Sony pledges to move chips to 45nm in 2005

While everyone else is shifting to 65nm

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Sony and Toshiba will beat Intel, AMD and co. to the 45nm node, the duo announced yesterday, reaching that point in 2005, around the time other processor makers are shifting to 65nm chip fabrication processes.

Pride, they say, comes before a fall, and the pair's aggressive forecast could be seen as setting them both up as hostages to fortune.

Last March, for instance, Sony bullishly announced it will base its then upcoming PSX PlayStation-cum-Tivo unit on a 90nm SoC that combines the PS2's Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesiser on the same die.

Yet last month the part, dubbed the EE+GS@90nm, was revealed to have been designed using a 130nm process. So said Canadian chip technology research company Semiconductor Insights (SI), based on an examination of the processor pulled out of a PSX.

Sony claims the part is fabbed at 90nm. Both statements appear to be correct - it all depends on who's definition of '90nm' and '130nm' you feel inclined to believe. SI bases its claim on the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors; Sony and Toshiba say that without an explicit, industry-standard definition of 90nm, their process is no less 90nm than anyone else's.

The companies' 45nm process may suffer the same fate. Either way, the two will spend ¥20 billion ($190 million) on their joint development effort, which will be located in Toshiba's Yokohama and Kyushu facilities.

Sony recently said it would spend ¥120 billion ($1.13 billion) during its next fiscal year on 65nm chip fabrication line using 300mm wafers. The investment will go into the production of 'Cell' processors.

Some ¥36 billion ($340 million) of that total will go toward production lines at IBM's East Fishkill, New York facility. Of the rest, ¥53 billion ($500 million) will go toward upgrading Sony's Nagasaki fab, and ¥31 billion ($293 million) on a Toshiba plant in Oita, South-west Japan. Toshiba is itself investing ¥42 billion ($397 million) on that facility. ®

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