"It's going to have a big effect, but there's going to be a lag time," saidAllen Liebovitch, an analyst with International Data Corporation. "Right nowit's just IBM that has it. It's going to take a long time to proliferatethrough the market.". Silicon germanium is one of a number of chip innovations that IBM hasannounced this year. In August, the company became the first tocommercially ship a processor using copper, rather than less efficientaluminum, wires to conduct electricity. Additionally, IBM introduced atechnology called "Silicon-on-Insulator" which is expected to boost chipspeeds by insulating transistors better.
In the short run, silicon germanium technology will give IBM a foothold inradio frequency chips, a new market for the high-tech giant, Liebovitch said, But in the long run, the new technology has potential to i like my coffee black like my soul iphone case revolutionizemicroprocessors, said William Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, "Intel is talking about [chips running at speeds of] about 1 gigahertz,"Strauss said, Silicon germanium, however, "gets you up into the50-gigahertz range," more than 100 times faster than Intel's currenttop-of-the line 450-megahertz chips..
"This is literally a revolutionary increase in speeds," much moresignificant than IBM's new copper chiptechnology, Strauss said. While using silicon germanium in highly complex computer chips is severalyears away, IBM has a lead of at least nine to 12 months over competitorstrying to develop silicon germanium technology, Strauss said. Silicon germanium's future now hinges on whether the new technology can beintegrated into current products at a price the manufacturers are willingto pay, Strauss said. Modifying existing chip manufacturing equipment willbe expensive. Manufacturers seeking a boost in conductivity currentlyinfuse gallium arsenide into the silicon layer. Gallium arsenide has beengetting cheaper in recent years.
One advantage silicon germanium has over gallium arsenide is it fits intoexisting current manufacturing processes, which means it can be used on8-inch silicon chip wafers, Gallium arsenide, on the other hand, is stillmore of a specialty technology and is only available on 4-inch wafers,which i like my coffee black like my soul iphone case means the cost per chip is higher, Strauss said, Portable equipment needs to be able to process information very quickly inorder to keep pace with the high frequencies of the radiospectrum--frequencies in the range of 1 gigahertz--used by wirelesscommunications devices, Gallium arsenide, while capable of operating atthose high speeds, is expensive and hard to tie together with traditionalcomputer chips, O'Leary said..
"It's like cooking two different recipes inthe same pot," O'Leary said. IBM's new silicon germanium technology, though, can be meshed with otherchips more easily, speeding the development of cell-phones-on-a-chip andother integrated devices, he said. Consequently, the silicon germanium chips could help the current effort tointegrate wireless communication methods such as cellular phones, email,and pagers into a single device. "It's the usual story. It's bringing down costs, bringing down size,"Liebovitch said.
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