IBM To Open Its Microchip Technology

Company works with other vendors to design products based on Power chips
IBM says microchip technology is reaching its physical limits, so the company is shifting the focus of much of its processor-design strategy from the chips themselves to the creation of tightly integrated, high-performance architectures for specific industries and applications.

To that end, IBM is working with a range of vendors to build a larger development community around its Power chip technology, company officials said last week. It's also making design tools available to partners at no charge; looking at a Linux-style open-governance model to help guide the future of the Power architecture; and launching a portal for developers of Power-based systems. IBM will make parts of the Power chips customizable so that business partners can order chips with specific features that best meet their needs.

Bernard Meyerson -- Photo by Bloomberg News

Transistors can't get much smaller, IBM's Meyerson says.

Photo of Bernard Meyerson
by Bloomberg News
"Transistors are getting down to the size of what they're made of, so they can't get much smaller," says IBM chief technologist Bernard Meyerson.

The strategy could work well for markets large enough to justify the extra cost of creating custom chips, analysts say. But some question whether the strategy will pay off for business apps. Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at research firm Insight64, asks, "Are you going to spend millions custom designing a chip with better security features for the financial-services industry when you might have only several thousand potential customers?"

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