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New Xbox has IBM chips

By Bob Freund

freund@postbulletin.com

The IBM engineers who designed the Xbox 360 video game systems won't get to sign the case, like an artist might a picture. But at least they can enjoy some informal bragging rights.

IBM's Engineering &; Technology Services unit, which bases much of its design force at Rochester, quickly is becoming the chip designer for a generation of game systems.

E&TS; acts as IBM's technology-for-hire business. Its experts work on jobs provided by other companies, most notably electronics manufacturers.

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More than 200 engineers from E&TS; worked on putting together the processing chip inside Microsoft's new Xbox 360 system since September 2003, said Andy Schram, program manager for development of the Xbox 360's central processing unit.

Another E&TS; group contributed to the new Cell chip for the makers of the PlayStation 3, announced earlier this year by Sony Group. While the main work for the cell chip was done at an IBM center in Austin, Texas, somewhere between 90 and 120 Rochester engineers designed important parts, including the data channels connecting the cores.

"We also do the Nintendo GameCube and the follow-on to that, which is called 'Revolution,'" Schram said.

The PlayStation 3 and Revolution systems debut in 2006.

Xbox 360 will be in stores in time for the holiday shopping season.

It's a hot buy already. One news service last week reported that some Web sites already have sold out allotments.

"The thing that differentiates this from other internal projects is ... most people don't know what an iSeries server is; everybody in Rochester will know what an Xbox 360 is," Schram said.

He expects the Xbox to be underneath trees in many designers' homes.

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"It's something you can take home and show your kids, for sure," Schram. "We'll be very popular around Christmas."

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