Sony exits future Cell development

Japanese electronics giant pulls out of research and production facilities for high-powered processor; ramps investment in image-sensor tech.

The Cell processor has been both a boon and a burden for Sony. The high-octane processor at the heart of the PlayStation 3 has given Sony's console a competitive edge in performance potential for the current generation of gaming hardware. However, its development has also inflicted a significant dent on the Japanese electronics giant's bottom line, costing Sony approximately $1.7 billion alone, according to recent estimates by financial news service Bloomberg.

Last month, Sony confirmed speculation that it would be selling its stake in Cell manufacturing plants to development partner Toshiba. Although financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, Bloomberg reported that the deal will raise $860 million for Sony once final details are arrived upon in March 2008.

This week, Nikkei reports that Sony plans to cease participation in the Cell processor's future iterations. Along with partners IBM and Toshiba, Sony has been researching 32nm and 45nm successors to the Cell processor, which is currently made using a 65nm process--an improvement from the original 90nm process. Sony is currently in negotiations with IBM and Toshiba on the exact date and terms of the pullout. The two reportedly plan to continue development on the chips.

Having cut its involvement with the Cell, Sony reportedly plans to ramp up development on CCD and CMOS image-sensor technology, which is most notably used in digital cameras. Nikkei reports that Sony will invest approximately $720 million in the next three years to expand production of image sensors at its plant in Kikuyo Kumamoto Prefecture.

Written By

Discussion

335 comments
mgreco_1988
mgreco_1988

how about we stick to games that have already been released.

gamerkiduri
gamerkiduri

ps3 also has better games.all 360 has is gow2 and halo3 ps3 has mgs4,kz2,r2,infamous,god of war 3 and many more

gamerkiduri
gamerkiduri

with or widout a cellprocessor sony has always been better then ms and 360 is nowhere as gud as ps3

chickenfeed9
chickenfeed9

Just so people know, cell processors are still used in the PS3. Its looking at future incarnations of the cell that have stopped. As in, for a PS3 update, or for a PS4. think of it like a computer producer stopping research into how it can make chips smaller. It will still be making computers, they just wont be getting smaller as time goes by.

ugadog
ugadog

@ autolycus I don't think Sony treats their customers like crap. They certainly expect them to shell out a lot of money, but in general, their customer service certainly is no worse than Microsoft's, with both of them selling systems with known issues. The only company that doesn't release a system until it is ready is Nintendo. And even then not all of their big dreams (64DD anyone?) come to light. I think the DSi will be neat, I will probably get one, but I will probably be a bit disappointed. Anyway, Sony ceasing to make the cell processor sucks for everyone involved. They could not deliver on what they promised.

condelirios
condelirios

This is old news.. but the XBOX 360 and the PS3 both employ versions of the cell processor... with the PS3 model being much more powerful. Sony just purchases them now...instead of helping pay for the research...Microsoft , in a truly MS move, simply bought the tech that Sony helped develop and used an early version of the processor to go live before Sony could finish its Blu-Ray player which is why the 360 came out a year earlier...and why its processor design is a year less speedy.

beardrewz
beardrewz

This is a sign of more bad things to come....hense....so loose the console war and billions of dolllars.....microsoft win. lol its so true about the ps2 chip...hard to develop for.....well done microsoft..you win and sony o sure are heading down the sega end..remember the dreamcast...love that system, loved ecco and sonic! code veronica!

orzornn
orzornn

@ darkride 66 Pretty much everyone I ask has a 360 not a PS3, there's few of my friends that do ( I myself have both ) I love both of the systems but I like my 360 a bit more, but my PC takes the cake from both.. :D

popping4it
popping4it

actually this is a smart move, cell processors are pretty much a dead end.

XAF1
XAF1

I'm not sure if any of this is a good move on Sony's part or not--financially maybe. From listening to this move one would think that Sony is also calling it quits after this generation of the PS3. Its main problem stemmed from one of the same issue that the PS2 had initially --- poor Tools-- making it harder to program for and show its true potential a great deal sooner than later. It's not the cell processor that's the problem put the companies earlier cockiness. The processor is powerful but the tools are weak. So if someone could have come up with a good baseline OS maybe things would have been easier. The main idea is that the chip is ahead of its time in processing power, which is a good thing in a way but not for a console without proper tools and memory allocation. Imagine a PC with a couple of these chips. It will be interesting to see what happens to future chip development. Maybe the next consoles will all use them.

itzmec
itzmec

hmm. so basically, sony is selling the rights(a percentage of sales) to toshiba. a business decision. nothing more

itzmec
itzmec

hmm, so basically, sony is selling its percentage of profits. i guess that makes sense. business decision. nothing more

itzmec
itzmec

hmm, so basically, sony is selling its percentage of profits. i guess that makes sense. business decision. nothing more

neo__jc
neo__jc

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

darkride66
darkride66

Autolycus. It sounds like a bit of revisionist history going on here. I understood that the disc read error on the PS2 was corrected in spring of 2003 and at most only effected 16% of the consoles. Sony did a lot of kicking and screaming before admitting there was a problem, as did MS. Still that's nowhere near the 30-40% of 360's that are failing, and MS has also promised us the problem was fixed a couple of times before admitting that every single unit made prior to July of this year had the same fault. The reason PS3 fans point out this fact is because it's huge. A one in three chance of something happening is good when it's a lotto ticket, bad if it's your console dieing on you. You may not like Sony as a corp, but to many Microsoft has acted like the great satan since it's beginning. I prefer to judge consoles on their own merits, and not the sins of the father. Frankly, I'm having a blast with my 360, but to bury my head in the sand on pretend there's no problems doesn't serve anyone. My PS3, on the other hand, hasn't let me down yet in the quality of their games, the blu-ray experience or the psn, and things continue to look up. You mention in the Milwaukee area no one is interested in the PS3, up here in the great white north I only know one person other than myself who even owns a 360, and I bought it for him! Everyone else I know either has a Wii, PS2, PS3 or is planning on buying a PS3. When I talk to people, the reason is simply no one trusts the hardware with the 360, that's it. 3 year warranty doesn't seem to matter to anyone. Now my social circle is 30 somethings and obviously is not respective of the 360 sales in Canada as a whole, but that certainly tells me something.

Autolycus
Autolycus

One thing is for sure, it much less of an argument now that Sony has dropped their price, even though they have no backwards capability and are stepping on its previous customers that purchased into the Sony theory/dream. Im not saying its a bad system either. Im simply saying I don't buy a PS3 based on how Sony treats its customers, like cr ap. I am tired of sony going publicly, we sold xxx amount of systems, when in all reality, that just means they sold it to warehouses. Maybe its a territorial thing, but NOBODY and I mean NOBODY is interested in PS3's in the Milwaukee, WI area. They have been burned too many times. I spent over an hour trying to explain the resolution problem that PS3's had w/ DVD's and not playing @ the right resolution, but since think that problem has been resolved.And when Sony fanboys go out of their way to point of the XB360 problems, the amount of systems that have failed is still FAR FAR less then ps2's "Disc Read Error" which was because of 2 reasons. The blu backed discs would warm up w/ the 4 eye laser instead of a 5 eye laser (like all other dvd players and "eye" isnt really the right term, its just to dumb it down for everyone else) and somehow the ink particals would end up clogging the lens which would result in "Disc Read Error". I must have had about 10 people a day for 30 days straight, come into our store w/ this problem. Sony was aware of the problem, didnt fix the problem until they got sued and then still went 2 or 3 years old the old "fat" system and finally fixed the problem on the SLIM PS2.Sony, as a corp, is just arrogant, forgetful and NOT thankful for where their fans/consumers have gotten them. Sony thinks it a large enough powerhouse(in the world) to tell other people what to buy, how to buy it, etc etc etc. They can make electronics but with today's market, they are in no position to tell people how things go, just because they say so. Thats what I am, an anti sony fanboy, and its based on what i've seen. Your views may be different and dont let anyone, including sony of myself, tell you otherwise:)

demoralizer
demoralizer

AAA exclusives is good reason to own a console, PS3 seems to be lacking them atm, the Wii as been out in the same duration but has managed some great AAA. It's the quality over quantity that counts. Alot of good PS3 games have been delayed probly due to the difficulty of developing for the cell. Longer Dev time cost extra money for Devs. I think if sony had a chance to do the PS3 over they would of went in a different direction with the processor .

darkride66
darkride66

Autolycus. Ug! I feel for you. I've had 3 break on me and I know that frustration. I'm planning a call to the delightful MS people tonight to find out where my $170 rebate is from the second last break I had. I bought my PS3 at launch knowing the prices would drop, knowing that there would be a lack of titles for the first year but so far I'm happy with my experience thus far. It's almost exactly the same experience as I had with the 360. I paid a price, the price dropped. I played Joust for months because there was nothing else I wanted to play after I finished Condemned and KingKong, but then Gears came out after about a year. The main difference was having to pay the $170 for my first console failure after about 5 months that MS wouldn't cover. They rebated that back, eventually, but that is beyond frustrating. The PS3 was slow at first but seems to be hitting a decent stride now with the titles coming out. I've been buying all my multiconsole titles on the PS3, because I don't 100% trust my 360 anymore, and I haven't had any problems yet. There's only one title I know of that the reviewers lowered their game score from the 360 to the PS3 version, despite the differences and that tells me that ultimately the quality of the games remains unaffected, despite minor graphical discrepancies between versions.

Autolycus
Autolycus

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

darkride66
darkride66

Autolycus said "We do a title count every day on ps3's and they have under 50 games" That's interesting. I count 100 games on metacritic, and only 15 of those are download only games. So I'll ask again, how many games does a system have to have before you'll stop complaining it has "No Games" Is it 100? 120? What is it? And as for multiconsole games, so what? Do you hear Sony fans saying "Oh, COD4 doesn't count as a game on the 360 because it's on the PS3 as well." A great game on two systems is still a great game, end of storey.

Autolycus
Autolycus

Autolycus is obviously a 360 fanboy. --- Nope, i just dont fall for Sony's PR cr ap that spews from there overly loud voice. We do a title count every day on ps3's and they have under 50 games, that they sell in the US, so keep wishing. Most of those are cross platform too.

jocaju
jocaju

Smart move for Sony

darkride66
darkride66

---n00b_kid--- asked "you mean games like Lair and R&C" I never played Lair myself, so I can't say. The reviews kept me away from that one. R&C, yes, it kicks ass. The majority of reviewers would seem to agree with me as well. Any other questions? I'd be surprised if you've ever even seen a PS3. As a gamer I don't understand how anyone who had played on a PS3 could be so anti-PS3. I've found something outstanding on all 3 consoles now and I wouldn't dream of mindlessly bashing any of them. That, apparently, isn't the mindset of half the posters 'round these parts. "LOLz you made me laugh LOL" Yeah, I've got a pretty clear image on my head of the type of person you are to sit at home and laugh out loud at the very notion that R&C might actually be a great game. LOL indeed.

wwonka666
wwonka666

MS employees: 79,000. Sony employees: 163,000. ??? Last time I checked Sony makes lots of appliances, Microsoft makes computer peripherals a videogame machine an MP3 player and is a Software company at heart. Microsoft knew from the get go it wasn't a good idea to do their own development on Processors and to buy them from someone who is in the processor business.

razu_gamer2
razu_gamer2

@noob kid: I meant the processor on its own. Of course the 8800 can outperform the PS3's GPU. Sony rushed it out as believed. @Autolycus: thats what I meant, its unfortunate the Cell was not fully utilized into the PS3.

dpballes
dpballes

Sony never stuck me as a huge chip manufacturer. leave it to IBM.

---n00b_kid---
---n00b_kid---

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

FragManv22
FragManv22

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

FragManv22
FragManv22

Autolycus is obviously a 360 fanboy.

darkride66
darkride66

Autolycus also incorrectly stated "that is the core reason why the PS3 doesnt have a very large libraby" They have over 100 games right now, and I believe the 360 had about 120 or so after their first year. That's a decent sized library, IMO. Quick question. How many games does a console have to have before people stop with the "No games! No games!" complaints. 120? 130? 140? What actual number is it?

darkride66
darkride66

torres_unix. Nice that you checked up on the cell. What does your post have to do with anything? Sony made a business decision to not make their own Cell chips, but to let Toshiba do it. Your post really isn't relevant to this point at all. And to Autolycus' point, Insomniac said that challenge wasn't any different than the learning curve on the PS2. They certainly don't seem to have any problems making fantastic titles, on time, for the PS3. Some complain, others do. I'm still puzzled by torres_unix's post. At any point did I say the cell was to descend from the heaven's and lead us all to the promised land? I don't pretend to know about chip architecture, but I can sure tell you when it's not really relevant to a conversation. There's plenty of forums for those type of things.

incredibilistic
incredibilistic

To kaziechameleon: I don't think Sony's saying that the Cell isn't the future as much as they are pulling out for financial reasons. It's obvious they're struggling with money as the gaming division just posted huge losses. But this is just business people. For all the Sony bashing it's really just a matter of what's better for the business in the future. And what was a great idea yesterday is a horrible decision today (*cough* war in Iraq *cough*). I took the whole "Cell is the future" thing with a grain of salt anyway. There were way too many vaporware promises to go along with the Cell. After two years of hearing about the Cell I have yet to hear about one Cell-enabled TV, toaster, fridge; nothing. Just the PS3. But that's how things go. Even so I don' t that discounts the power that is stored in the chip. If IBM and Toshiba are continuing with the technology there must be something worth salvaging from the partnership. I'd be more worried if the other guys dropped it for something else.

theNexus
theNexus

The only real leader in the 45nm stakes that also is gunning for low power consumption and so of course heat in my opinion if Sony is looking at something different and not IBM would be Intel and you could see intel being keen on a console chip since IBM made a tone of wonger with the current consoles.

torres_unix
torres_unix

Thanks for the clarification Dark_Nexus3367; All this time I'd thought the SPEs were actual cores and not just specific elements of the processor that require the main core to function. They sure behave like SMEs in their own right but programming them is a pain; I hope this processor can be used in the future for developing innovative technologies.

torres_unix
torres_unix

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Dark_Nexus3367
Dark_Nexus3367

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Dark_Nexus3367
Dark_Nexus3367

I think it was smart of Sony to opt out of Cell production, as they should have left it to IBM to begin with. Let the companies that specialize in chip production produce them and just take a slice of the profit for helping create the technology. Also, torres_unix, the SPEs are not cores, they are just processing elements that work with the main core in Cell. That's the problem with it, you need bite sized amounts of data to utilize it properly, which is much harder to work with than processors that can handle much larger amounts at a time. It's a powerful processor when it comes to algorithms and calculations, but it's lackluster for games since the console streams data more than it loads it. The wikipedia definition of the Cell can explain it better than I can, but yes, the Cell would be great for a super computer, but not so good for a game console. Anyways, I wish Sony the best with the image sensor technology they are investing in, and hope the Cell can still be utilized for other pieces of technology that will put it to good use.

Autolycus
Autolycus

torres_unix that is the core reason why the PS3 doesnt have a very large libraby. You would think they would release and IDE and compiler to make it a million times easier.

kaziechameleon
kaziechameleon

um, i thought cell was the way of the future that is what sony told it's consumers, guess they were wrong. @oytocin, nice portal reference.

Standard_222
Standard_222

@ torres_unix: Now there's something I love to see. A good comment with fact based research to back it up. What you say is correct and that's exactly what the developers are complaining about now, hence the long development times.

oxytocin
oxytocin

And then there will be cake.

oxytocin
oxytocin

And then there will be cake.

torres_unix
torres_unix

Thanks DarkRide66. I've read technical papers on the Cell and in order to harness true power from it you must program each SPE (core) separately per well profiled algorithms that could be categorized as running repetitive tasks. http://www.blachford.info/computer/Cell/Cell0_v2.html After trying to write a few examples on my PS3 I found that although the power gain is significant, the coding time must be multiplied by a factor of at least 4.

Autolycus
Autolycus

Because i've thoroughly research the Cell processor and i've seen Sony pull more of their "we are superior to everyone" techniques and expect customers to pay for it. The Cell was great on paper, but releasing a processor this late into the technology timeline with OOP has been around for so long and expecting developers to learned all new logic processing because Sony said so, is pigheaded. My only beef w/ the ps3, is that its main purpose is BLURAY and nothing else.

Dark_Link87
Dark_Link87

now ill just wait for toshiba playstaion 3 version lol jk

darkride66
darkride66

torres_unix asked "Could this be the acknowledgment to a mistake from Sony's part?" I certainly think it was a mistake. I have nothing against Sony partnering up to do R&D, this has served them well for decades, but they should leave the actual manufacturing of the chips to people who make that their business. In the end it certainly appears that's the decision that Sony made.

torres_unix
torres_unix

Could this be the acknowledgment to a mistake from Sony's part?

bwgamer
bwgamer

I have to say this for all the haters saying the Cell is worhtless. Obviously that isn't the case since IBM and Toshiba were willing to purchase it from Sony. We'll see what happens in the future with the Cell, but for Sony they must solve the problems of today and start cutting costs. With cutting out the Cell from their production lines it's a good start for them. Sony just took on a little more then they could handle. Hopefully 2008 will be a great year for the PS3.