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Nintendo, IBM team up on Dolphin

Nintendo will use an IBM PowerPC processor in its next-generation gaming console, under a contract that could be worth as much as $1 billion.

Nintendo officially announced that it will use an IBM PowerPC processor to power its next-generation gaming console under a contract that could be worth as much as $1 billion.

Nintendo's new gaming system, code-named Dolphin, will be one of several hybrid machines coming to the market late this year and in 2000, blurring the line between game consoles and home PCs. Such new systems will feature not only great graphics and fast processors, but also DVD drives, modems, browsing capabilities, software compatibility, and other accessories that will allow them to perform many of the functions associated with multimedia home computers.

Sony's PlayStation 2, for instance, can be configured with a DVD drive, high speed Rambus memory, USB ports, digital surround sound, and an "Emotion" processor that will outperform a Pentium III in certain respects, according to analysts. It arrives in late 2000.

Dreamcast from Sega, which comes to the United States in September, boasts web browsing, email, and compatibility with Windows CE.

Dolphin, which arrives in time for the holidays in 2000, will be distinguished by its processor. The system will come with a copper 400-MHz PowerPC chip, code-named Gekko, that is similar to the highest-speed processor used currently in Apple computer systems. The contract could amount to sales of up to $1 billion in processors, according to IBM.

"Nintendo's ongoing commitment is to provide game developers with industry-leading technology to create new game experiences for our players," said Howard Lincoln, chairman, Nintendo of America, in a prepared statement.

The Dolphin system will also incorporate a graphics processor from Artx.

Currently, Nintendo incorporates a processor designed by MIPS Technologies in its Nintendo 64 consoles. MIPS currently gets 75 percent of its revenue from Nintendo.

While the loss of the contract will impact the revenue mix, MIPS representatives are quick to point out that they will not be absent form the console wars. Their designs form the basis of Sony's Emotion chip.