IBM’s Cell

WSJ writes about IBM’s new chip for the home-entertainment market:

Sony and IBM are expected to announce that next year they will start selling the first Cell-based product — a high-performance workstation designed for use by videogame designers and Hollywood animation houses. Pricing and marketing plans haven’t been determined. IBM said a version of the workstation mounted in a rack with multiple Cell processors will be able to perform 16 trillion mathematical operations a second. That speed would theoretically make it faster than all but a dozen of the world’s supercomputers, although much of its power is dedicated to graphics processing rather than to general-purpose computing.

Tom Starnes, an analyst with Gartner Inc., who has been briefed on the chip, said that “they’re hinting at stuff that is indeed very impressive.” While the processing power in videogames “all gets used by 12-year-old boys,” Cell also is designed to handle video streams from cable and satellite systems, decompressing encoded information and expanding it for display on big, high-definition, plasma screens.

Analysts said the processor might be able to reorient digitized video as it is received to provide views from above or an end-zone view. In other applications, the processing power of Cell might permit a viewer to take a TV character and place him in a videogame, or interact with a commercial to see how a dress would look on an image of herself stored in the system.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.