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ARM sneak-peeks future chips

The Network Computer isn't even out yet, but the device's chip supplier ARM is already working on improvements.

Advanced RISC Machines is already at work on a new version of the chip that will power Oracle's $500 Network Computer, a version that will run enhanced 3D graphics and boost Java performance.

The company today laid out a road map for future models of the ARM7500, the "multimedia system on a chip" that is the heart of the Network Computer (NC) architecture. This summer, Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) will release the first working batch of the ARM7500FE, an upgrade that will add a floating point chip and an increase in memory bandwidth, running at 40 MHz compared to the 7500's 32 MHz. Volume production of the chip should follow three to six months later, according to ARM, which expects the 7500FE to be priced slightly higher than the 7500.

Oracle officials were not available to comment on its plans for integration of the new version, but ARM representatives implied that Oracle is interested in the new chip. "Officially, I can't comment on Oracle's product plans, but we've been working closely with Oracle on development and design of the 7500FE," said Trent Poltronetti, ARM's marketing and communications manager.

Oracle's chairman Larry Ellison has stated that the ARM7500's low price was a key to the NC's low production cost and that the two companies should continue to collaborate on the project.

ARM said today that it also plans to release a ARM8500 chip next year that will double the chip's performance.

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