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Software developer kit for Cell chip

Kit includes extensions for optimizing the processor for Linux applications and other features.

The triad behind the Cell processor has released a software developer kit for the chip to help foster its popularity.

The kit, which contains more than 1,000 pages of documentation, includes extensions for optimizing the chip for Linux applications and other features.

Jointly developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba, the Cell processor is designed to handle complex, graphics-intensive applications better than standard processors. The chip is built around a PowerPC core, but contains eight helper processors that can handle audio, video and other tasks.

Sony will insert the chip into the PlayStation 3, while Toshiba will put it into televisions.

Over time, the companies hope to get derivatives of the chip into everything from cell phones to supercomputers. Earlier this year, the first company outside the IBM-Sony-Toshiba group, Mercury Computer Systems, agreed to put the chip inside its workstations.

Still, despite some of the touted advantages of Cell, the triad will likely have to perform quite a bit of grunt work, including putting out things like the developer kit, to push the chip toward market acceptance. Skeptics note that cell phone makers and others can already chose from a wide variety of high-performance microprocessors that are far more familiar than Cell.