A new chip which will power the digital revolution into the future has been unveiled at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.

Sony, IBM and Toshiba, who have been working on the Cell processor for three years, will unveil the chip at a technology conference.

The chip promises to deliver supercomputer-like levels of performance with clock speeds in excess of 4GHz.

Cell's breakthrough multi-core architecture and ultra high-speed communications capabilities deliver vastly improved, real-time response for entertainment and rich media applications, in many cases 10 times the performance of the latest PC processors.

The Cell chip has been highly anticipated within the industry because it promises the equivalent of supercomputer on a single chip.

A first prototype of the device is expected to power Sony's Playstation 3.
Whereas most existing microchips contain several cores that all work on the same task, the new chip is divided into entirely separate "cells" that can work independently on different tasks.

What this means in practice is that computers linked together in a network can borrow unused processing power from each other, making the most efficient use of their computing capabilities. The chip is also OS neutral and supports multiple operating systems simultaneously.

IBM, Sony Group and Toshiba expect to promote Cell-based products including a broad range of industry-wide applications, from digital televisions to home servers to supercomputers.