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Sony samples Cell

300mm wafer fab rolls out very early dies

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Sony has begun punching out sample quantities of its Cell processor at its Nagasaki-based 300mm wafer fab, the company has revealed.

The announcement - made in a brief comment from Sony Computer Entertainment chief Ken Kutaragi, last week - follows the company's recent joint declaration with Cell partner IBM that it will offer Cell-based workstations by Christmas.

Initial batches of Cell chips will roll off IBM's East Fishkill, New York fab, but Sony wants to make the chip too, and began work on is 300mm facility just over a year ago. The plant is expected to be ready for volume production by the end of the year, though whether Cell will be just a ready remains to be seen.

This past February, Sony said it would invest $1.13bn during the current fiscal year - it began on 1 April - on its Cell production. Over $0.5bn of it is earmarked for the Nagasaki fab, but $340m is going into IBM's facility and $293m into Toshiba's plant in Oita, South-west Japan.

At the time, IBM said test production from all three lines will commence during the first half of 2005, so Sony's statement should be seen as very early days for processor and process. Still, if it can get working chips out by the end of the year to put into workstations, it does appear that Cell is running a little way ahead of schedule. ®

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