IBM is considering shipping the PowerPC-based processor it designed for Nintendo's upcoming GameCube console as a standalone product.
Discussing the chip's internals at processor professionals' conference Hit Chips, held each year at Stanford University, California, IBM staffer Peter Sandon said Big Blue has the right to sell the chip, codenamed Gecko, even though all initial units will be going straight to Nintendo's assembly plants.
Gecko is based on IBM's PowerPC 440, but features more powerful floating point maths units and speedier data throughput. The chip clocks at 485MHz, and contains 256KB of on-die L2 cache. Power consumption is 4.9W.
Sandon's comments suggest Gecko isn't as tightly connected to other GameCube components - principaly the graphics processor designed by ArtX, now part of ATI - as you might expect. At under 500MHz, it's hard to see the processor being favoured by desktop PC makers - well, Apple and Amiga, at any rate - but process advances such as silicon-on-insulator and 0.13 micron fabrication could help boost the speed further.
It's certainly curious that IBM should now talk about offering Gecko beyond the GameCube for which it was specifically designed. has it indeed lined up other partners? Or has it been approached by a third-party interested in using the chip? Certainly in previous discussions about Gecko, IBM has never (to our knowledge) hinted that the part was destined for anyone other than Nintendo.
IBM sources who can shed more light on this are invited to spill the beans. ®