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Motorola Inc and IBM Corp today unveil the PowerPC 603, the second – low power consumption – member of the RISC processor family. The new chip, which has already begun sampling to the chosen few, has comparable performance to the PowerPC 601, is smaller and only draws 3W when running flat-out at 80MHz, compared with 9W for a 66MHz 601. The 603 – designed with Apple Computer Inc – will also be cheaper than its predecessor, though exact pricing is not being announced. The new part begins sampling properly in the first quarter next year, with volume production set for the second half; it is being made by Motorola in Austin and IBM in Burlington, Vermont. Once it is out, it is likely that the PowerPC 601 will be consigned to a niche – the only real benefit of the older chip is its intelligent cacheing support for multiprocessing and a marginally better floating point performance. Experience benefitted the designers of the second generation chip and it is done in 1.6m transistors, compared with 2.8m for the 601. The reduction is partly due to the simplified cache, but the rest is down to cleaning up the design, according to Motorola. Similarly die-size is down to 85mm from 120mm square and the pin count drops to 240 from 304. Inside, a number of techniques are used to cut power use: in automatic power management mode the chip dynamically switches parts of itself (such as the floating point unit) into a power-saving mode, when not needed. There is no performance hit from this, says Motorola. The programmer can also issue a command to change clock speed dynamically in mid-application, in multiples of the bus speed up to four. At the moment the maximum guaranteed internal speed is 80MHz, though this is likely to be upped in future. Apart from its role in personal computers, the 603 has been designed to be the core for embedded processing. The 604 successor to the 601 is also due to ship next year, together with first silicon on the 64-bit 620. There is still no direct confirmation from Motorola and friends that Windows NT is being done for PowerPC – Motorola is said to be doing the work but there were strong hints that a PowerPC machine running the Microsoft Corp operating system will make its debut at the Comdex/Spring show.

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