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IBM preps low-power PowerPC for PDAs

Draws ten per cent of the power rival chips do, apparently

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IBM's key contribution to the numerous launches to be made at next week's Microprocessor Forum will centre on the unveiling of a low-power, PDA-oriented version of the PowerPC, the company has said.

The chip is a version of the PowerPC 40x family - the same line that bred the PowerPC 406 used in Nintendo's GameCube - and will be aimed at power-sensitive applications. The PowerPC 405LP is capable of shutting down elements of the chip not in use at any given time.

That, the company claims, plus the other power management technology, copper interconnects and silicon-on-insulation construction will result in an average power consumption that's around ten per cent of rival processors.

"The 405LP reduces active power by dynamically scaling processor performance to the level required to support the application," says Big Blue. The chips also "includes a mode in which power is reduced to virtually zero while still providing 'instant-on' response to an external stimulus, such as a pen stylus on a touch screen."

IBM also said the 405LP will contain circuitry the accelerate complex processing tasks such as data encryption and voice recognition. That suggests to us some kind of on-board DSP functionality or perhaps SIMD instructions along the lines of Motorola's AltiVec technology or Intel's Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE).

IBM will ship the part some time next year and has "five or six" customers already lined up to use it, said a company spokeswoman. No names were forthcoming, but she did say they included makers of cellphones, PDAs and handheld games machines. ®

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