Development work on the next-generation CELL microprocessor is nearly complete, according to Toshiba president Tadashi Okamura, whose company is working on the chip along with partners Sony and IBM.
Full-scale commercial production of CELL is not due to start until early next year, but the first completed chips will be completed shortly - presumably on schedule to power the content creation workstations Sony has promised will be available by the end of 2004.
"[CELL] will be used in IBM's computer, Sony's game machine, and Toshiba's digital consumer electronics, among other things," Okamura told the Japanese business publication Nikkei Journal this week. "It will change the world."
CELL is designed to operate as a massively parallel processor, specifically designed for handling graphics and communication-intensive tasks. The chip is engineered to operate in multi-processor environments, and it's expected that the PlayStation 3 will be powered by as many as eight of the devices.
IBM and Sony also plan to ship CELL workstations and servers aimed at the creative industries, which would feature more of the processors, and would potentially be upgradeable simply by adding "blades" with more processors on them.
Toshiba and Sony, meanwhile, both plan to integrate CELL into a range of consumer electronics devices, ranging from the PlayStation 3 game console to televisions, set-top boxes and mobile phones.
It's believed that the partner companies are also currently working on an operating system for the CELL platform, which would enable interoperability and transparent communications between devices based on the processor.
PlayStation 3 is expected to be unveiled to the world before the end of Sony's current financial year - which hints that the console will take its first public bow in Q1 2005, if not before the end of this calendar year.
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