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IBM to partner with Infineon on 65, 45nm tech

Shuffles chip division managers too

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IBM has signed a deal with Infineon and Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing to jointly develop 65nm fabrication techniques.

The news was accompanied by a management reshuffle at IBM Microelectronics' command centre which will see the division's technology chief taking charge of the business' R&D operation.

IBM, Infineon and Chartered companies will together work on creating a baseline 65nm process along with versions optimised for low-power products and high-performance parts. The endeavour will also encompass the development of tools, some from third-parties, to help foundry customers leverage these processes.

Ultimately, the work will extend to 45nm process technology, the trio said.

Between them, IBM, Infineon and Chartered will contribute 200 engineers to the project, all of who will be based in IBM's East Fishkill facility - the same location hosting its 65nm and 45nm process joint development project with AMD. It's not clear at this stage how these two efforts will co-exist and whether there will be any transfer of technology.

Both deals are about sharing the increasing cost of developing next-generation process technologies. If the IBM/Infineon/Chartered deal can be characterised as a contract between foundries (IBM and Chartered) and a chip designer (Infineon), why not view the IBM/AMD deal in the same terms? In that case, IBM and AMD can be seen as creating the techniques IBM will use to fab processors on AMD's behalf, just as IBM and Chartered will be fabbing chips for Infineon. IBM undoubtedly has a similar arrangement with Apple, though here's it's acting as chip designer as well as chip maker.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the companies said the deal was a multi-year arrangement.

IBM's management reshuffle will see technology VP Bijan Davari - the guy credited with bringing the company into the copper and silicon-on-insulator era ahead of its rivals - move over to IBM Research.

Michael Mayer, Microelectronics' general manager, is also being reassigned, but IBM would not say where Mayer is responsible for developing the company's role as a high-end foundry and strengthening its ties with Apple.

Both moves follow IBM Technology Group chief John Kelly's move to take over the running of Microelectronics, itself a result of last month's announcement of big losses at the division.

IBM's CFO, John Joyce, said much of the loss was the result of low yields during the ramping phase of IBM's 300mm fab, and lower-than-expected demand from several foundry customers. Joyce said he expected yields to rise, and demand to rebound, in the latter half of the fiscal year. ®

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