According to our chums at Semi-Accurate, Microsoft has secretly started initial production with GlobalFoundries and IBM and are intended for software development kits that will be distributed among game developers later this year
Microsoft has placed orders with IBM and GlobalFoundries for around ten thousand 300mm wafers with code-named Oban chips.
While the initial batch of Oban chips will be used to power development kits for video game developers, it is likely that these are the tests for when the chip goes into Microsoft's Xbox Next.
IBM and GloFlo have announced the start of a 32nm SOI chip with PowerPC general-purpose cores as well as eDRAM technology at IBM's 300mm fab in East Fishkill and Globalfoundries' Fab 8. The companies also intend to ramp production of the chip to volumes in the second half of 2012.
Earlier rumours were that the Xbox Next would feature an ARM-based heterogeneous system-on-chip (SoC) with multiple dedicated assistive cores for graphics, AI, physics, sound, networking, encryption and sensors.
It is supposed to be based on a Windows 9 core and be smaller and less expensive to manufacturer than its predecessor. But the numbers of Oban chips being made suggests Microsoft wants to make sure that as many game developers as possible would obtain the development kits.
However, if it's using Oban for the new Xbox, we're probably unlikely to see it until 2013.