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Report: Sony's Cell Dev Cost $400 Million, Aided Microsoft Tech

Report: Sony's Cell Dev Cost $400 Million, Aided Microsoft Tech

January 2, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

January 2, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

The development of the PlayStation 3's much-discussed Cell chip cost Sony and its partners five years and $400 million dollars -- and Microsoft then worked with IBM to snag some of the development fruits and none of the failures for its own console's processor, claims a new book written by the Cell's leading engineers.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a new book by two leading figures in the Cell's design, David Shippy and Mickie Phipps.

In the book, 'The Race For A New Game Machine,' the two recall how they did double agent duty for both rival console manufacturers during the Cell's development.

Sony, Toshiba and IBM first partnered in 2001 to develop the Cell in time for the PS3's target launch. But during the same period, Microsoft approached IBM, which was doing the lion's share of the Cell engineering, and asked to have their own chip for the Xbox 360 built around the Cell's core.

The agreement between Sony, Toshiba and IBM didn't preclude the eventual sale of the Cell chip to other clients, but more importantly, there was nothing preventing IBM from selling components of the incomplete tech to Sony's direct competitor.

In the book, Shippy said he felt "contaminated" as he worked with Microsoft engineers on the technology, bringing them all of the fruits and little of the failures of the research and development that Sony was funding.

In other words, the authors claim that Microsoft may have peripherally benefited from Sonys R&D spend, in a time when Sony's inability to cut the PlayStation 3's hardware price is credited in part to the high costs of the Cell chip.

[UPDATE: Due to the intense interest in this story, and several comments disputing the Wall Street Journal's and authors' synopsis of events, Gamasutra is following up with the editors of 'The Race For A New Game Machine', and hope to present more information soon.]

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