TSMC to make Xbox chips for Microsoft

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), the world's largest contract manufacturer of semiconductors, will make chips for the next generation of Microsoft's Xbox game console.

TSMC will manufacture system-on-chip (SOC) semiconductors for future versions of Microsoft's Xbox console. SOCs are highly specialised chips that integrate multiple electronic components required for a product on a single piece of silicon.

The manufacturing agreement also gave Microsoft "direct access" to TSMC's process technology, the companies said. The SOCs will be manufactured by TSMC, using its Nexsys technology.

Nexsys is the brand name that TSMC has given to its most advanced process technologies, including the 90-nanometre process that is currently in pilot production and its 65-nanometre process, which is still in development.

The most advanced process technology used by TSMC for commercial production is its 130-nanometre process.

A spokesperson for TSMC in Hsinchu, Taiwan, J.H. Tzeng, declined to comment on the specific process that would be used to make the Xbox chips.

He did not disclose whether the SOCs that TSMC will produce would be designed by Microsoft or another company.

If the Xbox chips are made using a 65-nanometre process, that would match the technology that Sony plans to use for production of its Cell microprocessor, which will be used in the company's PlayStation 3 game console.

While the first generation of the Xbox mainly uses off-the-shelf PC components, Microsoft has taken a more active role in the development of chips for the next generation of its game console.

In November, the company announced that it had signed technology licensing deals with several companies, including graphics chip vendor ATI Technologies, chipset vendor Silicon Integrated Systems and IBM, which makes the Power PC processor. Those licensing agreements enable Microsoft to incorporate technology from these companies into SOCs for the next generation of the Xbox.

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