Apple's G5 manufacturing partner IBM is set to unveil a new chip, co-developed with Sony and Toshiba at an industry event today.

The 'Cell' chip has been developed to power the Play Station 3 and is based on IBM's PowerPC architecture.

The companies will reveal the new processor, which is described by the manufacturing partners as a "supercomputer on a chip" at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.

Play supercomputer living room games

Sundry reports describe the processor as offering a potential performance speed of 256 billion mathematical operations per second - and it also controls an array of eight additional 128-bit processors.

The BBC reports the processor will be able to handle 16 trillion floating point operations per second.

Predicting that all digital content will be converged and broadband-capable, Sony chief operating officer Ken Kutaragi said: "Current PC architecture is nearing its limits."

The vision includes a host of connected devices in the digital home, with cluster-based processor technology working together for richer game and movie experiences. with broadband connectivity for communication and additional resources.

Moore's Law redux

In 2002, Sony's chief technical officer , Shin'ichi Okamoto said: "We are working for the third-generation (PlayStation) with this very aggressive and crazy goal," he said. "Moore's Law is too slow for us. We can't wait 20 years to achieve a 1,000-fold increase in PlayStation performance."

"This is probably going to be one of the biggest industry announcements in many years,” Richard Doherty, president of the Envisioneering research firm told the Financial Times. “It's going to breathe new life into the industry and trigger fresh competition.”

The Macsimum News Web site has some engaging speculation concerning what the new processor could become, suggesting the possibilty that Apple may be a vital element of the concept.

PlayStation 3 is expected to debut early next year with the processor manufactured at IBM's New York factory.