Toshiba, Sony finalize chip JV details

Feb. 20, 2008 – Sony and Toshiba are disclosing more details about their semiconductor JV, including PlayStation chips, following preliminary agreements last fall.

The still officially unnamed JV, 20% owned by Toshiba and 20% each by Sony and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., and capitalized at ¥100M (US ~$857K) will begin operations in April in the Nagasaki Technology Center of Sony Semiconductor Kyushu Corp. The deal includes a ~¥90B/$834.5M 300m wafer line (“Fab 2”), “with the exception of some equipment,” they noted. Device production will center on the Cell Broadband Engine processor, RSX graphics engine, and other high-performance semiconductors for the Sony group, as well as Toshiba’s system-on-chips for digital consumer applications. Manufacturing will start at 65nm and migrate to 45nm in cooperation with Toshiba’s LSI operation in Oita, while also striving to achieve manufacturing technology advancements and efficiencies, the companies said in a statement. The original deal in October also involved Toshiba taking over assets from another JV with Sony, Oita TS Semiconductor Corp., formed in 1999 to make chips for the Playstation 2 system, and slated to expire at the end of this fiscal year.

More details of the operation, including administration and operating organization, will be publicized by the startup date.

For Toshiba, the deal positions it to push 45nm Cell processors in two years for use not just in Sony’s PS3 but also in PCs and flat-panel TVs, making the Cell the No.2 profit driver in the company’s semiconductor business behind flash memory, noted the Nikkei daily.

Sony has spent roughly ¥200B (~$1.74B) on facilities to fabricate the Cell processor, but investments were expected to soar with a shift from 90-65nm processes to the next version of Cell chips using 45nm processes. So, last year Sony indicated it would “significantly” reduce semiconductor investments from recent years, including outsourcing production of upcoming versions of its Cell chips. The company also has shifted some of those investments to focus on its imaging sensors.


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