IBM showed of its 45nm Cell processor way back in February and we rather hoped we'd have seen it inside consoles by now. That hasn't happened yet, but we do now have an idea o when it will because the word on Japan's streets (the publication Nikkan, actually) is that 45nm chips will hit mass production come 2009.
There are, of course, plenty of benefits to be had from making this transition. Foremost of those, for Sony, Toshiba and IBM who are manufacturing the CPUs, is a 50 per cent better yield per wafer over the current 65nm process. In layman's terms, each Cell processor costs less to make. Whether that saving will be passed to consumers or absorbed by the companies using the Cell we'll have to wait and see. It's hard to see why Sony wouldn't snap up a chance to cut down its losses on manufacture of the PS3.
Consumers will see other benefits than a possible PlayStation price drop, though. The 45nm process means the CPU draws less power than previously, which will in turn lead to cooler running. There's some speculation we might see a slimmed-down console launched, too, but I'm not holding my breath.
It is likely that cheaper, more numerous Cell production will see the use of the chips in more TVs and notebooks - as promised by Toshiba, for one. Better built-in upscaling isn't something to sniff at.