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NEC joins IBM's Super Friends chip alliance

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IBM has recruited NEC Electronics to its semiconductor Super Friends alliance, designed to spread out the cost of developing and producing 32-nanometer fabbed chips.

NEC is the eighth big name to add its name to the roll, which includes companies such as Samsung, Toshiba, STMicroelectronics, Infineon, Freescale and Chartered.

The companies hope pooling their cash can counter Intel's multi-billion dollar R&D budget and significant muscle in the chip game.

Specifically, NEC will extend what it knows about 45nm and 32nm CMOS process technology nodes that it currently co-develops with Toshiba to IBM and the rest of the gang. Through 2010, it intends to help develop a common 32nm processor core as well as aid with System-on-a-Chip (SoC) development and design.

"The new agreement with IBM means that NEC Electronics will develop a common semiconductor process with industry leaders, allowing us to focus on being first to market in areas of eDRAM products and SoC solutions that provide our customers with added value, such as high reliability and low power consumption," said NEC boss Toshio Nakajima in a statement.

The alliance works and schemes at IBM's East Fishkill, New York semiconductor fab and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (SNSE) of the University at Albany (The fightin' purple and gold, we understand).

"As the 'scaling' of semiconductors to ever smaller feature sizes continues, the cost of conducting basic research and development and the associated capital investment continues to rise," said Gary Patton, veep at IBM's Semiconductor Research and Development Center in a statement. "Our unique collaborative model for semiconductor research and development helps to mitigate individual investment while allowing for increased design complexity, shortened time-to-market and quicker integration of next-generation process materials and technology nodes."

Hitachi, meanwhile, is sort of an odd duck in the mix. It also inked a partnership with IBM to share 32nm production techniques – yet isn't a part the alliance.

Nevertheless, the theme of the season is shaping up to be Intel versus everyone else. ®

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