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Samsung joins IBM's secretive chip consortium

Asian electronics giant sighted at table with Google, Nvidia, Mellanox...

IBM's Power8 processor

Samsung Electronics has joined IBM's OpenPOWER Consortium, adding another company to stuff Big Blue's chips into a variety of hardware products.

OpenPOWER is a scheme by IBM designed to make it easy for companies to license the architecture and customize it for specific needs, like ARM does with its chips. Big Blue unveiled the consortium in August of 2013.

IBM's hope is that the consortium can create a new set of product categories for the ailing Power architecture, and stop it being trampled into insignificance by the ever-increasing dominance of Intel's x86 platform.

"From an IBM perspective, we can say that IBM is pleased to have them join and we look forward to the contributions they will bring to the group," an IBM spokesperson told El Reg on Wednesday.

Samsung will sit alongside existing members such as search king Google, GPU maker Nvidia, networking expert Mellanox, and motherboard specialist Tyan, IBM announced on Wednesday.

Separately, IBM has announced plans to pour over $1bn into spurring Linux development on the chips as another way of trying to increase use of the tech.

So far, the foundation is making four areas of development technical priorities: system software, application software, hardware architecture, and an open server development platform.

"We are past the formation stage and are now rolling up our sleeves and getting into the real work. That said, we are spending a good amount of time fielding questions from interested parties. To date, we've received interest from upwards of 70 parties and we expect to see memberships continue at a steady clip," the IBM spokesperson said.

Electronics giant Samsung is likely joining the consortium to give it an easy way of accessing and fiddling with a sophisticated chip architecture that provides a hedge against ARM chips no longer filling its needs. Though this plays outside of the company's core expertise of mobile devices and appliances, it may hold development opportunities for future products.

Samsung had not responded to questions at the time of writing. Last week, rumors began to circulate that IBM had employed Goldman Sachs to help it price up its chip division for a possible sale, which if true could have major implications for the OpenPOWER Consortium. ®

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