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IBM Alliance Looks To Top Intel With 28-Nm Chips

The group also has developed a 32-nm process and says customers will be able to move to the more power-efficient 28-nm technology without a major redesign.

An IBM-led alliance of semiconductor manufacturers said Thursday it plans to have 28-nanometer process technology ready for chip production next year, pulling slightly ahead of Intel in the race toward smaller, lower-power chips that pack a bigger punch than the current generation of processors.

The alliance, which includes Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, GlobalFoundries, Infineon Technologies, Samsung Electronics, and STMicroelectronics, said its 28-nm high-k metal gate technology would be ready for "early risk production" in the second half of 2010, which is when Intel is expected to be immersed in its 32-nm process technology. Intel plans to release its first 32-nm chips in the second half of this year.

High-k metal gate, or HKMG, refers to a material used in transistors that comprise microprocessors. As manufacturers shrink the size of transistors, more of the components can be packed onto a piece of silicon, boosting power without increasing power consumption. The IBM alliance and Intel are aiming their process technologies at small, low-powered consumer devices, such as smartphones and mobile Internet devices, as well as standard PCs.

The IBM-led group also has developed a 32-nm process and says customers will be able to move to the more power-efficient 28-nm technology without a major redesign. The latter technology offers in a chip half the size of current 45-nm processors a 40% performance boost while consuming 20% less power.

Among the members of the joint development alliance is GlobalFoundries, a manufacturing company formed by Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices and Advanced Technology Investment Co., formed by the Abu Dhabi government. GlobalFoundries is expected to start production of 32-nm products in middle of next year.

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