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    IBM to manufacture Xbox 2 CPU

    An anonymous source informed us today that Microsoft and IBM have signed a multi-million dollar agreement under which IBM Microelectronics will manufacture a next generation CPU for the Xbox 2. Work on the new processor has already started, but the deal was inked just a few days ago.

    Who is designing the chip? At this point, we don’t know. We assume that the chip would be built at the East Fishkill plant. This is IBM’s most state-of-the-art fabrication facility.

    We also don’t know if the chip will be manufactured using current 0.13 micron (a micron is a millionth of a meter) process technology or the upcoming 90nm fabrication process.

    At the moment we have no official confirmations about this information so take it for what it’s worth. A Microsoft spokesman was unavailable for comment at the time of posting this story. We’ll certainly have more as things develop.

    Team Xbox

  • #2
    Microsoft confirms IBM CPU technology in XBOX 2
    XBOX goes 64-bit

    Microsoft Corporation and IBM Corporation today made an official announcement that the companies have entered into a semiconductor technology agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft has licensed leading-edge semiconductor processor technology from IBM for use in future XBOX products and services to be announced at a later date.

    Earlier this year Microsoft and ATI Technologies announced collaboration in development of “custom, leading-edge graphics technologies for use in future XBOX products and services.”

    “Microsoft is already developing the software and services that will drive the Digital Decade,” said Robbie Bach, senior vice president of the Home & Entertainment Division at Microsoft.

    There were some unofficial rumours about IBM’s participation in MS XBOX 2 project in early October, but neither IBM, nor Microsoft confirmed anything at that time.

    “By combining our vision, software experience and R&D resources with IBM’s computer and semiconductor technologies, we plan to deliver unprecedented and unparalleled entertainment experiences to consumers while creating new engines of growth for the technology and entertainment industries.” Bach added.

    According to Bernie Meyerson, IBM Fellow and chief technologist for IBM’s Technology Group, the new XBOX technologies will be based on the latest in IBM’s family of state-of-the-art processors.

    Currently IBM supplies its Power processors for high-end servers, a special cut-down version of Power CPUs for desktop Apple computers, additionally, IBM developed the microprocessor for Nintendo GAMECUBE console, also based on Power architecture. All these chips are 64-bit and do not support x86 in any way. This means that the XBOX 2 will hardly be compatible with the original XBOX, which uses conventional x86 CPUs. Moreover, IBM’s 64-bit architecture in the Next XBOX means Microsoft will have to develop a new operating system for the console, while its hardware technology partners to work on appropriate drivers.

    It took Nintendo and IBM about 3 to 4 years to tailor PowerPC micro-architecture for Nintendo GAMECUBE console and create the actual CPU. With Microsoft’s XBOX 2 IBM will have less than three years to create the microprocessor.



    • #3
      SiS announces technology development agreement with Microsoft
      Xbox integrates SiS Media I/O technologies into future Xbox products and services

      Microsoft today (04.11.03) announced it has entered into a technology development agreement with SiS (Silicon Integrated Systems) Corp. Under the agreement, SiS is developing advanced media Input/Output technologies for use in future Xbox products and services.

      "We're integrating SiS' cutting edge, media I/O technologies into future products to create innovative Xbox products and services that serve the digital entertainment lifestyle." said Todd Holmdahl, general manager Xbox hardware.

      "The selection of Silicon Integrated Systems Corporation (SiS) by Microsoft Corporation to partner in future Xbox gaming technologies confirms the SiS track record for innovation in design and supplying leading edge technologies to the market." said Michael Chen, President and Chief Executive Officer, SiS Corp. "Microsoft's decision clearly demonstrates its confidence in SiS' ability to deliver cutting edge technologies, design & integration expertise that will be vital to future the Xbox platform."

      Press release


      • #4
        First Details: Inside the Xbox 2 - Part 1

        Both ATI and Microsoft executives are absolutely refusing to answer questions on the Xbox successor, but that didn’t stop us in our mission to be the “Insider’s Choice for Xbox Information.”

        We’re proud to bring you today the very first info on the Xbox 2 GPU. Our highly placed source within the industry informed us that the graphic technology powering the Xbox successor is a derivative of the R500, the successor of the R420 to be unveiled later this year at Comdex.

        This graphic chip has been in design for longer than a year at ATI’s Marlborough, Mass. office and much like the Xbox’s nVIDIA GPU, the Xbox 2 graphic chip will also be a custom silicon that will have the R500 as its core technology.

        This graphic chip is aimed at the next version of the DirectX API, most probably called DirectX 10, which is already in development and simply code named: DirectX/LH. LH stands for Longhorn, the next major desktop Windows release, which will follow Windows XP.

        This same source also told us: “Microsoft chose ATI not just because the publicly known problems with nVIDIA but also because current technology shows ATI is the real winner when it comes to pixel shaders performance.” Something that is correct, as several publications have put in evidence that ATI’s Radeon 9800 Pro surpasses the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra in most Pixel Shaders 2.0 benchmarks.

        “And we all know graphics’ future is all about pixel shaders” our source added.

        This VPU is being designed with the latest technologies in mind, such as GDDR2 SDRAM provided by Samsung running at 1600 MHz. A 128-bit configuration is capable of providing up to 25.6 GB/s peak bandwidth, while its 256-bit mode brings up to a shocking 51.2GB/s peak bandwidth!!! Samsung’s GDDR2 256-megabit memory will enable graphics memory cards of 512 MB, althought it is impossible to confirm if the Xbox 2 will feature such amount of system memory.

        Speculating the Xbox 2 might ship in Christmas 2005, we can be sure its graphic chip will support Pixel Shader 3.0, a model that is a significant improvement over today’s 2.0 version, as well as Vertex Shaders 3.0. This will make the Xbox 2, without a doubt, the most powerful console when it comes to visual performance with a graphic chip that, in hardware terms, is two generations ahead of current technology.

        Team Xbox


        • #5
          Xbox to switch to PowerPC

          Microsoft's next-generation Xbox will ditch its Intel chip in favor of the same kind of chip used in Apple's Macs -- an IBM PowerPC processor -- IBM and Microsoft announced on Monday.

          At least one industry analyst thinks the choice may be the first crack in the so-called "Wintel" partnership that has dominated the computer industry for decades.

          Read the full story

          IBM chips will now power all the major game consoles -- the next-generation PlayStation will be based on IBM's The Cell, and Nintendo currently uses the PowerPC in the GameCube.

          Wired News


          • #6
            Xbox2 vies with PS3 technology

            There's something strange about Microsoft's choice of IBM to make its processors for the Xbox 2. You might think that it's a reasonable choice but it brings up more questions than most analysts are going to be comfortable with. Many have immediately jumped on the idea that the Xbox 2 will use a PowerPC variant processor at its heart but that's far from the only option. The biggest spanner in the works could be the Sony/Toshiba/IBM Cell processor.
            The most curious thing about the choice of IBM is that the firm is already producing processors for Nintendo and is designing the next generation of 'Cell' processors for the Playstation 3. So IBM effectively knows what all of the key players are up to, something that might not sit comfortably with the CEOs of the three main console firms.

            Route G5
            It's tempting to think that IBM will be supplying Microsoft with a modified PowerPC chip for the Xbox 2. The new G5 series of 64bit processors being used in the latest Apple Macs certainly has shown good performance but there would be a huge number of problems for Microsoft in switching to that architecture.

            Microsoft would need to port the latest version of its Xbox operating system to PowerPC; after all, even consoles need an operating system. That would be a large task just by itself. Then there are the problems of backwards compatibility, even the latest G5 probably couldn't run an x86 emulator fast enough to play games from the original Xbox.

            Opter In
            Then there's the AMD side of the equation, it has been thick as thieves with IBM in the production of its AMD64 technology processors. Big Blue would almost certainly have no problems buying permission from AMD to produce an Opteron/Athlon 64 based processor, it might well have that permission already.

            An AMD64 based processor makes much more sense than a PowerPC one. Microsoft already has an operating system that works on that architecture and backwards compatibility with the current Xbox would be no problem. Microsoft has contracted Sis to produce the IO chip for the system and that firm already produces a chipset for the Athlon 64. It all looks like the logical answer but then there's that spanner in the works.

            The Real Threat
            The biggest firm in console gaming by far is Sony with its Playstation 2. The juiciest leaks that have appeared about the Cell processor put that architecture a country mile ahead of any other mainstream processor performance wise. It looks likely to offer capabilities that will be well beyond the AMD64 and PowerPC variants when it is released, even taking into account the latter processors improving considerably over the next couple of years.

            That leaves Microsoft with a big problem. If it chooses PowerPC or AMD64, it might end up trying to sell an Xbox 2 that at best offers only half the performance of the Playstation 3. A far from appetising thought.

            But then you need to think about just why IBM and Toshiba are involved with the Cell processor in the first place. Both firms are aiming to use it in high-power multiprocessor systems. In theory at least, both firms could supply Cell processor systems to whichever companies they liked. So then you end up with the last major possibility, that Microsoft could well have chosen IBM to manufacture processors for the Xbox 2 because it has somehow persuaded the firm to supply Cell processors for the new system.

            There're no two ways around it, Sony would be livid if that was the case but it would also be stuck. Microsoft has more than enough money to step into the breach if Sony decided to walk away from dealing with IBM over that happening. That's something Sony couldn't afford to allow because it would mean the firm scrabbling around trying to find a replacement architecture and Xbox 2 getting the Cell technology all to itself, with all that entails.

            Sitting pretty in the middle of all this is IBM. Whichever way things go it will be getting money from all parties. It effectively has the One Ring to rule them all. It's doubtful that Microsoft will manage to get its claws into the Cell technology but far from impossible. You can lay a bet that Sony's lawyers are looking at its contract with IBM very carefully indeed at the moment.

            The Inquirer


            • #7
              New GameCube and Xbox2 to be the same thing?

              Thanks to the lovely lot in an IRC channel I chat in, this link cropped up. The gist of it goes something like this. IBM big cheese blabs to Reuters that IBM is doing the CPU for the new GameCube, before Nintendo have announced anything. With ATI already confirmed as Nintendo's graphics partner, that leaves Microsoft and Nintendo with the same GPU and CPU suppliers. Hmm. The article, quite rightly, argues that unless they were creating the same platform, would it be wise to go down that road, for product inside info reasons?

              So, Microsoft and Nintendo to produce different branded versions of the same base hardware? Are they both angling to combine their strengths, with IBM and ATI as backers, against Sony? If it's true, will the two new consoles play each others games?

              With IBM also collaborating with Sony on the PS3, it certainly has its fingers in a bunch of console pies, so it'll be interesting to see what shakes out. I'd be willing to bet it's a fair assumption that the base hardware will be identical, if Mr IBM Big Cheese didn't goof and mean to say Microsoft that is.

              Hexus / Reuters / The Register


              • #8
                Xbox 2 to be Shown at GDC 2004?

                Is Microsoft planning on unveiling their next-gen console as early as next March? Could be...

                According to Computer and Video Games, Microsoft may actually be secretly planning to give a demonstration of their next-generation hardware at the Game Developers Conference, which takes place in California from March 22-26 of next year. Many believe that Sony will show something for the PS3 next E3, so this may be Microsoft's move to get a head start on the hype.

                C&VG claims a senior source, operating under strict conditions of anonymity, told the site: "The plan is to talk specs and show early tech demos [of Xbox 2] at a US event next Easter. This will provide a platform leading towards something more substantial at E3."

                If this proves to be true, it is expected that the demonstration will occur in a very similar manner to that of the original Xbox unveiling in 2000, meaning it will take place behind closed doors on an invitation only basis. Needless to say, Microsoft wouldn't let on to anything saying, "This is a rumor and we do not comment on rumors."



                • #9
                  Xbox 2 CPU to be a 65nm part

                  Last month, we posted an announcement made by Sony and Toshiba (one of the two Sony’s partners for the PlayStation 3) telling the world that trial production of chips (the cell) using a 65-nanometer manufacturing process would begin this March, with commercial production of the final chips expected for summer 2005.

                  In that story we also suggested that the Xbox 2 CPU could also be a 65-nm part since both Sony and Microsoft are going head-to-head for the next round in “The Console Wars.”

                  Today we can confirm that the Xbox 2 CPU will also be built using a 65-nanometer manufacturing process.

                  “It’ll be built on a 65-nanometer process,” a source confirmed to TeamXbox. “IBM has already taped out experimental samples at its East Fishkill fab but it will take between 12 to 18 months for them to deliver commercial parts. Anyway, they’re way ahead of Intel.”

                  There are countless stories as to why Microsoft decided to drop Intel in favor of IBM. But sometimes, it just could be as straightforward as Jodie Foster claims in the movie Contact, "The simplest hypothesis is most likely to be true."

                  And the truth is, when it comes to microprocessors, IBM has been pulling off one success after the other. It was the first company to deliver a 64-bit processor for the desktop, the PowerPC 970 found in Apple’s Power Mac G5 and, contrary to what most analysts predicted, it is the first company to deliver a 90nm microprocessor: the second generation PowerPC 970 found inside the new Xserve G5 that will also power the second revision of the G5. With this updated PowerPC 970, IBM delivers a 90nm processor before Intel’s Prescott.

                  “With the new 90nm manufacturing process, IBM broke the 2 Ghz barrier. The 65-nanometer technology will allow them to break the 3 Ghz barrier for sure and get closer to the 5 Ghz mark,” our source further clarified and was quick to add, “However, this is not just about clock speed. The more important thing here is what this baby and its specialized cores can do in a single clock cycle.”

                  For those really technically savvy, you may have noticed the same inaccuracy that we perceived. He used the word “cores” instead of “units”, which left us wondering…is Sony the only one coming with a CPU that is made of small groups of cores working together to process tasks in parallel? Only time will tell.

                  So, there you have it. Like kids comparing their toy collections, Microsoft can also say to Sony, “I’ve got one too” regarding the most advanced chip manufacturing process.

                  Team Xbox


                  • #10
                    Why Microsoft is using the PowerPC chip for the Xbox2

                    A reader has dropped us – and AMD Zone a line – about why Microsoft decided to go with the PowerPC microprocessor for the Xbox 2 rather than an X86 based processor.

                    It seems that ATI which will be supplying the graphics chip to the Xbox 2, and desiring the chip to be much faster than the upcoming R400 chip, has tapped Intrinsity's Fast14 dynamic logic process in the construction of this new chip.

                    Intrinsity as you may know is an Austin, TX based firm that has in its employ quite a few engineers from another Austin based firm known formerly as Exponential Technology. Those guys, back in the mid 90s, were trying to design the next generation PowerPC chip known as the X704 which would have leapfrogged all other processors both X-86 and PowerPC by coming in clocked at the then unheard of speed of 533 MHz, effectively more than double other processors of that time.

                    They were trying to do this by employing a technique of chip making from the mainframe and supercomputing world known as bi-polar logic, a form of dynamic logic. This form of chip making produces a much higher performance chip than the standard CMOS chip.

                    However, it is much more difficult to make chips this way, at least back then, and the chips come out running very hot. Before Exponential could perfect this chip for mass market production, the PowerPC G3 from IBM had nearly caught up with it in terms of clock speed, and Apple refused to let clone makers Umax and Power Computing (formerly of Austin) to modify the Apple ROM chips to let the Exponential chip work on existing Apple motherboards.

                    Thus Exponential went belly up and the patents were auctioned off. What is intriguing is that a handful of those patents dealt with the Exponential chip's ability to execute both RISC and X-86 instructions down one pipeline, basically a RISC chip that could emulate an Intel chip.

                    Now fast forward to today. Intrinsity which employs many ex-Exponential Technology guys with a lot of PowerPC knowledge have this Fast14 dynamic logic process using standard cheap CMOS manufacturing which has allowed them to make the world's fastest embedded general purpose CPU which acts like a DSP. Known as the FastMIPS chip, it's clocked at 2GHz (2.5 by the end of April) with an integrated Matrix and Vector math unit running at full clock speed as well. It has 1MB of embedded memory, an embedded memory controller supporting up to 1GB of DDR SDRAM, and a dual I/O bus with up to 4GB of throughput....all on one single programmable chip!

                    This chip is marketed to company's that need high performance, small packages and low heat. Some of these markets include real time to near real time medical imaging, high speed storage and networking, array processing for radar and increasing cellular network bandwidth by a factor of 2-3 times.

                    Now let's put the pieces all together. Microsoft has chosen IBM, a long time maker of mainframes and supercomputers to manufacture the XBOX 2's CPU...a variant of the Power4 CPU known as the G5. It is high performance and highly efficient, and thus much cooler than any X-86 chip which allows a multi-CPU design to be put into a much smaller form factor than a comparable multi X-86 design. The G5 has embedded in it a Vector Math unit which processes multimedia instructions much like Intel's SSE instructions.

                    Once again the AltiVec units in the G5 are much more efficient and high performance and share a mainframe and supercomputer pedigree. Enter now the graphics chip side of things. The new ATI GPU using Intrensity's Fast14 dynamic logic process is a fantastic technological compliment to IBM's G5.

                    The GPU will also employ technology culled from the world of mainframes and supercomputers such as dynamic logic for much higher performance and vector math processing like the G5's Altivec multimedia units. Plus the Fast14 process allows for this much higher performance of dynamic logic without the once associated heat buildup. Once again, an important design criteria when building a small form factor console. Helping to make the new ATI Fast14 GPU that much cooler will be the Black Diamond low-K dielectric insulating process that ATI and its foundry partner TSMC uses.

                    Without a doubt the Xbox 2 will be the world's first consumer supercomputer ever. Everything about it reeks of supercomputer....Multiple Power4/G5 RISC CPU's processing in parallel and employing vector math processing. Those CPU's designed by supercomputer manufacturer IBM. Graphics processor employing dynamic logic and vector math processing from the world of supercomputers, manufactured by ATI which is now primarily run by ex-SGI engineers, again a manufacturer of supercomputers. Can't wait until someone hacks into it and installs 64 bit Linux. Can you imagine a Beowulf Cluster built of multiple Xbox 2s ?!!!

                    Here's looking to 2005...Cheers, Danny Strickland

                    The Inquirer