At the In-Stat Fall Processor Forum in San Jose yesterday, IBM unveiled the custom microprocessor that will be used in Microsoft's upcoming Xbox 360 game console. Based on the Power PC architecture, the new 64-bit chip utilizes a whopping three processor cores, each of which runs at 3.2 GHz. By comparison, the fastest Power PC chips used in Apple's Power Mac G5 systems are dual core designs running at 2.5 GHz; such systems retail for $3300, over ten times the cost of the Xbox 360 console.

According to IBM, Microsoft engineers were involved in every step during the design of the new processor, which has still not been given an official name. The chip is quite a bit faster than even the fastest desktop PC chip, and makes the 733 MHz Pentium III used in the original Xbox look sick by comparison.

Xbox 360 will go on sale in North America on November 22. Then, Microsoft will launch the system in Europe and Japan in December. This is the first time a video game console has been launched in so many locales in such a short period of time. Microsoft is banking on its lead time against competing systems from Sony and Nintendo to rack up sales. Microsoft's current generation Xbox entered the market late and was subsequently dramatically outsold by the Sony PlayStation 2.