SAN FRANCISCO Microsoft's Xbox 360 console may have only just hit stores, but it has already been subjected to "teardown" analyses by at least three research firms.
Chipworks Inc., Portelligent Inc. and iSuppli Corp. found, among other things, that most of the dedicated parts within console are stamped with the Microsoft X-logo, rather than the actual manufacturers' logo
“We could call this ‘Microsoft inside’,” Gary Tomkins, manager of technical intelligence at Chipworks, said in a statement released Wednesday (Nov. 23).
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.
"It is kind of expected," Carey said. "Microsoft owns the design IP even some of the die markings have Microsoft labels."
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.
“The new design certainly centers around the graphics and central processors of ATI and IBM, respectively, but other semiconductor players got in on the action, too,” said Portelligent's Carey.