IBM's NCs Breathe New Life into PowerPCs

Rebuffing reports that the death knell has sounded for the beleaguered PowerPC processor, IBM plans to feature an embedded version of the RISC-based chip in its forthcoming version of the network computer.

Company officials, reiterating their support for the use of the PowerPC chip in their Network Station, said the PowerPC 403G processor, which can be upgraded to the PowerPC 603 chip, will constitute the core of its line of Network Station NCs.

In addition, the company is offering OEMs an NC development kit based on its own reference platform that includes software, hardware, and the PowerPC 603 processor for use in an NC. IBM officials said no OEMs have licensed the development kit yet.

IBM's Network Stations have recently entered pilot testing among selected corporate sites and are on target for volume shipping in the first quarter of 1997, according to John Reilly, a spokesman for IBM's newly formed NC Division.

The Network Station is the first of several types of NCs that IBM plans to market.

Although the PowerPC chip will be used in IBM's NCs, the company's decision two weeks ago to halt future support of Windows NT for its PowerPC-based RS/6000 line touched off speculation that the chip's popularity could be waning.

"No, PowerPC is not dead," insisted one IBM representative.

IBM isn't the only player eyeing the PowerPC chip as the foundation for an NC. Motorola officials said they are looking at the IBM-promoted NC reference platform, as well as evaluating support for a PowerPC-based Windows CE hand-held device.

Motorola declined to be specific about either proposition. However, industry analysts said that it is most likely, at least initially, that Motorola's NC and Windows CE efforts will be chip-driven.

"I don't think you will see them actually doing their own device right now," said Diana Hwang, hand-held computing analyst for International Data Corp., in Framingham, Massachusetts. "I think their involvement will be just at the chip level, and where they are at right now, that makes sense."

IBM, in Somers, New York, can be reached at (800) 426-3333. Motorola, in Schaumburg, Illinois, can be reached at +1 (847) 576-5000.

-- IBM officials said they chose the PowerPC chip for their NCs because of its easy scalability.

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