The powerful "Cell" microprocessor that fuels Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 video game console will be available in IBM mainframe computers so those high-performance machines can run complex online games and virtual worlds.
Jointly developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba Corp., Cell is touted as a "supercomputer on a chip" because of its design, which includes one central processing unit helped by eight additional processors working on specific tasks.
Because of that unusual architecture, Cell's use outside of PlayStations has been limited to specialized hardware for graphics-intensive functions such as military or medical applications.
Mainframes are big computers commonly used for transaction processing and other centralized tasks. Despite their old-fashioned reputation, IBM's mainframe sales have been on an upswing, as IBM has encouraged customers to perform a wider variety of computing functions on them, since mainframes can run multiple processors and operating systems at once.
Adding Cell chips to mainframes to make the machines into hubs for online gaming and simulations could bolster that strategy, analysts said.
"It opens up some new potential frontiers," said Charles King of Pund-IT Research.