IBM plots next PowerPC chips, Part II

New 750CX and 750CXe chips should give Mac portables a performance boost and will consume very little power

The new 750CX and 750CXe chips will be manufactured using IBM's 0.18-micron process with copper interconnects. They will also include 256KB of integrated L2 cache, a performance-enhancing technique, sources said.

While the chips should give Mac portables a performance boost, they will consume very little power, about 4 watts at 400MHz, sources said. The chips will also be inexpensive, with volume pricing expected to start at about $80 (£27).

New IBM PowerPC chips are also wending their way to embedded applications, sources said.

In many cases, the processors will reach out and touch consumers who are unaware of their presence. For example, IBM will promote its new 405 PowerPC processor core as a "system on a chip," a single-chip solution for a number of telecommunications applications, ranging from cellular phones to networking equipment, such as Ethernet switches.

System-on-a-chip offerings lower costs by integrating a processor core along with other cores for communications or other functions. For example, a set-top box that integrates one of IBM's new processors could include a processor core and MPEG video decoder, among other features.

Also playing an important role in the new embedded chips will be IBM's CoreConnect bus. The bus, used to link the different elements on the chip, including the processor core and various peripherals, has been licenced by a number of companies, including phone makers Nokia and Ericsson.

In the third quarter, IBM will also ship the PowerPC 405CR. The chip, designed as a system on a chip, is aimed at Internet appliances and printers, among other products. The chip, running at 200MHz and 266MHz, will consume less than 1 watt of power (at 200MHz) and will cost less than $25, sources said. Another version of the chip, called the 405GP, will be based on the same processor core but directed more toward networking products, including hubs, routers, switches and cable modems, sources said.

Another embedded PowerPC chip, due later in the year, will be called the 440GP. It will sport a higher clock speed than the 405CP and include additional features. The 440GP will offer clock speeds ranging from 400MHz to 500MHz. The chip, which will not sample until late in the year, possibly the fourth quarter, will be aimed at applications ranging from Net appliances to RAID controllers and networking equipment, such as routers. The chip also adds a double-data-rate synchronous dynamic RAM controller and a PCI-X controller.

IBM claims a number of design wins or customers using the new 405 chips in North America, Europe and Asia, sources said. They include cellular base stations, remote access devices, RAID storage devices, several printers, and even test and measurement equipment, sources said.

IBM is expected to present papers at June's Embedded Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, California.

"We're committed to developing and exploiting the capabilities of PowerPC in a wide range of solutions that accommodate (customers)," an IBM spokesman said. He declined to comment specifically on the new chips, however.

Back to Part I

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