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Multi-OS Cell CPU tops 4GHz

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Technical details of the Cell processor, a joint venture between Sony, IBM and Toshiba, were disclosed in San Francisco today.

But the example chip shown to journalists today is likely to be superseded by faster versions when it appears on the market later this year. The Cell has 234m transistors, measures 221mm2 and, as detailed in the patent, has eight execution units, here dubbed "synergistic processors". Cell refers to a piece of software that roams the local machine, a LAN or a WAN looking for execution resources.

When the unit appears - in enterprise kit from IBM, and in Sony's PlayStation 3 console - it's likely to clock 4.6GHz and be built on a 65nm process. Today's samples used a 90nm process. Cells will be manufactured at IBM's 300mm fab in East Fishkill, New Yorj and Sony's Nagasaki plant.

IBM said the processor is "OS neutral", but it will able to run multiple operating systems concurrently.

Sony and IBM dispelled any doubt that in addition to being suitable for technical and commercial IT, the processor is aimed at the heart of the home: with digital TVs and home servers cited as likely vehicles for the processor.

Many of your comments on the long-term economic and social impact of the processor focus on technical obstacles to its success. We'll round up the best later today. ®

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