Home > Developer, Gaming, Hardware, Operating Systems, PS3, Software, Xbox > Playing the Fewl: The Rat Race for a New Game Machine.

Playing the Fewl: The Rat Race for a New Game Machine.

January 4th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Cell ProcessorA new book titled The Race for a New Game Machine: Creating the Chips Inside the XBox 360 and the Playstation 3 was released on the 1st of Jannuary this year that looks into the development of the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Sony Playstation 3 which, as it turned out in the end, were both developed by the IBM Corporation.

The authors of the book, David Shippy (who was the man behind the brains of the Cell) and his co-worker, Mickie Phipps goes into the depths of nerdisms to give an insight into the development of The Cell processor. From the Wall Street Journal review:

When the companies entered into their partnership in 2001, Sony, Toshiba and IBM committed themselves to spending $400 million over five years to design the Cell, not counting the millions of dollars it would take to build two production facilities for making the chip itself. IBM provided the bulk of the manpower, with the design team headquartered at its Austin, Texas, offices. Sony and Toshiba sent teams of engineers to Austin to live and work with their partners in an effort to have the Cell ready for the Playstation 3’s target launch, Christmas 2005.

But a funny thing happened along the way: A new “partner” entered the picture. In late 2002, Microsoft approached IBM about making the chip for Microsoft’s rival game console, the (as yet unnamed) Xbox 360. In 2003, IBM’s Adam Bennett showed Microsoft specs for the still-in-development Cell core. Microsoft was interested and contracted with IBM for their own chip, to be built around the core that IBM was still building with Sony.

All three of the original partners had agreed that IBM would eventually sell the Cell to other clients. But it does not seem to have occurred to Sony that IBM would sell key parts of the Cell before it was complete and to Sony’s primary videogame-console competitor. The result was that Sony’s R&D money was spent creating a component for Microsoft to use against it.

And here’s the real kicker.

Mr. Shippy and Ms. Phipps detail the resulting absurdity: IBM employees hiding their work from Sony and Toshiba engineers in the cubicles next to them; the Xbox chip being tested a few floors above the Cell design teams. Mr. Shippy says that he felt “contaminated” as he sat down with the Microsoft engineers, helping them to sketch out their architectural requirements with lessons learned from his earlier work on Playstation.

The deal only got worse for Sony. Both designs were delivered on time to IBM’s manufacturing division, but there was a problem with the first chip run. Microsoft had had the foresight to order backup manufacturing capacity from a third party. Sony did not and had to wait another six weeks to get their first chips. So Microsoft actually got the chip that Sony helped design before Sony did. In the end, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 hit its target launch in November 2005, becoming its own success. Because of various delays, the Playstation 3 was pushed back a full year.

The book (which arrived on Friday!) goes into all the juicy bits that lead up to the delivery of both processors, well worth the $14USD its listed for on Amazon. Whilst I havent finished the entire book yet, thus far its full of twists and corporate musings and tricks with an interesting look at the teams and people that made these two products possible in the end. You’ll be hooked from the first page – I guarantee it.

{lang: 'en-GB'}
Share
  1. January 9th, 2009 at 14:25 | #1

    I think it is quite interesting, and I knew Microsoft were filled with evil geniuses!

  1. No trackbacks yet.