IBM signs development pact with Sony, Toshiba

CIOL Bureau
New Update

Caroline Humer


NEW YORK: International Business Machines Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Sony Corp.

on Tuesday said they signed an agreement that will increase Sony's role in

developing the microchip technology used in its vast array of consumer

electronics products.

The agreement, in which Sony and Toshiba will pay IBM several hundred million

dollars, extends last year's three-way pact in which IBM agreed to develop a new

chip, code-named "Cell," for Sony and Toshiba, Sony's manufacturing


The "Cell" chip is expected for Sony's Playstation 3 video game,

which will compete with Microsoft Corp.'s and Nintendo's next generation of

video games. Some version of the chip, or the technology behind it, could be

used in computers, like IBM's large computers for businesses.


As part of the agreement, about 50 to 100 Sony and Toshiba employees will be

located in IBM's East Fishkill, New York labs, where they will work closely to

develop advanced semiconductor technologies using next-generation materials, IBM


In particular, the companies will develop technologies that enable them to

build a high-performance chip that produces less heat and requires less power to

run, said Bijan Davari, IBM fellow and vice president of technology and emerging


That's important for use in small consumer products, like handheld computers,

he said. "Both Sony and Toshiba have very extensive application and

requirement sets. They really know what you need to put into the chip,"

Divari said.

IBM will transfer to Sony and Toshiba the details of silicon- on-insulator

technology, which the companies can use to build chips in their own plants for

themselves or their customers. Silicon-on-insulator employs a thin layer of

silicon that is separated from the chip's base layer of silicon by a layer of


The companies will have more access to IBM's technology than any previous

customer, one analyst said. "This agreement is the first one that allows

the architects into the kitchen to make a special formula -- to make a special

dough. That's never ever happened before. Sony is the only customer big enough

to make IBM change its ways," said Richard Doherty, director of research in

Seaford, NY.