RealTime IT News

Overlooked Mind-Blowing Chip Deal

David NeedleReporter's Notebook: The latest chip foundry news might not get your juices flowing, but Insight64 analyst Nathan Brookwood said an agreement between IBM, Chartered Semiconductor and Samsung Electronics is "mind blowing."

If you missed it, IBM, Chartered and Samsung Electronics announced a major win in their "Common Platform" open source business model to enable synchronized manufacturing across 300mm fabrication facilities at 90nm, 65nm and 45nm process technologies.

Using this new approach, a single design can be multi-sourced to any of the three facilities, making it possible to produce nearly identical chips from any one of several manufacturing facilities around the globe.

This is a big deal because it enables so-called "fabless" chipmakers to multi-source their manufacturers. Historically, these chipmakers design for a specific foundry, and it's a lot of work to move to a different foundry.

"Now you can take the exact same design and have your chip produced by IBM in New York, Chartered in Singapore or Samsung in Korea," said Brookwood.

"Historically, foundries don't share information on things like defects and yields. But now Samsung, Chartered and IBM are all sharing that information, the raw data. It's mind blowing. It's like telling the guy in the next cube what your salary is. It's just not done."

The most recent news is that Qualcomm has selected the trio of companies to produce millions of chips for its next-generation cellular communications products. In fact, the companies have already successfully produced 90-nanometer chips for Qualcomm in their respective 300mm fabs.

It was also revealed that Microsoft selected the Common Platform for production of its custom Xbox 360 chip, designed by IBM, for last year's worldwide XBox 360 launch.

Sun exec likes Apple

Near the end of an informal dinner recently that internetnews.com attended along with a few other tech media, Sun  exec John Fowler, talked enthusiastically about the new computer he purchased a few hours earlier.

Sure, you can bet Fowler, executive vice president of Sun's Systems Group, gets a company discount, but he had to pay full retail at a nearby Apple Store for the computer he wanted, a new MacBook Pro notebook.

"It's really the notebook of choice among engineers in Silicon Valley," said Fowler. "Nothing else is as good."

Speaking of good, things are going well at resurgent Sun, and Fowler is certainly happy.

"I have a wonderful life, a great job and a beautiful wife," said Fowler. "When I think about it, some of the worst experiences in my life were related to Microsoft Windows, having to deal with system crashes and other issues."

Good to know the spirit of Scott "Windows hairball" McNealy lives on at Sun.

Clovertown is coming to town

Intel is on track to bring its first quad-core offering, code-named Clovertown, to market next month. On the high end, look for workstation and other high end system makers, to double down just as they've done on earlier Xeon offerings.

An Apple  rumor site is reporting the computer maker will include two Clovertown (quad-core Xeon 5300s) in a new MacPro workstation due out in November.

Quoting people it said are familiar with the Mac maker's plans, AppleInsider claims Apple "plans to drop jaws and strike awe with a new king of speed, a super-charged Mac Pro featuring a total of eight cores of processing power."

Meanwhile, HP issued a media invitation to a "Quad-Fest" event in Colorado for Nov. 13, with HP and Intel officials on hand, featuring "Quad-Core Workstation Technology."

Don't be surprised if IBM, Dell and others have announcements the same day.

The world's most energy efficient notebook?

I was surprised to see a product announcement from Everex, which I didn't even know was still in the business.

Everex, was a high-flying PC company in the 90s, but couldn't keep it going against the likes of Dell, IBM, HP and other big-name players.

Everex has teamed up with x86-compatible chipmaker VIA Technologies on what it claims is the world's most energy-efficient notebook. The StepNote NC1500 uses VIA's latest C7-M processor.

New products that are leading edge in energy efficiency tend to be premium priced. But the StepNote NC1500 is only $498 for a 5.3-pound laptop with a 15.4 widescreen, 512MB DDR2 SDRAM and 60 GB hard drive. The 1.5 GHz VIA processor uses only 12 watts at peak power.

VIA's Enhanced PowerSaver and VIA TwinTurbo technology allows the laptop to dynamically transition between intermediate power states, which the companies said provide 20 percent longer battery life than comparable systems.

The Everex line of desktop and notebook computers is sold at more than 2,900 Wal-Mart locations throughout the U.S.