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Microprocessor Startup Claims Breakthrough

LONDON — P.A. Semi Inc., founded by microprocessor designer Dan Dobberpuhl, has announced the PWRficient processor family, a 64-bit multicore, scalable processor line based on the Power Architecture from IBM.

The company, mainly silent for the last two years, already has 150 people on its engineering team and claims its processor architecture can deliver a tenfold advantage in performance per watt over existing processors while achieving in excess of 2-GHz clock frequency. However, despite the length of time spent working in secrecy and the number of people on the project the first samples are not expected until Q3 next year.

The first implementation of the company’s architecture, a dual-core version, is expected to sample in the third calendar quarter of 2006, with single-core and quad-core versions due in early and late 2007, respectively, and an eight-core version planned for 2008. However, the company did not say what manufacturing process technology the company is targeting and how much of the performance increase is expected to come from moving down the miniaturization roadmap, a strategy open to rival processor vendors.

The company's declared objective is to be the premier supplier of microprocessor-based silicon system solutions to the high-end consumer portable, server blade and network infrastructure markets. This makes it sound like P.A.Semi wants to be a microprocessor company and compete, or help others compete, against Intel's Pentium and Sony's Cell processors. The PWRficient launch does nothing to change that impression.

Dobberpuhl, cofounder, president and chief executive officer of P.A. Semi (Santa Clara, Calif.), was the lead designer of the Alpha and StrongARM series of microprocessors from Digital Equipment Corp. The company said its engineering team also includes key designers of other leading processor architectures, such as Opteron, Itanium, and UltraSPARC.

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