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IBM Still Developing Cell Processor; Loves Games

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 54 comments

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.

Read more at PC World.

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Top Comments
  • 22 Hide
    Niva , November 3, 2010 5:15 AM
    amnotanoobie: Ubuntu is a flavor of linux, any linux kernel powered OS which can run on cell will run just fine on it. Matter of fact I'm not even aware of Ubuntu having a Cell/BE variant but I'll take your word for it. There are other linux distros specifically for that though. I do run Ubuntu and have been for years now, but it still cracks me up when people say Ubuntu these days while they really mean the all-encompassing linux label.
Other Comments
  • -2 Hide
    bdcrlsn , November 3, 2010 4:42 AM
    If only they released the Cell for personal PC use...
  • Display all 54 comments.
  • -7 Hide
    Flameout , November 3, 2010 5:12 AM
    i've seen games on xbox360 and they look the same as my ps3. what's so great about cell?
  • 22 Hide
    Niva , November 3, 2010 5:15 AM
    amnotanoobie: Ubuntu is a flavor of linux, any linux kernel powered OS which can run on cell will run just fine on it. Matter of fact I'm not even aware of Ubuntu having a Cell/BE variant but I'll take your word for it. There are other linux distros specifically for that though. I do run Ubuntu and have been for years now, but it still cracks me up when people say Ubuntu these days while they really mean the all-encompassing linux label.
  • -4 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , November 3, 2010 5:35 AM
    i swear toms published an article about the cell processor a while ago stating they were not going to be making it anymore.....
  • 2 Hide
    kronos_cornelius , November 3, 2010 5:43 AM
    I'm not sure the Cell chips is competitive with the x86 arch performance-wise. For what I've read, should have gotten credit for the start of the GPU coprocesing wave we are starting to see now. That because the Cell has SMP units.

    Ubuntu is almost synonymous with Linux these days. I used to try out different distros back in the day (Suse, Debian, Fedora). Now I lean toward Ubuntu because there is so much help in the forums for Ubuntu. If you really wanted to get strict on the naming, then you would have to say Linux/GNU OS.
  • -4 Hide
    Ragnar-Kon , November 3, 2010 6:12 AM
    Considering the reason why I now use predominately Windows machines instead of Macs is because Apple switched from Power to x86 processors. PowerPCs just performed MUCH better for the tasks I wanted to do than an Intel processor.

    And I think it is time for something to challenge the x86 / x86-64 in the general consumer computer market, and a Power ISA processor could do that. Clearly Microsoft and Apple (as well as the Linux world) are keen on using Power-based processors, since Microsoft uses it in their XBox, and Apple previously had been using Power-based processors for years. (To be honest the only reason why I think Apple moved to x86 processors is because they can sell the "we can run Windows too!" point)

    If Power.org is smart about it, and manages to get the major operating systems on board, they could easily make a huge mark on the PC market. I personally wouldn't mind seeing CPUs with the IBM/Freescale logo on it inside my computer. (And if AMD is smart about it, they'll use their previous relationship with IBM to get some Power-based CPUs with their logo on it.)
  • 0 Hide
    compton , November 3, 2010 6:15 AM
    I wondered about the cell. I remember the hype surrounding the PS3 launch and recounted in this article. I wasn't sure what ever became of it aside from the PS. It sounds like it could be useful in a low power setup, maybe you could make some kinda Linux/Cell powered competition to the Atom. I mean, the PS3 already kinda is, except the low power part. I always wanted to try installing Linux on my PS, but didn't try it before updates killed the official option.
  • 6 Hide
    micr0be , November 3, 2010 7:06 AM
    it is important to note that the cell has an architecture designed from the ground up based on SPE (synergistic processing elements) these SPE cores behave differently then standard x86 architecture and are made to be superior in intense gaming mathematical calculations and NOT general day to day multi-tasking and general computing capabilities.

    comparing the Cell processor to either Intel or AMDs current x86 line up would yield extremely poor performance for the former.
  • 0 Hide
    exodite , November 3, 2010 7:07 AM
    The Cell may be interesting from a hardware perspective but unless it's easy, trivial even, to leverage its power into software and user experience it'll continue to elicit shrugs for the foreseeable future.

    I'd actually be surprised if the PS4, whenever it arrives, uses the same architecture. Unless it's aiming to be backwards-compatible, unlikely as that may be.
  • 1 Hide
    Simple11 , November 3, 2010 7:11 AM
    This has been the most mindful, not flaming comments ever to an article.
    Anyhow,
    comptonI wondered about the cell. I remember the hype surrounding the PS3 launch and recounted in this article. I wasn't sure what ever became of it aside from the PS. It sounds like it could be useful in a low power setup, maybe you could make some kinda Linux/Cell powered competition to the Atom. I mean, the PS3 already kinda is, except the low power part. I always wanted to try installing Linux on my PS, but didn't try it before updates killed the official option.


    I am hoping the same thing, I wouldn't mind making a HTPC outta one or even have it in my car.
  • -1 Hide
    K-zon , November 3, 2010 8:02 AM
    I had always thought of the cell proc as a different form of mult-proc, each one cell designed for a specific purpose and use within one core. What i understood. So using the Cell proc say for something its not using for a cell, i think is where the lose is, but gained heavily though with the thoughts of once a cell is used it is used correctly and effectively for its purpose. So there is a slight reduction in need of maybe proc sizes and component uses on a board. But techinally speaking, im not sure. But if anywhere close, then yes, software wise probably more complicated given software would need to be designed around each specific cell then an overall set for the whole cell. Which is about the same of course in some senses but then again not.
  • 4 Hide
    ares1214 , November 3, 2010 8:37 AM
    Cell isnt that impressive because naturally all games get MS/XBOX 360 coding. I believe the cell in the PS 3 is a 7 or 8 "core" CPU, yet since no games are coded to use it like that, only the 1 core gets used. Theres a company that makes PS3 coded games exclusively, and wow, you can really tell the difference.If it picked on with the software, it would be superior,but until then, xbox graphics are better. It would also be nice to see the cell adapted to mainstream use, IBM could be a real power house if they did this and got their own OS/coding from say, Android?
  • 7 Hide
    pandemonium_ctp , November 3, 2010 9:27 AM
    KryanlolWUT?? ps3 >>>> crapbox in terms of graphics. Xbox is for the poor people, hence more will have one than a ps3 and will therefore claim to not see a difference in graphics...


    While I agree that PS3 has higher quality display than Xbox, Xbox is certainly not for the poor people. All consoles are expensive. >.
  • 2 Hide
    whitey_rolls , November 3, 2010 10:04 AM
    The PS3 definitely has more bells and whistle than the original Xbox 360, also ended up with a much higher price tag.

    I remember following these consoles prior to launch and Sony was promising the world with their cell processor. What do they say "under promise, over deliver" .... Sony did the exact opposite.

    I'm not saying the PS3 is bad by any means, but for all the hype I don't see any discernible difference between what the Xbox 360 can do and the PS3.
  • 5 Hide
    ares1214 , November 3, 2010 10:09 AM
    KryanlolWUT?? ps3 >>>> crapbox in terms of graphics. Xbox is for the poor people, hence more will have one than a ps3 and will therefore claim to not see a difference in graphics...


    Not to burst your bubble, but actually most games look better on xbox, some more than others. Very few look better on PS3, FF does, and the games made exclusively for it do as well, but thats pretty much it.
  • 1 Hide
    danny69t , November 3, 2010 10:59 AM
    "Cell-powered toaster" ???
    WTF!?!?! does it get so hot that you can toast bread? =))
  • -6 Hide
    pandemonium_ctp , November 3, 2010 11:00 AM
    ares1214Not to burst your bubble, but actually most games look better on xbox, some more than others. Very few look better on PS3, FF does, and the games made exclusively for it do as well, but thats pretty much it.


    That has to be subjective. PS3 outputs at 1080p, while Xbox is only capable of 720p/1080i.
  • 1 Hide
    rhino13 , November 3, 2010 11:19 AM
    I'm a big fan of the Cell. It's vector processing units allow it to behave as though it has a very modern GPU inspite of the piece of junk nVidia chip it has in there.
    As time goes on I expect that we will continue to see improvement in the graphics on the PS3. I'm looking forward to seeing what else the PS3 can do!
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