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IBM sells off low-end PowerPC chips

ARM-style licensing scheme takes shape

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IBM last night sold two of its PowerPC processor lines and a licence for the PowerPC instruction set to Applied Micro Circuits for $227m in cash and a renewed foundry commitment.

The deal, announced last night, focuses on three low-end (133-400MHz) parts pitched at embedded applications, the 400 series and the 440 family, amounting to some eight 32-bit CPUs in total. Some have on-chip SDRAM, others have built-in Ethernet controllers. All consume no more than 2W and in many cases a lot less than that.

All eight chips are fabbed at 250nm, and IBM's foundries will continue to punch them out on Applied's behalf. The two companies already have such a relationship in place for other Applied products.

IBM said it will continue to develop and offer PowerPC 40x chips alongside Applied, which will sit its acquisitions alongside its existing WAN and storage-oriented application processors.

Applied follows a number of other companies, including Sony, to license PowerPC technology from IBM since Big Blue announced a plan to open up the architecture, paving the way for Linux-style third-party collaboration to help push the platform forward. The move positions IBM as a kind of ARM, licensing out PowerPC to allow multiple vendors to create differentiated but fundamentally compatible processor products. Unlike ARM, IBM is banking not only on royalties but on the foundry trade that may come its way on the back of such deals. ®

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