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Sony Moving Away from Cell-based PS4

Impress Watch technology writer says Sony is looking at general PC multicore solution.


Technology writer Hiroshige Goto has shared a few insider tips on the future of the PlayStation brand in the latest installment of his Weekly Overseas News column at Impress Watch.

Previously, Goto reported that Sony was looking both into a Cell-based and Intel Larrabee-based architecture for PlayStation 4.

Regarding Larrabee, in summer 2008, Sony began looking at the architecture, apparently because high ranking officials at Sony had expressed interest. Now, it appears that Larrabee is out of contention due to 3D graphics pipeline performance issues and low power efficiency.

Regarding Cell, some time in 2008, the company asked game publishers what they'd want of a Cell-based PS4 in terms of number of SPU co-processors and what kind of programming difficulties they've been having with the current design.

According to Goto, Sony, IBM and Toshiba recognized some of the problems programmers were having with Cell and, early on, came up with a couple of plans for fixing the issues. Included in these was a plan for something that was at one point called "SPU2." This new version of the SPU would shift the 256 kilobyte local store space that's included on each SPU chip into the role of a hardware management cache, allowing the SPUs direct access to main memory and allowing programmers to program for a single memory space, similar to a standard PC CPU (for Japanese readers, the original article explains this in much greater detail).

Goto says there are signs that some time this summer, Sony was looking into using this updated SPU design in the core of the PS4. At the very least, he says, the design was a strong candidate.

However, he's recently started hearing about other plans. While he's unable to get into the specifics, at a broad level, the new plans call for a PC-like multicore setup.

Goto also provided a few guesses as to when we'll see the next generation of hardwaree. He believes that because Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, are looking into architecture solutions now in 2009, the next generation will come around 2012. The reason for this is that it takes 24 months to take a system from concept to production.

In addition, he expects next generation portable systems like PSP2 to precede the release of next generation consoles.

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