Event: Cell Chip Revealed
Sony, IBM, and Toshiba announce the technical specifications of the Cell processor today, and we were there...
Today at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, IBM, Toshiba, and Sony will unveiled the technical specs of what is being dubbed a "supercomputer on a chip," otherwise known as the Cell processor. Modojo was on hand to cover the announcement and the buzz afterwards.
Alongside Sony's Masakazu Suzuoki was Jim Kahle from IBM and Yoshio Masabuchi from Toshiba, presenting details of what could be the processor behind the PlayStation 3, among other upcoming technologies. According to the speech, the Cell "sets a new performance standard," allows for "photo realistic capabilities," and will cater mainly to digital home and media applications, though it can apply to regular computer devices and processes.
Among the other details, IBM's Kahle claimed there were several operating systems already running on Cell, and the chip offers enough flexibility to cater to all programming platforms. Development tools will be available soon, all through an open-source method so Cell can be optimized as a joint effort among developers.
The chip already runs at speeds over 4Ghz, though there are still issues such as cooling systems that have to be worked out. The buzz we got after the event showed the processor heat as being a major hurdle. This could factor heavily in the design of new devices that use Cell, with a slim PlayStation 3 console looking unlikely. However, the PS3 wasn't mentioned once, and we expect official details on that system in the coming months.
"Today, we are very proud to share with you the first development of the Cell project, initiated with aspirations by the joint team of IBM, Sony Group and Toshiba in March 2001," said Ken Kutaragi, executive deputy president and COO, Sony Corporation, and president and Group CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. "With Cell opening a doorway, a new chapter in computer science is about to begin."
The Cell processor could impact gaming in huge ways, especially if Sony's claims of the chip being "more than 100 times more powerful than today's high-end PCs" can be supported. One of the first products to use the Cell architecture with be the Sony PlayStation 3, rumored for a 2006 launch.
Richard Doherty, president of the Envisioneering research firm, told the Financial Times, "This is probably going to be one of the biggest industry announcements in many years. It's going to breathe new life into the industry and trigger fresh competition."
The Financial Times also states "Cell developers have already produced a prototype of a computer workstation with supercomputer capabilities." IBM has scheduled the initial production of Cell processors out of their New York plants in the first-half of 2005.