IBM unveils power-paring chip

IBM Corp. unveiled an ultra-low power chip Friday that it said will reduce power consumption in battery-operated portable consumer electronic devices and improve power efficiency, both in active and standby modes.

The new IBM Power PC 405LP chip is the first in what will be a family of products developed in the company's Low-Power Computing Research Center at IBM's Austin Research Laboratory in Texas.

By using hardware accelerators, the chip off-loads processor demands, enabling it to shut off parts of the device that are not in use. The 405LP also reduces active power by scaling back the processor performance to the levels required to support the application. Additionally, the chip also has a mode in which power is reduced to almost zero, but still provides an "instant-on" response to external stimulus, such as a stylus pen.

IBM estimates that the 405LP's power conserving features and innovative build, utilizing new materials such as copper wire and silicon-on-insulator technology, will allow products to consume 10 times less power than they do today. The company's rally around low-power products comes amid increasing calls for expanded functionality and efficiency in third-generation devices.

IBM is currently working with a number of consumer electronics companies, such as PDA (personal digital assistant) and next-generation cell phone providers, to incorporate the new chip, a company spokesman said Friday.

The 405LP will be incorporated in sample designs by the first quarter of next year and will be available globally in the consumer market later next year, he said.

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