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IBM wins $1bn Nintendo deal for PowerPC

A customer folks - Big Blue has got a PowerPC customer...

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IBM is to produce a custom PowerPC chip to power the next generation of Nintendos, according to a report in today's New York Times. The deal, due to be announced at E3 in Los Angeles later today, is said to be worth $1 billion to IBM, and will cover tens of millions of chips. These will be tailored 400MHz parts, and the machines themselves will go onto the market late next year. The Nintendo design win will undoubtedly have been gained on price, but at last will give IBM PowerPC a reasonable volume customer. Ironically, one-time Risc workstation rival MIPS rebuilt its business on the basis of selling large volumes of cheap Risc chips into the games market, so if this is PowerPC's big break it's simply repeating something MIPS did years ago. One major selling point will be that the chip will run with a high performance graphics chip designed by Wei Yen, formerly of SGI. The deal will go some way to securing the future of PowerPC, but takes the chip line further away from the mainstream desktop arena it was pitched at way back in 1991. This continuing refocusing causes some angst at Apple, but most of the time Apple seems only to consider buying PowerPC from IBM, then goes ahead and buys Motorola. But if IBM gets a couple more Nintendo-type customers and builds a market for itself in low-cost PowerPC, it could always try to sell the chips to Apple for its planned low-cost line. And then Apple could buy from Motorola anyway. Or Intel or NatSemi. ®

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