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Sony, IBM to offer Cell workstations for Xmas

December ship schedule

Sony and IBM today said they will ship workstations based on the pair's upcoming Cell parallel processing chip in December.

The machines will be geared toward digital content creation, so we're essentially talking PlayStation 3 software development machines here.

The companies' announcement doesn't mention the next-generation console, of course, but since the workstations are being produced with the co-operation of Sony's Computer Entertainment division, it's hard to imagine that Sony and IBM have much else in mind.

Well, beyond the movie business, that is. Both are also hoping to push the workstations toward film-makers and special effects houses, with their increasing demand for greater and greater computational power to not only render scenes that are more visually complex but to do so as quickly as possible.

Cell has received much criticism - particularly from rival chip makers - for forcing a whole new programming model at developers. So it's crucial IBM and Sony get development kit to programmers as early as they can, either to give coders time to get their heads around the new architecture, or to demonstrate that writing games for Cell isn't going to be as tricky as has been made out.

Cell was announced in March 2001 at the start of what was described as a five-year project, putting its release in the 2006 timeframe. If Sony, IBM and fellow Cell developer Toshiba can get chips out by the end of 2004 - almost certainly only in sample quantities - it would seem that their project is progressing rather better than anticipated. ®

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