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IBM and chums offer wafer-thin 32nm detail

'Prototyping shuttle' to land in Q3 2008?

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A semiconductor coalition led by IBM said yesterday that OEM customers can now start designing future products around the group’s jointly developed 32 nanometer (nm) microprocessor production technology, but it remained vague on the finer technology details.

IBM eagerly claimed that the alliance’s latest chip pumping technology can now outstrip the rest of the industry in performance and power consumption because of the level of mastery it reckons it has perfected around 32nm chips that rely on high-k metal gate technology.

A bunch of boffins from the likes of Chartered, Infineon, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, Freescale, STMicroelectronics that make up the group tested 32nm technology circuits at IBM’s East Fishkill, New York fab lab.

They claimed that performance was 35 per cent better than 45nm tech circuits at the same operating voltage. They also reckoned that the 32nm chip swallowed up 30 to 50 per cent less power than its predecessor.

But they failed to mention when customers might expect to see the next generation chip shipped in volume from the IBM-led group.

Instead Big Blue offered up this fuzzy, slightly misleading statement:

“Silicon support for low-power 32nm HKMG technology will be available through a prototyping shuttle program starting in the third quarter of 2008, with plans for quarterly shuttles.”

AMD, which last week said it planned to lay off ten per cent of its workforce over the next two fiscal quarters as it continues to play catch-up with Chipzilla, was notably absent from the alliance’s latest press release. This absence seems to suggest that it didn’t have any direct involvement in the most recent bit of IBM-led shrink-it-and-see research.

Market leader Intel, which has already moved to 45nm with high-k metal gate, offered up a roadmap late last night saying it hoped to dish up its own itsy bitsy 32nm-flavoured chip in 2009, with plans to make it widely available in 2010. Intel also demoed 32nm parts last year.

The IBM-alliance between semiconductor vendors was formed in May last year and was spurred on by the group’s eagerness to offset rising fabrication costs and keep up with Intel. ®

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