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IBM Unveils New PowerPC (The Next Mac?) CPU

Single-Core Power4 Variant Boasts 900MHz Bus

While Intel and AMD offer new PC processors with 533MHz and 333MHz bus connections to system memory, IBM this week will unveil a new PowerPC processor with a 900MHz bus capable of funneling the CPU up to 6.4GB of information per second. Widespread speculation has it that IBM's first customer will be Apple Computer, which will drop its current Motorola PowerPC G4 processors in favor of the faster new IBM chip.

Expected to ship in the middle of next year, the new IBM PowerPC 970 will feature initial clock speeds of up to 1.8GHz. It's based on Big Blue's mighty Power4, a 64-bit server CPU with dual processor cores in one chip, but the PowerPC 970 will have just one core and provide native support for 32- as well as 64-bit applications (similar to the x86-64 architecture of AMD's forthcoming "Hammer," although the PowerPC won't run Intel/Windows code).

IBM says the 970 will be built at its new 300mm manufacturing facility in East Fishkill, N.Y., using 0.13-micron circuitry and about 52 million transistors based on silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology. Symmetric multiprocessing support will be built in, letting the CPU span markets from high-end desktops and workstations to low-end servers and communications products.

The company will reveal more details of the PowerPC 970 at this week's Microprocessor Forum conference in San Jose.