U.S.-based computer maker International Business Machines (IBM) is observing a sea change in chip design: The industry is approaching the limits of the gains it can wring out of hardware advances, executives say. Future chip improvements will need to come from better integration of chips with the systems they run, in IBM's view.
"Integration eclipses gigahertz, going forward," says Bernie Meyerson, who heads IBM's semiconductor development. "You can't make things smaller forever. What happens when the individual layers in your transistor get down to the dimensions of what they're made out of, which is, roughly, atoms?"
IBM plans to address that challenge with two approaches that have been a foundation of its corporate strategy since Sam Palmisano took control as IBM's chief executive. First, it will abide by its "on-demand" mantra and focus on a flexible, holistic approach to chip design, treating software, and other system components as key to technical advancements, says Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM vice president of technology and strategy. Secondly, it will work closely with outside partners.
Toward that end, IBM has announced new licensing and manufacturing options and plans to build a community of development partners around its Power architecture. Sony, which has licensed the Power technology for use in future consumer electronics, will work with IBM to customize the chips it uses. (IDG News Service)
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