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Xbox 360: Microsoft inside!

EE Times published an interesting report on the internals of Xbox 360. They say, Chipworks Inc., Portelligent Inc. and iSuppli Corp. found out that most of the dedicated parts within console are stamped with the Microsoft X-logo, rather than the actual manufacturers' logo.

Analyst David Carey of Portelligent (Austin, Texas) said the Microsoft markings were applied to the custom ASIC parts designed specifically for the Xbox, including the CPU, I/O chip, and video interface, even though other semiconductor makers supply the parts.

In its analysis, Portelligent found that the bill of materials for Xbox 360 reaffirms that games consoles are sold at a loss in the hope of making money on software.

Portelligent estimated the total hardware cost-of-goods sold for the $300 retail version of the core game system is around $310. The firm expects Microsoft to bank on sales of higher-margin bundle systems, accessories and games to compensate for low margins on the game console itself.

Tompkins said Ottawa-based Chipworks has so far identified IBM as the manufacturer of the X-box custom microprocessor while the graphics processor was made by ATI Technologies Inc.

Chipworks also identified embedded DRAM from NEC Corp., DDR3 synchronous DRAM from Samsung and NAND flash chips from Hynix.

Meanhile, Portelligent said it identified custom ASICs it believed to have come from Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. and Chipidea Microelectronics SA. They perform key interface functions. Portelligent also said it identified lesser components from ON Semiconductor, Analog Devices, Broadcom, Hynix, National Semiconductor and Cypress Semiconductor. Samsung provided all 64 megabytes of high-speed graphics SDRAM, the third most costly element in the design, Portelligent said.

Chipworks also reported that the NEC embedded DRAM is copackaged with the ATI processor, rather than being integrated into the same piece of silicon. That allowed the processes to be optimized for the separate devices without forcing a compromise, according to Chipworks. "The extensive use of state-of-the-art technology in the Xbox illustrates the trend that the consumer market is driving technology these days," Chipworks' Tomkins said.

According to Portelligent, Microsoft's console design showed evidence of multisourced component solutions in several places. Parts thought to be supplied by one vendor turned out to be from someone else in the unit analyzed.

iSuppli (El Segundo, Calif.) conducted its analysis on the Xbox 360 "Premium" bundle, which includes a hard drive, a wireless control and other components not included with the Xbox 360 core product.

iSuppli concluded that the cost of the IBM chip and other ICs in the Xbox 360 total an estimated $340 per console. Factoring for the cost of a hard disk, the DVD drive, enclosures, the RF receiver board, power supply, wireless controller, cables, literature and packaging, the total bill-of-materials for the Xbox 360 Premium reaches $525, well above the retail price of $399, according to iSuppli.

The IBM microprocessor is a triple-core PowerPC that runs at 3.2 GHz, iSuppli said. At a cost of $106, this single part accounts for 20 percent of the total cost for the Xbox 360 Premium, according to iSuppli's preliminary findings.

Since IBM chips are also at the heart of the forthcoming PlayStation3 from Sony as well as Nintendo's next GameCube, iSuppli concludes that regardless of which console prevails in the market, IBM will be a key supplier.

Source: EE Times

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