IBM and Rapport unveil energy efficient processor

IBM and Rapport have developed a new, energy-efficient microprocessor aimed at users who want streaming live, high definition video.

IBM and a small Silicon Valley start-up have developed a new, energy-efficient microprocessor aimed at users who want streaming live, high definition video on mobile devices, the companies said Monday.

The chips can be used for a variety of computing-intensive jobs, including mobile phone gaming and video, image processing and suitcase supercomputing, the companies said. Their main advantages are in data throughput and saving battery life. The companies claim the Kilocore 1025 will allow users to view high-definition video on a mobile device at five to 10 times the speed of existing processors.

The companies did not indicate whether the chips had been made available to third parties for testing .

The chips combine IBM's Power architecture with Rapport's Kilocore technology, which enables greater throughput for data, the companies said in a statement. The two companies plan to bring the chip, dubbed the Kilocore 1025, to market combining Rapport's software and Kilocore technology with IBM's engineering services, contract chip manufacturing and its chip technologies.

The companies said Kilocore-based processors use an advanced design which puts hundreds or thousands of parallel computers together on a single chip. For example, each Kilocore 1025 chip is made up of over a thousand eight-bit processing elements and a single PowerPC core, the companies said, claiming the result is a "breakthrough" technology and one of the most energy efficient processor designs ever devised.

Users looking for devices with chips such as this one inside would be wise to remember another "breakthrough" low power chip technology trumpeted by Transmeta several years ago. Although the company's efforts in low power design woke the industry up to the importance of energy efficiency in the age of shrinking computing devices, Transmeta products have never made a big impact on the market. In fact, the company has wound down some of its product lines and transformed into a technology licensing firm. It has lost over $630 million since 1998, according to financial reports on its Web site.

IBM and Rapport did not say when the chips would be available on the market, nor when working samples would be sent to device manufacturers to give them a test run. New chip designs often face the challenge of whether or not they will be cheap or easy to manufacture. Chips unable to overcome this key challenge often fail to live up to their billing because device designers work very hard to control costs, making it important for chips and other components to meet certain price points.

When Rambus put some of its first memory chips on the market several years ago, producers discovered they cost more to manufacture than traditional chips. Despite significant increases in throughput speeds and other advantages, the chips never led the memory chip market, losing out to lower-cost PC-133 SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) chips available at the time.

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