IBM, Sony, SCE, Tosh queue up for SOI source

'Powerful alliance'

IBM has teamed up with Sony, Sony Computer Entertainment and Toshiba, to create a "powerful alliance" for chipmaking.

At the heart of the alliance, is the jewel in IBM's semiconductor crown - its silicon-on-insulator (SOI)technology. Using this technogoly, the four companies are to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on developing high performance, low-power chips
"for a wide range of future electronic products - - from digital consumer applications to supercomputers".

IBM is also throwing its copper wiring and low k insulator skills into the bag. The foursome aim to produce chips at some point using 50nm technology on 300mm wafers. IBM is also helping out Sony and Toshiba by transferring its SOI techniques to the companies.

The deal looks pretty neat: IBM shares development and manufacturing costs, while turning two potential rivals into two firm customers. They also spot what Intel's Andy Grove famously terms an inflection point. In other words, the semiconductor industry is experiencing technological and marketing disruption, giving the opportunity for "new" companies to dive in.

Or as John Kelly, senior veep at the IBM Technology Group, puts it: "The PC is no longer the driving force in semiconductor innovation. Networking and consumer electronics applications are driving the evolution of a new semiconductor industry -- one based on closer collaboration with customers." ®