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June 14, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

IBM Corp and Motorola Inc are going their separate ways on PowerPC after Big Blue sold its share of the Somerset design team to Motorola on undisclosed terms. It looks like bad news for Apple Computer Inc, which buys chips from both, although the company denies it, claiming it is a non-event for us. We’ll now have two strong vendors designing for PowerPCs. Hints of the split first appeared in the headlines last month when Motorola Inc separately announced its plans for new AltiVec multimedia instructions for the PowerPC, which IBM refused to endorse (CI No 3,406). IBM sources said the main reasons for the sale were that Motorola’s less advanced manufacturing processes are slowing its ability to design new architectural features and that the PowerPC corn market is gone. Apple is the sole volume customer of PowerPC chips and Apple has already demonstrated PowerPC chips built in IBM’s copper process – Motorola does not yet have its copper manufacturing process ready to roll despite all of its noise on the subject. Somerset only exists to design parts for Apple and both IBM and Motorola already have their own separate PowerPC design groups. Motorola says it will adhere to the PowerPC roadmap the two outlined outlined in 1996 and build a more beefy semiconductor business around its conventional and advanced embedded PowerPC designs. IBM says it will present new PowerPC roadmaps for the CPUs it uses in its four servers lines, for Apple and for the embedded PowerPC market where it acknowledges Motorola has the edge. PowerPC it says, is now a customer-specific part. The two will retain an architectural review board to maintain ABI compatibility. Intel, Sun and other parts of the industry are to see the news as the writing on the wall for PowerPC. Motorola says using the PowerPC architecture to develop products for the embedded-chip market is its primary concern. We’ll use the resources at Somerset to develop more products, primarily the embedded chips that go into the high-end routing and digital switching products, said Will Swearingen, strategic marketing manager for PowerPC at Motorola. IBM won’t be supporting Motorola’s AltiVec extensions, so those parts of applications written to take advantage of them simply won’t run on IBM’s PowerPC.

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