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October 25, 2005

IBM Ramps Up for Xbox 360

Posted by David Hunter at 9:58 AM ET.

Press release:

At Fall Processor Forum in San Jose, California today, IBM announced the custom designed microprocessor built for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console is in production at the company’s East Fishkill, N.Y. fab and at Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing in Singapore. Together, IBM and Chartered’s common platform offers Microsoft a unique dual-source capability that provides the highest level of manufacturing redundancy and flexibility.

The specialized chip, featuring customized and enhanced IBM intellectual property, was designed and developed by IBM and Microsoft to meet the unique requirements of the next generation Xbox 360 console.

The chip was delivered to Microsoft in less than 24 months from original contract signing in the fall of 2003 in time to meet Microsoft’s massive worldwide product launch for the 2005 holiday season.

Since Xbox 360 launches on November 22, it is just in time. The dual sourcing is standard in the semiconductor industry for critical components. More details by following the link, but Arik Hesseldahl provides some interesting background at Business Week in Inside IBM’s Xbox Chip:

There’s a lot riding on Microsoft’s new and much-hyped gaming console, the Xbox 360 — and not just for Microsoft. IBM, maker of the chips that will run the machine, has a lot at stake, too.

IBM is keen to improve its reputation for manufacturing semiconductors after Apple earlier this year said it would begin using chips from Intel starting in 2006. At least part of the reason for the switch was Apple’s frustration with the pace of development at IBM and Big Blue’s inability to deliver a version of its PowerPC 970 chip suitable for use in a notebook computer. At other times, IBM has struggled to produce the number of chips that Apple needed.

To prove its chipmaking mettle, IBM is showing what its new Xbox chip is made of — literally — on Oct. 25. the outfit will make the disclosure at the Fall Processor Forum, an annual gathering of chip engineers taking place Oct. 25-26 in San Jose, Calif.

Microsoft will own the rights to the chip, says IBM Vice-President James Comfort. IBM says the chip is in full production at its factory in East Fishkill, N.Y., and at a plant in Singapore owned by Chartered Semiconductor (CHTR), which will serve as a second source for Microsoft, and was a partner in the development.

Microsoft, in a bid to get its next-generation gaming console on the market before Sony’s PlayStation 3, held suppliers to tight deadlines. IBM’s Comfort said the company sped up its development cycle to meet Microsoft’s demanding timetable. IBM’s Engineering Technology Services unit kicked development into high gear, cutting a process that would have normally taken 30 to 36 months down to 24 months. That meant making sure there were no mistakes made along the way. “We paid extremely close attention to detail in our design practices,” Comfort says.

“Microsoft is really touting the fact the the Xbox 360 will be on the market before the PlayStation, and that means that IBM had to build the chip right the first time,” Krewell says. “There was little opportunity to go back and re-spin the silicon.”

I’ll bet they’re keeping their fingers crossed. More by following that link too, including the fact that IBM is also intimately involved with the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution.

Filed under Xbox

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