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The original 90nm Cell/B.E. package as found in the PlayStation 3  (Source: DailyTech)
PlayStation 3 CPU soon smaller, cooler, cheaper

In the continuing effort to advance production of the Cell Broadband Engine, IBM revealed yesterday at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco plans to migrate the processor to the 45nm high-k process.

The Cell Broadband Engine chip currently found in the latest PlayStation 3 hardware is manufactured on IBM’s 65nm SOI process, which was quietly introduced into the market with the 40GB PS3. The power consumption drop from the original launch model, which used a 90nm Cell/B.E., to the 40GB model made users take notice of the shift in manufacturing process.

The further shrink of the Cell/B.E. to 45nm will reduce power consumption by another 40 percent and die size by 34 percent, helping to cut costs. Current analyst estimates put the cost of manufacture per PlayStation 3 console at around $400, close to the MSRP of the entry-level 40GB console.

Even with the shift to 45nm, Sony may not immediately pass the cost savings onto the consumer. The PlayStation division finally turned a profit for the first time since the PS3 debut, a trend the company likely wishes to continue. In the long run, however, cheaper components pave the way for eventual price drops.

The upcoming 45nm Cell/B.E. benefits not only the PlayStation 3, as the chip in also used IBM Blade servers for industrial applications, such as medical imaging. Toshiba has also adapted the Cell/B.E. technology, which it calls the SpursEngine, for mobile graphical applications.

According to Ars Technica, IBM’s effort in shrinking the Cell/B.E. is done solely with Sony in mind. As the PlayStation 3 is the largest application of Cell/B.E. technology, IBM apparently tailored the smaller chip for cooler and cheaper consoles, rather than for increased performance and functionality. Such is hinted at an IBM document, stating, “To guarantee the proper operation of existing gaming software, the exact cycle-by-cycle machine behavior, including operating frequency, must be preserved.”

Such considerations for Sony by its partners are important for the console maker, as the company itself is getting out of the chip business. On April 1, Sony will be officially handing over control of Cell/B.E. manufacturing facilities to Toshiba. Sony also stated that it will cease R&D efforts on future 32nm chip processes, though it will remain active with Toshiba and IBM on future iterations of the Cell/B.E.

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$299.99 PS3 sometime this year
By TerranMagistrate on 2/7/2008 7:29:57 PM , Rating: 1
My prediction is somewhere around the release of GTA4 or MGS4.

RE: $299.99 PS3 sometime this year
By daftrok on 2/7/2008 9:02:08 PM , Rating: 3
Unlikely. Right now the PS3 is in a very strategic position against its main competition (360). For 50 bucks more than the regular 360, you get:
1) 802.11b/g wireless card
2) Blu ray disc read
3) 20 extra GB
4) Free internet access to play games online (though the 360's online experience is obviously superior)

Now I for one would LOVE a price drop, but at the moment it doesn't make much business sense. Right now the PS3's rate of sales (not total sales) is higher than the 360. On top of that, with the 45nm Cell (in combination with the cheaper Blu ray diode) they can finally start to make a profit out of the PS3 and get back the money they lost with the Immersion deal and the Sony Battery Disaster of 2006.

Once their sales explode alongside its release of stellar exclusives (MGS4, GT5 Prologue, LittleBigPlanet, etc.) and then after that the holiday season, it would be a great time to consider a price drop. Don't forget that in less than a year after its release the price of the PS3 went down 100 bucks (a much needed price drop).

Now if the 360 will bring the price of its consoles down to the holy grail of 199/299/399 and the PS3's sales start to dwindle significantly because of it, then we would see a price drop sooner. Otherwise I wouldn't expect to see one this year (and believe me I hope I'm wrong).

RE: $299.99 PS3 sometime this year
By alifbaa on 2/8/2008 12:18:43 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know...

I read somewhere about an analyst predicting a price drop in April/May of this year. That was right after the last price drop. His premise was that as HD format prices continued to fall, the PS3 would be ideally suited to pick up a lot of customers while simultaneously reducing its per unit costs. With BR being the heir apparent right now and the 2.0 standard finally coming on line, the time is right and the technology is mature enough to put the nail in the format war coffin with a price cut.

To me, a $250 PS3 would be the sweet spot right now. $250 is the price at which people will really start jumping on for the media player/BR player capabilities alone. As a gaming device, it would be in direct competition with the 360 and would offer all the media features as a bonus.

Also, I don't think MS could respond with another price cut. They've hurt themselves too badly with the bad hardware and are already losing money as it is. Any price cut they could muster would surely be modest. I very much doubt that they could take more than $25 off the price without a big infusion of cash from MS' other divisions.

RE: $299.99 PS3 sometime this year
By DingieM on 2/8/2008 3:18:22 AM , Rating: 2
Also, I don't think MS could respond with another price cut. They've hurt themselves too badly with the bad hardware and are already losing money as it is

Maybe you did not read the news that often, bud MS itself is making profit on the Xbox360/games division.
They have a large headstart with the shrinking process and have much cheaper components inside.
Did you read the news that MS had an even higher massive profit? They don't really "loose" money.

Also I continuesly get the feeling you guys only talk about PS3 getting cheaper with die-shrinks, while the Xbox360 is ahead and not standing still, MS will continue to improve the thing because they will and can, it is up to the pressure of the competition when it happens.

A year ago MS was already busy with getting to 45nm and I believe they already had some samples back then.

Wake up.

By PlasmaBomb on 2/8/2008 7:55:21 AM , Rating: 2
MS itself is making profit on the Games Division

That is the important point; Sony has also just started making a profit on the games division. The games division makes a profit on games and licensing. That is how the business plan works.

Chartered have hinted that products designed on the 45nm process - "are not likely to begin [production] until late 2008 or early 2009." (think 45nm Xbox360).

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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