IBM has formed an industry consortium aimed at pushing its Power microprocessor. will give IBM partners better access to the Power technology so they can build simulators, compilers, algorithm sets and the like with greater ease. It will also enable shared development between partners, without having to work directly with IBM, as is presently the case.

"This is not just a business partner program," said Mike McGinnis, IBM's program director for PowerPC licensing, "This is a collaboration. It's giving these partners a say in where the architecture is going."

The consortium comprises 15 companies from the software, consumer electronics, automotive and networking industries, and includes Sony, Cadence, Novell and Red Hat. Some prominent Power licensees like Toshiba and Apple are not on the list however, but IBM said it expects to announce new members in the weeks ahead.

One of the first orders of business for the consortium will be defining an open bus interface spec to be used by vendors who build components like networking or memory processors around the Power core, McGinnis said.

Though IBM is still working out details of the governance model, the organisation will be modelled on, which IBM created in 2001 to build a standard set of software development tools. Eclipse has become a popular development environment that's been widely embraced by vendors. "The intent is clearly to have this become an independent entity," said McGinnis. "If you understand what Eclipse is, then you understand what we would like to be."

Power processors are already used in IBM's pSeries servers and in Apple's computers, and IBM has been pushing hard to open them up to new markets. Earlier this week, Sony and Toshiba announced plans to begin building products on a Power-based processor designed for the consumer electronics market, called Cell. Last year, Microsoft announced plans to use IBM's processor technology for future versions of its Xbox game console.

The official launch of was made in China - something that was no accident. IBM is sending a clear message that it would like to work with Asian manufacturers, who will represent the bulk of the new Power licensees, said Richard Doherty, an analyst with The Envisioneering Group.

The announcement also puts pressure on Intel, which has been wooing some of the same licensees but does not have a similar consortium model for its own processor licensees, Doherty said. "There's probably going to be some head scratching in Santa Clara over the next few years," he said.