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AMD, IBM in chip-making alliance

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and IBM disclosed last week that they would be collaborating on the development of new processing technologies for future high-performance products.

The two chipmakers have agreed to work together on new processes aimed at ''improving microprocessor performance and reducing power consumption.'' These new technologies will be based on advanced structures and materials, such as high-speed silicon-on-insulator (SOI) transistors, copper interconnects and improved 'low-k dielectric' insulation, the companies said.

The agreement calls for collaboration on the development of extremely small 65 nanometer (nm) and 45nm process technologies, which would be implemented on 300mm silicon wafers. (A nanometer is a billionth of a meter; the size of the process technology refers to the width of the smallest wire on the chip. The most advanced processors on the market today are built using 130nm process technology.)

AMD, IBM and Intel are all currently working on 90nm process technologies, considered the next step in the evolution of the chip-making process. Intel is expected to release a version of its Pentium 4 desktop processor built with the 90nm process in the second half of this year. But production on AMD's 90nm products won't begin until the fourth quarter of 2003, according to company representatives, which means that the chips won't reach the market until the first quarter of 2004.

AMD and IBM have worked together on projects in the past, jointly developing the SOI technology that is expected to be part of new processors based on AMD's Hammer architecture. This new collaboration could help AMD compete against archrival Intel's manufacturing capacity.

''By collaborating with an industry leader like IBM, AMD can deliver industry-leading performance and functionality for our customers while reducing the rapidly escalating cost of technology development,'' said Bill Siegle, senior vice president, technology operations and chief scientist at AMD.

According to the agreement, AMD and IBM will be able to use the jointly developed technologies to manufacture products in their own chip fabrication facilities and in conjunction with selected manufacturing partners. The companies expect first products based on the new 65nm technologies to appear in 2005.

AMD and IBM engineers working together in Big Blue's Semiconductor Research and Development Center in the company's East Fishkill, N.Y., facility will carry out the joint project. Work is expected to begin by January 30, 2003.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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