggressive development strategy shared by the two firms helped speed delivery of the microprocessors and allowed for the Xbox 360s much-awaited introduction ahead of the 2005 holiday buying season.

"Microsofts aggressive timetable required that IBM take the Xbox 360 chip design from concept to full execution in just 24 months," Ilan Spillinger, director of the IBM Design Center for Xbox 360, said in a statement. "IBMs success in delivering the chip to meet Microsofts worldwide launch illustrates our commitment to innovative processor design that builds on IBMs wealth of intellectual property."

IBM said that its engineers have been working with Microsoft to develop the chip since 2003 at locations all over the U.S. Microsoft has said previously that it hopes to introduce Xbox 360 worldwide on Nov. 22.

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