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IBM Processors at Core of Xbox and Playstation 3

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IBM is the clear winner in the race to produce the best next-generation video games console, the Financial Times reported.

While Microsoft's Xbox 360 battles it out with Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution console, IBM processors are at the heart of all three.

"It's IBM," J. Allard, corporate vice-president for Microsoft's Xbox, was quoted as saying in the paper's online edition.

In the intense competition to provide the hardware, Intel and AMD, whose chips dominate PC gaming, have been shut out of an opportunity worth billions.

"It's a great market to get into from a semiconductor standpoint," Jay Horwitz, senior analyst at Jupiter Research, was quoted as saying.

"There are millions of devices and they show off your processing capabilities."

IBM has developed a revolutionary "Cell" processor in a joint venture with Sony and Toshiba. It has nine "brains," seven more than the dual-core processors being released by Intel and AMD, and will be featured in the PlayStation 3.

Microsoft has opted for IBM's Power PC architecture for the Xbox 360, using a multicore processor that will not match Sony's choice, but will still offer the kind of performance that was the province of supercomputers a few years ago.

Allard said Microsoft will make up in software improvements what it lacked in hardware speed. But Microsoft, in its bid to be the first with a next-generation console, has had to make sacrifices on the hardware to keep costs down.

Both Sony and Microsoft are taking big risks. Sony's obsession with perfecting its technology could delay its launch well into 2006.

Microsoft could disappoint users by coming out early with hardware that could soon seem outdated and does not deliver on its promise.

Neither stands to make money from the consoles -- their best hope is to break even and make their profits from games software and services.

Richard Doherty, consumer technology analyst with Envisioneering Group, says Microsoft may be overplaying its slogan that next-generation means the start of the High Definition Era.

"What hasn't been detailed is how good it will look on normal TV screens; seven out of people don't have HDTV screens, so that could limit Microsoft's market," said Doherty.

"Half could have HDTV by the end of the decade, and by then Sony and Nintendo will be offering the higher quality high-definition."


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