Sony appears to have exclusive usage of the Cell processor until the PlayStation 3 console ships next March.
Toshiba - with Sony and IBM one of the chip's co-developers - said today it would offer Cell-based hardware development kits in April 2006.
The reference platform comprises Cell and support chips and is geared toward "digital consumer products and communication equipment that draw on the powerful broadband capabilities of the Cell microprocessor" and its "unsurpassed multi-tasking and real-time processing functions", as Toshiba put it.
The ancillary chips on the reference motherboard include the "Super Companion Chip", described by Toshiba as "the interface between Cell and external A/V, I/O equipment", including 1394, and digital audio and video ports.
The board includes - ominously - "a power supply system chip optimised to drive the Cell microprocessor".
The package is based on Linux and ITRON operating systems, which run in virtual machines maintained by the reference platform's core Hypervisor OS. Clearly, Intel and AMD aren't the only ones bringing mainframe-style virtualisation technologies to desktop microprocessors. Toshiba said it will bundle Eclipse, an integrated software development environment, along with "an audio-visual application model includes simultaneous multiple digital and analog broadcast television reception, recording and playback".
It's telling the reference board ships in Q2 2006, after the PS3's scheduled debut in Q1 2006. That is undoubtedly as much because Sony will hoover up all the Cells IBM and Toshiba can punch out, because it wants to ensure it offers product based on the part before anyone else does. ®