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Freescale, IBM upgrade Power processor architecture

Posted: 08 Feb 2006     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:David Lammers  Freescale Semiconductor  IBM  Power processor  PowerPC 

Freescale Semiconductor Inc. and IBM Corp. announced that they will step up their cooperative efforts behind the Power processor architecture. The two companies will work to strengthen the software infrastructure, including the Linux OS, behind the Power-based SoCs aimed at emerging consumer markets.

Though Freescale ships large volumes of PowerPC-based solutions to the automotive and communications industries, it has not been a member, until now, of the Power.org association, which includes more than 40 companies.

Michel Mayer, chairman and CEO of Freescale, and John E. Kelly III, SVP of technology and intellectual property at IBM, pledged to work together to develop a common instruction set architecture as the Power architecture moves into consumer applications. Engineers from Freescale and IBM will work with companies in the infrastructure market segment, including EDA companies, embedded tool development vendors and Linux and open software organizations, the two executives said here at a joint press conference.

IBM and Motorola's semiconductor products sector, along with Apple Computer, designed the early PowerPC processors at the now-closed Somerset design center in Austin, Texas. But with Apple moving its systems away from the PowerPC to Intel's X86 processors, IBM and Freescale are steering their renewed efforts toward the convergence of consumer with communications.

By next year, Mayer said fully half of all cars will have at least one Freescale PowerPC-based controller onboard. Kelly noted that IBM displaced the MIPS and Intel X86 processors enroute to gaining design wins in the game machines from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. The companies want to duplicate those successes in the consumer market.

Mayer, who earlier worked at IBM as the head of its microelectronics division, said Freescale and IBM want to work with hardware IP vendors to enable a Power-based SoC design infrastructure. Also, the companies will work to create a wider variety of "the software that runs on top of the hardware, software that the consumer companies need."

Kelly said the goal is "to extend the Power architecture to consumer markets, enabling the software ecosystem, particularly Linux. Our clients constantly tell us they want more headroom. They want to be able to go from low-power to high-performance systems. And they want to be able to design in the security engines they need as well."

Joe Byrne, an analyst at the Linley Group, said most of IBM's claimed consumer success has been in the gaming market. "Power hasn't been that strong in consumer, outside of gaming. This is an opportunity for Power to take a run at that."

- David Lammers
EE Times




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