Sony Announces CELL Microprocessor Plant
Sony announced today that it will invest 200 billion yen ($1.6 billion) in a new microprocessor plant over the next three years. The production line will focus on its next-generation semiconductors, which are 300mm wafers with 65-nanometer process. This covers specifically the CELL chip, which previously was intended for the Playstation 3. IBM has recently announced that the chip may not be ready for the PS3's expected release date, but Sony has made no official comment on the situation. The chip will also be intended for broadband networking and all of Sony's components, not just Sony Computer Entertainment.
A new single chip for the Playstation 2 has also been announced. Currently, the PS2 consists of the Emotion Engine and the Graphics Synthesizer. The two chips will now be combined into a single 86mm DRAM chip with 90-nanometer process. This will reduce electricity consumption and more importantly production costs.
According to reports, 73 of the 200 billion yen ($605 million) will be invested the first year in building a new semiconductor line in Nagasaki, Japan (Sony's Fab2 facility). Testing the prototype CELL chips will be the initial process, as production will gradually move into mass production. The CELL chip will be an all-purpose product, which distinguishes itself from the Emotion Engine of the PS2, and will likely be sold to other companies.
"The introduction of advanced semiconductor technologies is imperative for the next-generation processors that support the broadband network era," said Ken Kutaragi, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment and executive deputy president of Sony Corporation. "Together with the PC, home electronics and network products, such as games, movies, music, and digital broadcasting, which utilize broadband applications, will play a leading role in advancing microprocessor technologies. Sony Group aims to further develop and expand the market with its advanced semiconductor technologies and its rich and wide array of applications. This investment forms a strategic foundation towards our goal."
Also, Toshiba is scheduled to produce 300mm wafers with 65-nanometer process in its OTSS plant. The plant will also cost about 200 billion yen, but Toshiba will only be investing 40 billion yen this year. Sony is planning on investing in Toshiba's new plant, as it will manufacture chips for Sony Computer Entertainment and other companies. Development will begin April 2004 and Toshiba hopes to eventually produce chips with 45-nanometer process.
Ken Kutaragi has stated that details regarding the PlayStation 3 will be released in its next strategy conference. No official date has been announced, but it is speculated that Kutaragi will talk about the CELL microprocessor and related products that will be utilized. Sony, IBM, and Toshiba have been developing the CELL chip since the spring of 2001 and plans to release it in 2005.