The full specs for the upcoming Cell processor have been released.

The four companies developing the new chip - IBM, Toshiba and two arms of Sony - finally provided all the details, following hints in February and sneak glimpses earlier this month.

Cell will power the new PlayStation 3 console but, the companies hope, will also be adopted in a wider range of consumer electronics and computer products. The details published on the Internet cover the architecture of the "broadband engine" that sits at the heart of the processor. Details of the media and streaming acceleration processor and software programming language specifications were also made available. "It's aimed to accelerate the creation of Cell-based applications," a Sony spokeswoman said.

The PlayStation 3 is expected to launch in the first half of next year and be the first Cell-based product on the market. Toshiba has said it's looking at using the Cell in high-definition TVs, and Mercury has a deal with IBM that could see the Cell employed in computer systems.

Now the partners are looking to push beyond these limited applications and grow the market for the chip, which the four companies have spent several billion dollars developing, including manufacturing technologies.

The Cell is widely seen as one of the most powerful processors yet developed. It has been tuned for multimedia applications that require fast processing and involve large amounts of data.

It will contain one 64-bit Power PC core and eight additional multimedia processing cores. The cores can all support multiple operating systems and programming models through the use of virtualisation technologies. It will use Rambus' XDR memory interface technology running at 3.2GHz, and will be able to handle 10 instruction threads at a given time.