Rebuffing reports that the death knell has sounded for the beleagured PowerPC processor, IBM says it plans to feature the chip in the company's forthcoming version of the network computer.
Company officials said the PowerPC 603 chip will constitute the core of its line of Network Station NCs - the low-cost devices that rely on servers to store and execute applications.
IBM's Network Stations have recently entered pilot testing among selected corporate sites and are on target for volume shipping early in the first quarter, according to John Reilly, spokesperson for IBM's newly formed NC division.
IBM first announced the Network Station in November, but did not disclose full specifications then, including on the choice of processor, although prototypes conatinbed an older PowerPC chip originally designed for embedded use.
News that the PowerPC 603 will be used in IBM's NCs follows the company's decision last week to halt future support of Windows NT for its PowerPC-based RS/6000 line, touching off speculation that the chip's popularity could be waning.
IBM isn't the only player eyeing the PowerPC chip as the foundation for a network computer. Motorola officials say they are looking at the IBM-promoted NC reference platform, as well as a evaluating support for a PowerPC-based Windows CE handheld device
Motorola declined to be specific about either proposition. However, industry analysts say 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," says Diana Hwang, handheld computing analyst for International Data Corp. in Framingham, Massachusetts. "I think their involvement will be at the chip level and where they are at right now, that makes sense."
Earlier this month, Motorola called it quits on its Envoy and Marco handheld computers, citing poor consumer demand. Additionally, Motorola joined IBM last week in discontinuing its support for NT on the PowerPC chip.
IBM and Motorola are two main manufacturers of the PowerPC chip, which forms the core of Apple's PowerMac PCs and IBM's RS/6000 servers.