Imagine if all the next-generation consoles used a Cell-based architecture.
There was a huge buzz about the Cell Broadband Engine chip surrounding the time of the PlayStation 3 launch. It was a radical chip that was co-designed by the brains at IBM, Sony and Toshiba.
While the Cell/B.E. has its widest and strongest use in the PlayStation 3, IBM says that the processor is still being worked on for future applications.
"I think you'll see [Cell] integrated into our future Power road map. That's the way to think about it as opposed to a separate line -- it'll just get integrated into the next line of things that we do," said Jai Menon, CTO of IBM's Systems and Technology Group. "But certainly, we're working with all of the game folks to provide our capabilities into those next-generation machines."
IBM right now has its hand in all the gaming consoles, with PowerPC-based chips inside the Wii and Xbox 360 and the Cell inside the PS3. There are strong bets that IBM will continue its relationship with one of those platform holders into the next generation.
IBM also offers Cell processors for the industrial market in its blade servers, but it's clear that the gaming business is bringing in enough cash to make it worthwhile. Menon said that IBM has a great desire to stay in the video game hardware business.
Another avenue is cloud play. Perhaps what IBM is thinking of is similar to OnLive of Gaikai – or maybe it's what Sony was preaching with the PS3 being able to tap into the power of a Cell-powered TV or toaster.
"Some of this consumer stuff is also a cloud play. There are giant servers out there that provide some of the gaming capability. Some of that will come through cloud-based offerings as well," Menon added.
The Cell may not have been the most developer-friendly architecture when it was introduced in the PS3, but we'd be surprised to not see some form of it live on in a future games console.