Big Blue teams up with Sony and Toshiba

Sony and Toshiba are expanding an alliance with IBM that will give the companies access to Big Blue's chip breakthroughs while making the tech giant more of a player in the burgeoning market for consumer electronics.

Under terms of the alliance, announced late Monday, Sony and Toshiba will be able to incorporate some of IBM's chipmaking advances, such as "silicon on insulator" technology, into future processors for consumer-electronic devices. As a result, IBM's chips and intellectual property could wind up in products such as camcorders and PlayStation gaming consoles.

Toshiba, which manufactures chips on behalf of Sony, will participate by lending assistance in manufacturing and chip design. IBM expects to draw from Toshiba's experience in building system-on-chip processors, single chips that contain all of the necessary elements to run a computing device.

The alliance could help fulfill major strategic objectives for all three companies. For the past few years, IBM has been trying, with a fair amount of success, to get its chips into the consumer market. Nintendo, for instance, adopted IBM's PowerPC for the GameCube console. IBM also has shown off low-power chips for cell phones.

Because Sony is one of the world's largest buyers of processors, the new pact would place Big Blue into the vortex of the consumer-electronics market.

"We're really gunning for MIPS (a processor architecture) and leaning on Motorola," said Ron Tessitore, vice president of PowerPC networking technology at IBM.

Meanwhile, Sony and Toshiba will gain access to intellectual property and chip-manufacturing techniques they would otherwise have to develop independently and at great expense. The two companies previously collaborated on the "emotion engine," the graphics chip inside the PlayStation 2. Though the chip boosted the PlayStation 2's performance, the companies had to spend substantial amounts of money in development and manufacturing.

News source: ZDNet News

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