Sony chip to transform video-game industry TECHNOLOGY ENVISIONS ALL-IN-ONE BOX FOR HOME By Dean Takahashi Mercury News Sony's next-generation video-game console, due in just two years, will feature a revolutionary architecture that will allow it to pack the processing power of a hundred of today's personal computers on a single chip and tap the resources of additional computers using high-speed network connections. If key technical hurdles are overcome, the ``cell microprocessor'' technology, described in a patent Sony quietly secured in September, could help the Japanese electronics giant achieve the industry's holy grail: a cheap, all-in-one box for the home that can record television shows, surf the Net in 3-D, play music and run movie-like video games. Besides the PlayStation 3 game console, Sony and its partners, IBM and Toshiba, hope to use the same basic chip design -- which organizes small groups of microprocessors to work together like bees in a hive -- for a range of computing devices, from tiny handheld personal digital assistants to the largest corporate servers. If the partners succeed in crafting such a modular, all-purpose chip, it would challenge the dominance of Intel and other chip makers that make specialized chips for each kind of electronic device. ``This is a new class of beast,'' said Richard Doherty, an analyst at the Envisioneering Group in Seaford, N.Y. ``There is nothing like this project when it comes to how far-reaching it will be.'' Game industry insiders became aware of Sony's patent in the past few weeks, and the technology is expected to be a hot topic at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose this week. Since it can take a couple of years to write a game for a new system, developers will be pressing Sony and its rivals for technical details of their upcoming boxes, which are scheduled to debut in 2005. Ken Kutaragi, head of Sony's game division and mastermind of the company's last two game boxes, is betting that in an era of networked devices, many distributed processors working together will be able to outperform a single processor, such as the Pentium chip at the heart of most PCs. With the PS 3, Sony will apparently put 72 processors on a single chip: eight PowerPC microprocessors, each of which controls eight auxiliary processors. Using sophisticated software to manage the workload, the PowerPC processors will divide complicated problems into smaller tasks and tap as many of the auxiliary processors as necessary to tackle them. ``The cell processors won't work alone,'' Doherty said. ``They will work in teams to handle the tasks at hand, no matter whether it is processing a video game or communications.'' As soon as each processor or team finishes its job, it will be immediately redeployed to do something else. Such complex, on-the-fly coordination is a technical challenge, and not just for Sony. Game developers warn that the cell chips do so many things at once that it could be a nightmare writing programs for them -- the same complaint they originally had about the PlayStation 2, Sony's current game console. Tim Sweeney, chief executive of Epic Games in Raleigh, N.C., said that programming games for the PS 3 will be far more complicated than for the PS 2 because the programmer will have to keep track of all the tasks being performed by dozens of processors. ``I can't imagine how you will actually program it,'' he said. ``You do all these tasks in parallel, but the results of one task may affect the results of another task.'' But Sony and its partners believe that if they can coordinate those processors at maximum efficiency, the PS 3 will be able to process a trillion math operations per second -- the equivalent of 100 Intel Pentium 4 chips and 1,000 times faster than processing power of the PS 2. That kind of power would likely enable the PS 3 to simultaneously handle a wide range of electronic tasks in the home. For example, the kids might be able to race each other in a Grand Prix video game while Dad records an episode of ``The Simpsons.'' ``The home server and the PS 3 may be the same thing,'' said Kunitake Ando, president and chief operating officer of Sony, at a recent dinner in Las Vegas. Sony officials said that one key feature of the cell design is that if a device doesn't have enough processing power itself to handle everything, it can reach out to unused processors across the Internet and tap them for help. Peter Glaskowsky, editor of the Microprocessor Report, said Sony is ``being too ambitious'' with the networked aspect of the cell design because even the fastest Internet connections are usually way too slow to coordinate tasks efficiently. The cell chips are due to begin production in 2004, and the PS 3 console is expected to be ready at the same time that Nintendo and Microsoft launch their next-generation-game consoles in 2005. Nintendo will likely focus on making a pure game box, but Microsoft, like Sony, envisions its next game console as a universal digital box. A big risk for Sony and its allies is that in their quest to create a universal cell-based chip, they might compromise the PS 3's core video-game functionality. Chips suitable for a handheld, for example, might not be powerful enough to handle gaming tasks. Sony has tried to address this problem by making the cell design modular; it can add more processors for a server, or use fewer of them in a handheld device. ``We plan to use the cell chips in other things besides the PlayStation 3,'' Ando said. ``IBM will use it in servers, and Toshiba will use it in consumer devices. You'd be surprised how much we are working on it now.'' But observers remain skeptical. ``It's very hard to use a special-purpose design across a lot of products, and this sounds like a very special-purpose chip,'' Glaskowsky said. The processors will be primed for operation in a broadband, Net-connected environment and will be connected by a next-generation high-speed technology developed by Rambus of Los Altos. Nintendo and Microsoft say they won't lag behind Sony on technology, nor will they be late in deploying their own next-generation systems. While the outcome is murky now, analyst Doherty said that a few things are clear: ``Games are the engine of the next big wave of computing. Kutaragi is the dance master, and Sony is calling the shots.'' Fonte: http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/5311288.htm Um trilião de operações por segundo.. é um projecto MUITO ambicioso.. mesmo para 2005.. Eu nunca sei se hei-de por isto aqui ou no jogos, acho que é aqui.