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July 11, 1991

SINGLE-CHIP POWER PC RIOS VERSION RAISES CONCERN OVER FUTURE OF 88000

By CBR Staff Writer

The letter of intent between IBM Corp and Apple Computer Inc, with its Motorola Inc sidebar, calls for the development of a single-chip implementation of the seven custom VLSI chips that are currently spread over multiple boards in IBM’s RS/6000 Rios RISC processor, an idea that did the rounds back in February. It’s dubbed the Power PC microprocessor, and Motorola will collaborate on the design of the chip, and will be a second source for the part, which it will also market to third parties. This part of the agreement – thought to be the area that stalled the talks two weeks ago – throws Motorola’s RISC plans into uncertainty. While Apple’s Christopher Isher said that the firm had never committed to going with Motorola’s 88000 RISC chip, he says it will continue to support the 68000 family. Although Motorola has only a couple of major-league system-builders backing its RISC part, the next version of the processor, the 88110, which does 80-bit arithmetic and includes enhanced graphics functionality, appears to have been engineered almost expressly for use by Apple, and it may well be that Apple will still go ahead with a Macintosh system built around it. The 88110 is scheduled to sample by the end of the summer, with volumes expected by late this year or early 1992. Motorola is understood to have been in on the IBM-Apple talks from the start, and while it says it is still committed to the 88000, that the Power PC will be an additional product that will not conflict with its existing processor line, 88open, the group of companies supporting the 88000 said it was disappointed by the announcement. It certainly raises a question mark over the future of the 88000 as a CPU, used by the likes of Data General Corp and Unisys Corp, although the microcontroller version’s future has been assured by a major deal with Ford Motor Co.

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