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Via to take processors to 2GHz, eyes profitability

Via to take processors to 2GHz, eyes profitability

Taiwanese chip vendor Via Technologies Inc. plans to speed its line of processors to 2GHz before the end of the year as the company this year expects to see its processor business turn a profit for the first time, according to a company executive.

Via plans to introduce 2GHz versions of its low-power C3, Eden and Antaur processor lines, with the first 2GHz chips to enter production during the second half of this year, said Steven Lee, head of Via's Embedded Platform Division.

Currently, the fastest processor available from Via runs at a clock speed of 1.4GHz and is produced using a 130-nanometer process by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC). To reach clock speeds of 2GHz and higher, Via will shift some processor production from TSMC to IBM Corp.'s Microelectronics division, said Wenchi Chen, president and CEO of Via.

The faster chips will be produced using a 90-nanometer process and SOI (Silicon On Insulator) technology at IBM's 300-millimeter chip fabrication plant in East Fishkill, New York, Chen said.

TSMC will remain Via's most important foundry partner and will continue to produce PC chipsets and Via's existing processors, Chen said. However, the company decided to work with IBM to produce its next generation of processors, codenamed Esther, because of IBM's industry-leading expertise with SOI technology, he said.

"We think SOI will be a big help for producing future low-power processors," Chen said.

IBM's 90-nanometer process technology can boost chip performance by up to 30 percent by facilitating the faster movement of electronic signals through the chip, Via said in a statement. The use of IBM's SOI technology, which uses an insulator such as silicon oxide to a silicon wafer in order to insulate the circuit against power leakage, reduces electronic leakage within the chip, resulting in an additional performance increase of between 25 percent to 30 percent while reducing power consumption, the statement said.

Via is seeing strong demand for its processors, which are typically found in low-end computers and embedded applications, such as home media centers, Lee said. Demand for some of the company's processors, such as the 1GHz chip, are expected to see growth of more than 100 percent this year, he said.

This rapid growth in demand will "absolutely" drive Via's processor business into the black this year for the first time, Lee said.

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