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Sony Corporation and International Business Machines said at the E3 show in Los Angeles, California, that they would ship commercial workstations based on the jointly developed Cell processor in the fourth quarter of this year.

The workstations aimed at developers of computer games as well as creators of movies will be powered by chips that are reportedly to be found in Sony’s next-generation PlayStation 3 console that is due to launch in 2006.

The Cell microprocessors are expected to unleash massive computing power – something multimedia environments need tremendously – but will require some new approaches in programming for the central processing units. With that given, it is essential for Sony to release workstations long time before the PlayStation 3 consoles hit the market so that to make sure game developers bite the technology and deliver their titles by the time when the PlayStation 3 goes live. But initially movie makers are likely to try the technology to make their work faster.

But the Cell microprocessors will not power only high-end workstations, servers or game consoles that require monstrous computing power nowadays. With architecture that greatly evolves from IBM’s Power, it is speculated, the Cell microprocessors will be very flexible and scalable in terms of usage model. Some say that Sony will use specially tweaked versions of the Cell to power the next generations of the company’s consumer products.

There is no information about architecture or specification details of the Cell processors that will be available in Q4 2004 in the workstations by IBM and Sony. It is also not clear which fabrication process will be used for  manufacturing of the CPUs.

The Cell technology that was originally introduced in February 2001 has been jointly developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba with the target to mass-produce the tech in 2006.

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