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IBM reveals 10GHz, .13µ PowerPC chip tech

Big Blur vs. Chipzilla

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IBM today unveiled the technology that will drive its PowerPC and Power processors down to 0.13 micron - and speeds up to 10GHz.

Dubbed 'CMOS 9S', the fabrication technology brings together a number of innovations made by Big Blur over the last couple of years. So into the process go copper interconnects, silicon-on-insulator transistors and low-k dielectric insulation.

The upshot of these three key technologies are electronic components and circuits that can operate efficiently at 0.13 micron. As on-chip components shrink, the pathways between them and the insulation separating the silicon 'wiring' need to operate more efficiently.

Components must get smaller if processor developers are to integrate more of them into a chip without making the processor's silicon die too large - and too hot - to operate at higher and higher clock speeds.

IBM is already producing chip sample using the CMOS 9S process, and will begin shipping 0.13 micron parts in volume early next year, the company claimed. The process will be certainly used on the Power4 processor, since IBM said as much. Expect it to be used in the production of PowerPC 750 - aka G3 - CPUs, too. Certainly that's the implication of recent hints that IBM is working on versions of the chip that operate at speeds very much higher than current PPC750s and even Motorola's PowerPC 7400 - aka G4.

That's potentially good news for Apple, whose consumer-oriented iBook and iMac continue to use the G3 processor. That said, the company will undoubtedly be cautious about shipping, say, a low-end 1GHz iMac when it can only ship a 500MHz - possible 700MHz by then - high-end G4-based Power Mac. ®

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