Introducing its Tsunami MicroSparc chip last week (CI No 2,025), Texas Instruments Inc says it is prepared to turn out tens of thousands of these parts a month starting in the current quarter. Tsunami is aggressively priced at $179 apiece in quantities of 10,000 and will be freely available to all comers rather than a proprietary Sun technology. Texas started taking orders worldwide on October 9 with production volumes slated to ship in 12 to 14 weeks. The highly-integrated 800,000-transistor CMOS 50MHz single-chip silicon is rated in excess of 40 MIPS, 10 MFLOPS, 20-23 SPECint(92) and 15-18 SPECfp(92) without special compilers. Compared to with Intel Corp’s 50MHz 80486 currently used in a high-end personal computer, it is claimed to deliver twice the MFLOPS capacity at less than 40% of the price. Its use could spur a battery of commercial workstations for under $5,000 from Hyundai Electronics America and Sun Microsystems Inc among others. Texas has been sampling since August and indicates a high degree of interest in Tsunami as an X-terminal centrepiece. Sparc has never been used for that before, although Sun, and now C Itoh Electronics are believed to be building one. Tsunami’s low 3.5V power requirement, TAB packaging and 0.125 height off the circuit board make it ideal for portables and notebook, and Tadpole Technology Plc, the Sparc laptop house, has designs on it. Sun is expected to introduce its first Tsunami-based boxes on November 10. They will doubtless put pressure on Sun’s pricier IPX technology with its 29 chip count. Texas said that in the first quarter it will start adding Tsunami derivatives, differentiating features such as cache size, floating point and Sbus according to customer demand. Texas believes the Tsunami design is good for two to three years and up to 100 MIPS. Whether Texas eventually produces higher performance Tsunamis remains to be seen. Fujitsu Ltd is thought to be doing a 75MHz part supposedly called Tsunami Plus, but it still has no contract with Sun.
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