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350-MHz PowerPC chips in works

Motorola and IBM are gearing up to produce next-generation PowerPC processors of speeds up to 350 MHz.

Motorola's RISC Microprocessor Division and IBM's Microelectronics Division are gearing up to produce next-generation PowerPC processors that will reach speeds of 350-MHz and beyond with leading-edge technology.

Motorola and IBM are now manufacturing a 250-MHz PowerPC 604e chip using what is known as the ".25 micron" manufacturing process. The new process will enable both companies to manufacture chips for use in high-end desktops that use less power, generate less heat, and perform better.

The 604e processor is targeted at higher-end PowerPC computer systems and is roughly analagous to Intel's Pentium Pro and Pentium II chips as far as the market segments it is targeted at.

Initially, there will be a price disparity between the two companies products even though they are being manufactured with similar technology; Motorola is asking $395 in quantities of 1,000 for its 250-MHz 604e, while IBM has priced its 250-MHz 604e at $720 in batches of 1,000.

IBM has already produced a 250-MHz 604e, but the manufacturing technology was a hybrid with older technologies, according to the company. Possibly this summer, the companies are expected to bring out 604e PowerPC processors manufactured using the new technology running as fast as 350 MHz.

For now, by showing that they can mass-produce a 250-MHz 604e with advanced technology, Motorola and IBM hope to show that the 604e PowerPC architecture will continue to stay relatively even with Intel in the performance race. Some industry observers, however, say the 604e outdoes its Intel counterparts since the chip's floating point performance--important for scientific and engineering applications--is better than the Pentium Pro or Pentium II.

Intel offers Pentium II processors at speeds of 233, 266, and 300 MHz. Its Pentium Pro peaks at 200 MHz. (Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.)

The new .25 micron manufacturing process is expected to be a key technology that will be used in next-generation PowerPC processors code-name G3, enabling speeds of beyond 400-MHz. Motorola is planning to introduce new systems with the first of the G3 PowerPC processors at Macworld Boston in August, according to sources close to the company.

The G3 is expected to debut at speeds below 300 MHz but is expected to eventually speed up to 400 MHz. A 300-MHz PowerPC 603e is already available, but the G3 will be able to offer better performance than the comparable 603e.