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Seven large consumer electronics makers from Japan are developing a new microprocessor that will be able to compete against chips from Advanced Micro Devices or Intel Corp. The central processing unit (CPU) will be available for purchase starting from fiscal 2012. Initially the chip will be only found in consumer electronics.

The processor is developed by the pool of companies, including Canon, Funjitsu, Hitachi, NEC, Panasonic, Renesas and Toshiba, according to Nikkei Business News cited by various media resources. The development is led by Hironori Kasahara, a professor of computer science at Waseda University, who has also developed special software that controls power consumption of microprocessors in accordance with actual load and amount of data that needs to be processed.

The prototype processor, which yet has to be named, is expected to consume 70% less energy than typical once, according to Forbes. Low power consumption will allow the chip to work even when there is no sufficient amount of energy available during natural disasters.

Obviously, the new chip will not be compatible with x86 instruction set as well as the vast majority of software on the market. As a result, the only market for the processor will be proprietary consumer electronics, including HDTVs, Blu-ray disc players and so on. Therefore, it cannot be said that the processors will compete against AMD and Intel directly, but may rather represent a threat to “x86 everywhere” strategy of the two U.S.-based companies.

The microprocessor project is supported by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, with an initial capital of ¥3 – ¥4 billion ($32.5 million – $43.3 million).

In mid-2000 Sony Computer Entertainment, Toshiba and IBM formed an alliance known as "STI" to design and manufacture Cell microprocessor. The companies hoped that the chip will allow them to compete for the lucrative market of CPUs. However, Cell is only used inside Sony PlayStation 3 video game console, IBM BladeCenter QS22 server, Mercury Computer Systems’ medical applications and some other proprietary products with low market penetration.

Tags: Canon, Funjitsu, Hitachi, NEC, Panasonic, Renesas, Toshiba

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