Cool chips give IBM market lead

IBM has unveiled a new line of powerful computers based on breakthroughs it has made in chip design. The new technology reduces chip power consumption, using Silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology. This can be used to extend the battery life of portable products and reduce the heat generated by computers. IBM’s copper technology allows for faster processor speeds.

‘One of the critical aspects of getting computers out quickly to boost performance of the Web is to reduce heat,’ said Envisioneering analyst Richard Doherty. ‘You can only put a certain number of computers in a room before calling someone to put in a new cooling system, which could take months.’

IBM is expected to use the new SOI and copper technologies to make chips for other computer makers. Hewlett Packard has expressed interest in the new technology, as has Compaq, saying that IBM will build Compaq’s Alpha line of computer chips used to run its powerful business computers.

‘IBM and Compaq have signed an agreement in which IBM will manufacture an Alpha copper chip for Compaq,’ said Compaq spokesman Dick Calandrella. IBM introduced copper chips in volume production in 1998, and soon after began making the new chips for Apple Computer Inc. IBM said it is also seeking to use the SOI technology to boost the performance of its more powerful Unix server, the RS/6000 S80, later this year.

‘Other companies have also claimed to be working on SOI, but none that we know of (besides IBM) is yet to the stage of seriously considering it for volume mainstream manufacturing,’ Doherty wrote in a report. Analysts said the new technology, a combination of silicon-on-insulator transistors and copper wiring, gives IBM’s line of AS/400 servers, computers used to manage Web site functions, a nine month lead on the industry.