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NEC to build chip fab to service $2.8bn Nintendo Dolphin deal

$755m plant to fab Dolphin graphics processor, DRAM

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NEC, the semiconductor company chosen by Nintendo to produce graphics and RAM chips for the console vendor's next-generation Dolphin machine, today said it will build a new plant to service the Nintendo contract. NEC said the deal is worth $2.8 billion in total, more than enough to cover the cost of the new plant, estimated to be around $755 million. The construction tab will be picked up exclusively by NEC -- Nintendo, unlike its chief rival, Sony, is not co-funding the production of its console's silicon. Sony, on the other hand, has invested direction Toshiba's Emotion Engine (the chip at the heart of the PlayStation 2) production programme. Speaking of console vendors, there's actually some conflict here, since NEC is already producing graphics chips -- based on VideoLogic's PowerVR 2 technology -- for Sega's Dreamcast console. Indeed, NEC was blamed for the initial delays to the Dreamcast's launch -- a charge it readily coughed up to. NEC already produces core silicon for the N64. The NEC plant is scheduled to go on-stream in August 2000, giving it just four months to get up to volume production -- Dolphin is currently due to ship in Japan in December 2000. Dolphin's graphics come from ArtX, the company formed by some of ex-SGI staffers who created the N64's 64-bit 3D graphics engine. The console's main processor will be a customised 400MHz PowerPC from IBM, which, thanks to IBM's revived partnership with Motorola, is likely to contain Motorola's PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) AltiVec vector processing engine. ®

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