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How Intel's battle with NVIDIA over Core i7 impacts Apple

post #1 of 79
Thread Starter 
A technology licensing suit between Intel and NVIDIA over controller chipsets and the next generation of Intel's Core i7 CPUs may complicate Apple's immediate plans for the next iMac and Mac Pro, and disrupt the company's long term strategy for standardized GPU acceleration using OpenCL.

Apple in the middle

The suit relates to a disagreement between Intel, the maker of the Core 2 Duo CPUs used in Apple's MacBook line and its desktop Macs (apart from the high end Mac Pro, which uses Intel's Xeon "Harpertown" CPU), and NVIDIA, which last year expanded its role with Apple as a GPU provider into one where the graphics company now supplies the chipset-on-a-chip controller that serves as the glue between Intel's CPU and everything else in the computer.

Intel and NVIDIA teamed up in 2004 in a patent licensing agreement that resulted in NVIDIA making a competitive move into Intel's chipset business with its MCP79 chipset platform. Last year, Apple became the first PC vendor to adopt NVIDIA's one-chip controller in its MacBook line. The move not only simplified and improved the architecture of Apple's notebook machines, but also provided significantly better graphics compared to the Intel controller chips it had been using.



The dispute between Intel and NVIDIA involves Intel's next generation Nehalem CPUs (marketed as "Core i7") with QuickPath integrated memory controllers; Intel says NVIDIA's license does not allow it to make competing, compatible chipsets for the new CPUs, while NVIDIA says it believes the 2004 agreement does. Apple has a lot riding on the dispute, as its next iMac and Mac Pro are both expected to use Nehalem CPUs. Further, a mobile version of Nehalem is expected next year, resulting in Apple's entire Mac lineup being Nehalem-based within the near future.

Upsetting the Apple cart

Apple's migration to NVIDIA controllers last fall in the new unibody MacBooks was part of a long term strategy to standardize on GPUs across its Mac product line. In addition to being able to deliver optimized graphics drivers that take fuller advantage of NVIDIA hardware features than previous Macs, the move will also make it easier for the company and third party developers to accelerate tasks in Mac OS X Snow Leopard using OpenCL.

If Apple is forced to go back to Intel platform chipsets in order to use Intel's latest CPUs, it will end up with two separate GPU architectures to support, just as it had prior to last fall: NVIDIA standalone GPUs in its higher-end Pro models, and Intel integrated graphics on the lower end consumer models. Intel's integrated graphics (where the GPU is integrated into the controller chipset) are significantly behind NVIDIA's in performance and do not support OpenCL.

The uncertainty involved in the dispute is likely itself a significant problem for Apple. The company was widely expected to introduce a revised iMac last fall at the one year anniversary of the current design, and again at Macworld Expo. If Apple delayed the refresh primarily to take advantage of the upcoming Nehalem CPUs, this eleventh hour wrinkle could again delay an already overdue update.

The company's desktop Mac sales have already tapered off in expectation of the next refresh; Apple's cyclical sales surges are directly tied to new product introductions. Any additional delay will only compound this year's sales slump related to the economic crisis. On the other hand, this is one of the better years to suffer through an architecture war; had the battle between Intel and NVIDIA played out during a surge in economic growth, Apple's dilemma of having no new desktop products to sell would be a much bigger problem. The issue does not affect Apple's notebook sales, which now make up the majority of its Mac sales.

Intel's history with competition

As the long term leader in PC CPUs, Intel has played the hardware equivalent to Microsoft in the decades since IBM released its original PC in 1982. Like Microsoft, Intel has defended its dominant position by seeking to kill opportunities for competitors to muscle into its business. Intel's battle with NVIDIA today has already played out in the past like the dramatic foreshadowing of a soap opera.

After struggling to sell memory components against Japanese competitors, Intel's sudden success in microprocessors tied to IBM's selection of its 8088 processor in its first PC led to a cutthroat battle to defend that business in the 1980s. When IBM selected Intel's 8088 CPU, it insisted Intel license the design to other manufacturers to ensure a chip supply from at least two sources. Intel licensed its chip to AMD.

Intel then happily supported Compaq's efforts to take away IBM's business after the new PC maker cloned IBM's ROM, allowing Compaq to sell IBM-compatible PCs with Intel's new 386 processors. At the same time, Intel naturally defended its own intellectual property, refusing to license the new 386 processor that Compaq was using to other chip manufacturers, including AMD, starting in 1986. AMD filed suit and won in arbitration, but Intel kept the case in the courts until 1991, when the Supreme Court of California ended the matter by ruling in favor of AMD. In the meantime, that legal uncertainty forced AMD to develop additional clean room compatibility with Intel's CPUs.

After AMD muscled its way into the 386 business, Intel developed Socket 1 in 1997, a proprietary new physical connector for its new 486 CPUs to prevent users from being able to replace Intel's 486 with compatible versions from other vendors such as AMD. Earlier CPU socket designs had been essentially open standards. Fierce competition from competitors also resulted in Intel marketing its 586 as Pentium, a brand it could trademark. With the Pentium II, Intel released Slot 1, a cartridge-style, proprietary CPU packaging that again threw competing CPU makers off the track.

In markets where Intel faced less competition, such as with its late 90s Pentium Pro, chip prices didn't fall nearly as dramatically each year compared to markets where Intel faced AMD and others. That led Intel into its partnership with HP to build Itanium, an entirely new 64-bit CPU intended to eventually replace the x86 entirely, starting in the server market. The subsequent, monumental failure of Itanium was particularly embarrassing for Intel because the company was then forced to start over in copying AMD's 64-bit extensions to x86, in order to produce CPUs compatible with the standard AMD had popularized.

Along with Itanium, Intel also floundered in the development of its x86 Pentium 4, ending up trounced by AMD's competing Athlon XP CPUs. However, intense competition with AMD eventually resulted in Intel producing its Core CPU architecture and again grabbing the lead in desktop performance at high efficiency and competitive prices, attracting Apple's attention just as PowerPC began to run out of steam.

Partnership and rivalry with NVIDIA

With AMD's merger with NVIDIA's arch-rival ATI, one might think Intel and NVIDIA would find more reasons to agree than to argue. NVIDIA has sought to release a series of "two-chip PC" systems, where one chip is made by NVIDIA and the other is made by Intel: the first being the MCP79 used by Apple in the MacBooks, and a second being Ion, a platform that pairs NVIDIA's graphics and controller chip with a low cost Intel Atom CPU. Apple is rumored to be considering Ion for use in its future products, such as an update to Apple TV.

Intel naturally wants Apple's entire business to itself, as well as the chipset business of other PC makers that it is rapidly losing to NVIDIA. Along those lines, the company has worked hard to brand its combination of CPU, controller chips, and WiFi components into a platform brand it could co-market with PC makers, including the Centrino laptop brand, of which Santa Rosa was a member. While many PC makers buy up Intel's parts across the board, Apple has never co-marketed the Centrino brand with Intel, instead preferring to use Intel's components together with those of other makers.

Apple's move last fall to adopt NVIDIA's chipset was a particularly large jump away from Intel's integrated platform, however, likely serving as further motivation for Intel to investigate ways to keep its customers, including Apple, tied to its products using artificial means rather than by simply providing the best products available on the market. That includes leveraging strong products (such as Intel's CPUs) to force adoption of its weaker products (such as its integrated GPUs), by refusing to license interoperability with key products to its competitors (such as seeking to block NVIDIA's attempt to support its upcoming Nehalem CPUs).

Such competitive games are played by everyone in the industry, from Apple (refusing to license FairPlay and iPod connectivity to Microsoft's Xbox) Microsoft (resisting efforts to make Windows and Office interoperable with competitors) to NVIDIA (which similarly seeks protect its proprietary technologies, including CUDA).

Fortunately for all involved, Intel and NVIDIA have expressed an interest in working together, and both can gain more from partnerships than from blockades that would open up the market to AMD and other rivals. Until the matter is resolved however, Apple is caught in the middle of squabble that may deeply impact the company's desktop hardware plans this year, complicating an already difficult time for PC sales in general.
post #2 of 79
Dan,

Your writing is thorough and thoughtful, as usual.

,dave
post #3 of 79
I think you should write a piece on Intel's upcoming Arrandale, which will be introduced at the end of this year and come with Intel's horrible integrated graphics packages within the chips. In particular, Arrandale is the only Nehalem mobile chip announced so far that offers a low enough TDP for Apple to fit into its notebooks and the competitive climate will force Apple to adopt this chip and derail its deployment of OpenCL.
post #4 of 79
I know someone is thinking it..."Can We All get Along?"
post #5 of 79
Good article, but bad title.

There is a lot of nice history here, but absolutely nothing on how this will impact Apple until the very last sentence, which just say's it will "complicate" things.

I think I knew that already.
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post #6 of 79
Intel f$cks Apple, again. With partners like them, who needs enemies?

Time for a switch to AMD?
post #7 of 79
Don't cut off nose to spite face....

Steve Jobs say...

time to spend some of the 29 billion and buy an innovative, future oriented chip maker.

I say...

sell Intel and AMD, buy Apple.
post #8 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by svesan03 View Post

Don't cut off nose to spite face....

Steve Jobs say...

time to spend some of the 29 billion and buy an innovative, future oriented chip maker.

I say...

sell Intel and AMD, buy Apple.

I say...

Update the iMac soon and please have the same setup as the Macbooks. I need one!
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post #9 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by MsNly View Post

I say...

Update the iMac soon and please have the same setup as the Macbooks. I need one!

I hope it don't stop sonw leopard from coming out!
post #10 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

A technology licensing suit between Intel and NVIDIA over controller chipsets and the next generation of Intel's Core i7 CPUs may complicate Apple's immediate plans for the next iMac and Mac Pro, and disrupt the company's long term strategy for standardized GPU acceleration using OpenCL.

Speaking of OpenCL, has any of the tech specs been released about it yet? Will it work with current hardware or are we talking all-new architecture here?
post #11 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by whatever00 View Post

I think you should write a piece on Intel's upcoming Arrandale, which will be introduced at the end of this year and come with Intel's horrible integrated graphics packages within the chips. In particular, Arrandale is the only Nehalem mobile chip announced so far that offers a low enough TDP for Apple to fit into its notebooks and the competitive climate will force Apple to adopt this chip and derail its deployment of OpenCL.


Apple still has leverage with Intel. If they see that they cannot stay with NVIDIA for GPUs then they'll convince Intel to incorporate OpenCL. I'm sure Intel is already in the works in doing that if they haven't already done so. OpenCL is an open standard so why wouldn't they?
post #12 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post

Apple still has leverage with Intel. If they see that they cannot stay with NVIDIA for GPUs then they'll convince Intel to incorporate OpenCL. I'm sure Intel is already in the works in doing that if they haven't already done so. OpenCL is an open standard so why wouldn't they?

Since OpenCL is a framework for executing programs (see wikipedia) over a CPU/GPU environment , how would Intel incorporate it? Its not a hardware standard.
post #13 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post

Apple still has leverage with Intel. If they see that they cannot stay with NVIDIA for GPUs then they'll convince Intel to incorporate OpenCL. I'm sure Intel is already in the works in doing that if they haven't already done so. OpenCL is an open standard so why wouldn't they?

that's not going to be enough. nvidia has made a valid and true argument that processor speeds are becoming less important and the power of the gpu will be. intel has never shown the ability to make good GPUs and it's best to leave it up to companies like ATI & nVIdia and stick to what they know(processors & increasing the number of cores to them).
post #14 of 79
Quote:
Confucius say...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Don't cut off nose to spite face....

Steve Jobs say...

time to spend some of the 29 billion and buy an innovative, future oriented chip maker.



That is exactly what Apple has already done.
post #15 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post

Speaking of OpenCL, has any of the tech specs been released about it yet? Will it work with current hardware or are we talking all-new architecture here?

Intel is part of the OpenCL working group, so hopefully Larrabee (their first discrete GPU product) will include OpenCL support. However, Larrabee is not coming out until early 2010 at the earliest and being Intel's first "GPU" product (It's actually a general stream processor that emulates DirectX and OpenGL support, which I guess makes it a perfect target for OpenCL support), I doubt it will be as power efficient as nVidia 9400m.
post #16 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by svesan03 View Post

Don't cut off nose to spite face....

Steve Jobs say...

time to spend some of the 29 billion and buy an innovative, future oriented chip maker.

I say...

sell Intel and AMD, buy Apple.

Perhaps Apple could ditch Intel, and look into purchasing Nvidia (~$4.3 billion?). Imagine a future macs that would incorporate Nvidia's Tesla supercomputing and mesh it with CUDA/OpenCL/Grand Central for everyday processing? That would be sweet! But then we would have to go through yet another platform transition (IBM -> Intel -> Nvidia)
post #17 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorotea View Post

Since OpenCL is a framework for executing programs (see wikipedia) over a CPU/GPU environment , how would Intel incorporate it? Its not a hardware standard.

Did you even read the wikipedia article you sited? OpenCL will be supported in Snow Leopard and within the GPU chipsets.

Here's a link to one of OpenCLs early adopters:

http://www.nvidia.com/object/io_1228825271885.html
post #18 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorotea View Post

Since OpenCL is a framework for executing programs (see wikipedia) over a CPU/GPU environment , how would Intel incorporate it? Its not a hardware standard.

Neither is OpenGL a hardware standard. GPU makers just design the silicon that accelerates certain OpenGL instructions and write a driver to hook it up. Instructions that are not accelerated are executed by the CPU. I am guessing OpenCL works in the same way.
post #19 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post

Apple still has leverage with Intel. If they see that they cannot stay with NVIDIA for GPUs then they'll convince Intel to incorporate OpenCL. I'm sure Intel is already in the works in doing that if they haven't already done so. OpenCL is an open standard so why wouldn't they?

I am hoping that nVidia and Intel can work their problems out before the end of the year (perhaps not very likely) and hope Apple will be able to convince Intel to remove the GPU from Arrandale's packaging (this is actually easily done, since Arrandale is modular and the CPU and GPU are simply packaged together as MCM)
post #20 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by iBill View Post

Intel f$cks Apple, again. With partners like them, who needs enemies?

Time for a switch to AMD?

Apple is a lot more of a portables company, AMD doesn't seem to be doing so well with chips for portables.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post

Apple still has leverage with Intel. If they see that they cannot stay with NVIDIA for GPUs then they'll convince Intel to incorporate OpenCL. I'm sure Intel is already in the works in doing that if they haven't already done so. OpenCL is an open standard so why wouldn't they?

OpenCL with an underperforming GPU with a chipset that uses a second package to do it doesn't do anyone any good, except maybe Intel.
post #21 of 79
Yawn. Am I not reading the article quite right or is it completely off base?

The nVidia/Intel schism has no effect on the iMac and the Mac Pro, since they will use discrete graphics anyway. There's absolutely no reason to believe that the iMac has been held off due to the disagreement, since nVidia is not, and certainly were not, anywhere close to releasing a chipset for Nehalem. To the best of my knowledge, nVidia is focusing on the Core i5 platform, and if you haven't noticed, the availabilty of the processors might be a bigger problem than the choice of chipsets at the present time.

Unless the Mac mini suddenly will be able to handle the thermal output of the i5, there are no immediate problems there either, since it'll be using Core 2 processors.

All in all, this will have absolutely no effect on Apple until Intel releases a Nehalem derived processor with low enough TDP to fit into the 13.3" Macbooks and Mac Minis, which is at the end of this year at the very earliest.

Also, since when is QuickPath the memory interface connection in Nehalem?
post #22 of 79
Intel is making this into a mess, SHAME on you! Its your fault that Apple used Nvidia GPU in their MacBooks anyway...
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post #23 of 79
The whole idea of OpenCL is that the developer just gives it work packets to execute and it distributes them transparently across all CPUs and GPUs in the system.

If Apple use Intel or ATI graphics and the graphics driver does not support OpenCL, then all work packets simply go to the CPU and the user knows no different. So the idea that OpenCL could be delayed by available GPUs is not quite right. It would just be slower is all.
post #24 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorotea View Post

Since OpenCL is a framework for executing programs (see wikipedia) over a CPU/GPU environment , how would Intel incorporate it? Its not a hardware standard.

It's an API. The framework/implementation compliant with that open standard for Intel is their problem.

How Apple leverages it in Cocoa Frameworks is done and their responsibility. The same goes for AMD and Nvidia.

If this continues on Apple should buy a chunk of AMD and invest in their ATi chipsets.

They can shoot a shot over both Intel and Nvidia's bows to grow the hell up.

AMD already has GPUs compliant with OpenCL in the pipeline, plus currently existing ones that has OpenCL and Streams.
post #25 of 79
Erm Im not sure how long can AMD last in the processor business considering how Intel is beating the crap out of AMD with i7
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post #26 of 79
I have to give kudos to this excellently written article. Really made sense out of a potentially very confusing situation. Thanks.

Also, I do hope that this is something that Intel and NVIDIA can work out soon. I've been holding my breath for this iMac refresh for way too long!
post #27 of 79
Again, i have doubt on the hardware side of Info. But this time since i do not have concrete information i will not say Appleinsider is wrong.

Personally i do not believe Corei7 will be in next iMac update.
1. TDP too high, iMac are based mostly on Notebook parts, and Nehalem Notebook are not coming till Q4 09 or Q1 10.
2. If they are solve the TDP problem with the rumors of Water Cooling solution. Corei7 is too expensive and it is a High End product rather then mainstream product.
3. Even if Nvidia HAD the right to produce chip for Corei7 now, it is still not yet available.

So a MacPro using i7? Yes. iMac? Highly Unlikely.
post #28 of 79
Intriguing article, I agree it is a good read... I must point out, however, as for the "current delay" of the iMacs, we are assuming several big things.

1. They were planning as early as mid 2008 on placing a core i7 into the iMac or "xMac"
2. If finalising core i7 in iMac by late 2008, they were able to do a lot of redesign
3. Following no.2, they sorted out a lot of thermal engineering
4. They decided to skip the very simple and obvious update to Core 2 Duo/ Core 2 Quad (desktop or mobile) with 9400M+9600
post #29 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by wheelhot View Post

Intel is making this into a mess, SHAME on you! Its your fault that Apple used Nvidia GPU in their MacBooks anyway...

Exactly. The GMA950 and even X3100, were just so bad Apple gave up on Intel GPUs. Intel is really missing some "secret recipe" of GPUs.
post #30 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by ksec View Post

Again, i have doubt on the hardware side of Info. But this time since i do not have concrete information i will not say Appleinsider is wrong.

Personally i do not believe Corei7 will be in next iMac update.
1. TDP too high, iMac are based mostly on Notebook parts, and Nehalem Notebook are not coming till Q4 09 or Q1 10.
2. If they are solve the TDP problem with the rumors of Water Cooling solution. Corei7 is too expensive and it is a High End product rather then mainstream product.
3. Even if Nvidia HAD the right to produce chip for Corei7 now, it is still not yet available.

So a MacPro using i7? Yes. iMac? Highly Unlikely.

Agreed. See my post just after yours. Mac Pro will use the "Xeon" version of i7, that is, the dual-CPU version of Core i7 (there's another thread about this) to give 16 cores and supports DDR3 with ECC, and so on.
post #31 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zandros View Post

Unless the Mac mini suddenly will be able to handle the thermal output of the i5, there are no immediate problems there either, since it'll be using Core 2 processors.

All in all, this will have absolutely no effect on Apple until Intel releases a Nehalem derived processor with low enough TDP to fit into the 13.3" Macbooks and Mac Minis, which is at the end of this year at the very earliest.

Also, since when is QuickPath the memory interface connection in Nehalem?

QuickPath (QPI) is only applicable to Mac Pro and XServe, both of which should see update once Intel releases Nehalem-based Xeons in March. Neither Core i5 (Clacksfield) nor Core i3 (Arrandale) utilizes QPI.
post #32 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by wheelhot View Post

Intel is making this into a mess, SHAME on you! Its your fault that Apple used Nvidia GPU in their MacBooks anyway...

Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

Exactly. The GMA950 and even X3100, were just so bad Apple gave up on Intel GPUs. Intel is really missing some "secret recipe" of GPUs.

This is really the crux of the matter. It was sheer arrogance on the part of Intel to think that Nvidia or someone like them wouldn't step ino the vacuum created from their continued neglect for on-board graphics. Worse, it was an insult to Apple to think the status quo was going to continue to be good enough. And now, instead of innovation, we get their legal team. Way to jump the shark, Intel.

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post #33 of 79
I should point out that the fundamental assumption of this article, that the Intel's Nehalem chips that Apple will use will have QPI to connect to nVidia IGPs, is most likely flawed.

The current Nehalem processors out are Bloomfield cores (4 cores, 1 QPI, 3 channel memory) and are marketed under the Core i7 branding. It is intended as a high-end desktop chip and the chances of Apple using are extremely low, since Mac Pros use Xeon chips while iMacs use either mobile chips or perhaps will move to mainstream desktop chips.

Now the mainstream Nehalem quad core chip is going to be Lynnfield in desktop and Clarksfield in mobile. They are both quad core, 0 QPI, and 2 channel memory. Notice the key detail: 0 QPI. Mainstream desktop and all mobile chips won't have QPI and will only have DMI, because the entire northbridge, in this case memory controller and PCIe controller is integrated into Lynnfield and Clarksfield. DMI is designed as a low-bandwidth link to connect a northbridge to a southbridge. Lynnfield and Clarksfield won't have an Intel IGP on package, but you won't want to attach an IGP through the DMI link since it's low bandwidth, only 10Gb/s, and with the memory controller on the CPU, an IGP running through DMI would basically have 133MHz SDRAM like bandwidth.

Similarly, the only dual cores in the Nehalem architecture will be part of the Westmere 32nm shrink (Clarkdale for desktop and Arrandale for mobile) and will all include an Intel IGP. These will again have no QPI links and only a DMI link to a southbridge. Again, disabling the onboard IGP and using an external nVidia one will cripple it because DMI doesn't have enough bandwidth to the memory controller.

High-end Nehalems may have QPI which is suitable for an IGP, but it's pretty much pointless to give them an IGP. Hybrid Power or hybrid SLI may make sense for a notebook, but QPI won't appear in mobile chips. On a desktop, a decent dedicated GPU makes far more sense and would overpower an IGP so much that Hybrid SLI would add little performance. Afterall, a desktop 9800GTX can be found for $150 now and is a mainstream card, and trying to SLI a 9400 IGP to it isn't going to gain you much fps. So even if Apple used high-end desktop Nehalems, it doesn't make sense to be combining it with an IGP regardless or whether nVidia has one available or not.

For the Mac Pro, nVidia has never made chipsets for dual processor Xeons, so it really isn't unexpected that they don't make them for Nehalem Xeons with QPI either. Even if they did, like high-end Core i7, there is little benefit in giving a Mac Pro and nVidia IGP.

These plans have long been known. That virtually all Nehalem will not have high-bandwidth QPI links, regardless of whether they have Intel IGP, the included DMI link is unsuitable for an external IGP. It doesn't matter how hard nVidia argues to produce chipsets for Nehalem, it won't make QPI exist on chips that just don't have them, and remove the DMI bandwidth constraint for IGPs. Apple choosing to switch to nVidia chipsets was a dead-end that they should have realized and it was something that I mentioned in forum responses to the initial nVidia/Apple partnership.

If nVidia wants to make chipsets for Nehalem, they will essentially be making southbridges for DMI links. With P.A. Semi, Apple has enough experience to make southbridges themselves, and it makes more sense for them to anyways so that they can combine things like Firewire and touchpad controllers which are currently separate chips into the southbridge to save costs. Custom Apple designed southbridges would definitely go with Apple's statements of introducing features that competitors can't match. This is something that going with nVidia chipsets still doesn't allow since nVidia still sells to others.

Realistically, instead of trying to fight to make southbridges for DMI, which is no doubt a low-margin market, or making an IGP for QPI, which is pointless for high-end desktop processors, nVidia should be focused on making the fastest low-cost discrete GPU they can. Discrete GPUs will always be faster than an IGP that shares system memory. And with the PCIe controller now integrated into the CPU, Intel is actually doing a favour for GPU makers since it'll only increase graphics performance.

And as a note on anti-competition arguments, Intel not including QPI on all Nehalem processors and only including a low-bandwidth DMI link is not necessarily deliberately malicious. It just doesn't make sense to raise cost and waste transistors on a more complex high-bandwidth QPI link for all Nehalems, when they already have northbridges built-in and only need to attach to a southbridge which only requires low-bandwidth. nVidia argues for a 2 chips design with CPU + combined northbridge/southbridge, and Intel is adopting a 2 chip design, just that they are doing combined CPU/northbridge + a separate southbridge which is a higher performance approach that benefits customers.
post #34 of 79
What Apple needs to do is refresh the price of the iMac...

Bring the prices down by about $200 on each iMac model and more on the Mac Pro...

This will help Apple sell more in the meantime
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post #35 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post


If this continues on Apple should buy a chunk of AMD and invest in their ATi chipsets.

They can shoot a shot over both Intel and Nvidia's bows to grow the hell up.

AMD already has GPUs compliant with OpenCL in the pipeline, plus currently existing ones that has OpenCL and Streams.

I like this suggestion. Sooner or later Apple is going to regret relying on only one
processor supplier. Also, if AMD does not survive, Intel will become even more
intransigent.
post #36 of 79
Personally, I'd like to see the terms of the Intel-nVidia bus license.

Intel's pre-Nehalem processors used an AGTL+ FSB while Nehalem uses either QPI or DMI bus links. I would think nVidia's previous bus license would have been for the FSB, which would mean Intel is right that the license wouldn't extend to QPI or DMI since those are obviously quite different. If nVidia's bus license was some blanket bus license for general x86 processors made by Intel, then nVidia would be right and Intel's lawyers really messed up if they wrote such a wide-ranging contract.
post #37 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post

Apple still has leverage with Intel. If they see that they cannot stay with NVIDIA for GPUs then they'll convince Intel to incorporate OpenCL. I'm sure Intel is already in the works in doing that if they haven't already done so. OpenCL is an open standard so why wouldn't they?

Even if they can do this, how is this "Apple having leverage with intel"???

This is more like Apple being intel's bitch.
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post #38 of 79
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Originally Posted by ltcommander.data View Post

I should point out that the fundamental assumption of this article, that the Intel's Nehalem chips that Apple will use will have QPI to connect to nVidia IGPs, is most likely flawed.

I am not debating your post, it is absolutely correct. I happened to write out a whole response before I read all the way through the thread, so I figured I'd post it anyways as perhaps it can add something to your already very detailed post.

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Ok as usual, there are some important issues being missed with this article.

1) "with QuickPath integrated memory controllers"

The Quickpath point-to-point connection is used exclusively for CPU->Northbridge(one chip in the traditional "chipset") and CPU->CPU connections, it has nothing to do with the Integrated memory controllers on the new Intel CPUs. (The only time memory traffic travels over Quickpath is on a dual-CPU computer like the Mac Pro where each CPU has its own bank of memory and one of them has to access data stored in the other's memory (known as a NUMA architecture).

This is a VERY IMPORTANT distinction to be made. While the high-end desktop Nehalem platform codenamed "Bloomfield" and all the Nehalem-based server Xeon platforms use two-chip northbridge+southbridge chipsets that connect via the Quickpath interface, all of the future mainstream (lower-end/low-power) Nehalem parts and all laptop models DO NOT USE QUICKPATH AT ALL.

These parts, AKA the quad-core "lynnfield" and "clarksfield" CPUs, and the lower-end dual-cores known as "clarksdale" and "arrandale" (these have an on-chip GPU) use a new socket and platform in which the northbridge functionality has been integrated into the CPU itself and so the CPU connects directly to the southbridge (via a DMI connection), NO Quickpath involved. Meanwhile, The (expensive) Quickpath-using Bloomfield desktop platform is projected to barely surpass 1% of nehalem sales, and the Xeons will be exclusively used on servers and workstations, so the vast majority of Nehalem cpus (including those in the iMac, MB, MB Pro, Mini, etc) Apple uses will NOT even have quickpath hardware.

Now I am not positive if the Intel->Nvidia fight is purely over the Quickpath containing chipsets. It would seem to me that in the platforms where Quickpath is not even used (mainstream/lower-end chips which would be used in iMac, MB, Mini, etc) Nvidia would be in the clear to continue producing chipsets.

2) "Apple has a lot riding on the dispute, as its next iMac and Mac Pro are both expected to use Nehalem CPUs.

#The Mac Pro situation is easy... It is a dual-CPU Xeon workstation and Nvidia doesn't make these types of chipset anyways. Secondly, even if they did there is not much of an advantage as the Mac Pro doesn't use an integrated GPU.

The iMac situation is similar.. Even if Apple decided to use the current "Bloomfield" Nehalem platform which does use Quickpath (and a two-chip northbridge/southbridge chipset) and so was forced to use an Intel chipset, the iMac doesn't use an integrated GPU and so would not benefit from an nVidia chipset as a Macbook, MB Pro or Mini would.

3) "furthermore, a mobile version of Nehalem is expected next year"
Again, I am NOT positive about this, but based on the info presented it appears the lawsuit is solely about the Quickpath interface. ALL future Nehalem laptop chipsets are based on the new (yet-to-be-released) CPUs that integrate the northbridge (PCIexpress, DMI, etc) onto the processor die and connect directly to the southbridge --- NO quickpath involved. If that's the case, then there is nothing to worry about.

On the other hand, if Intel is fighting Nvidia or ALL Nehalem platform licensing -- including the sockets/platforms that connect solely via the southbridge (DMI) without Quickpath... well, that is another thing entirely and a much greater problem. Either way, I don't see this continuing for very long. Nvidia will just cough up more dough and the thing will be settled..
post #39 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by ltcommander.data View Post

If nVidia wants to make chipsets for Nehalem, they will essentially be making southbridges for DMI links. With P.A. Semi, Apple has enough experience to make southbridges themselves, and it makes more sense for them to anyways so that they can combine things like Firewire and touchpad controllers which are currently separate chips into the southbridge to save costs. Custom Apple designed southbridges would definitely go with Apple's statements of introducing features that competitors can't match. This is something that going with nVidia chipsets still doesn't allow since nVidia still sells to others.

Realistically, instead of trying to fight to make southbridges for DMI, which is no doubt a low-margin market, or making an IGP for QPI, which is pointless for high-end desktop processors, nVidia should be focused on making the fastest low-cost discrete GPU they can. Discrete GPUs will always be faster than an IGP that shares system memory. And with the PCIe controller now integrated into the CPU, Intel is actually doing a favour for GPU makers since it'll only increase graphics performance.

Does that mean Apple will be forced to offer discrete GPUs on all Nehalem-based models to promote the adoption of OpenCL given that GMA is too slow and the fact that third party IGPs are not viable? That's good news then.
post #40 of 79
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Originally Posted by whatever00 View Post

Does that mean Apple will be forced to offer discrete GPUs on all Nehalem-based models to promote the adoption of OpenCL given that GMA is too slow and the fact that third party IGPs are not viable? That's good news then.

That's exactly what I was thinking and maybe that's where Apple is sh*ting its pants right now. Because now that Apple is fairly committed to Snow Leopard, GPGPU/OpenCL, etc... Apple has to pretty much ensure decent GPUs across its *entire* product line. Which may mean even the lower end Macs having *discrete* GPUs (Nvidia or ATI) which may be more expensive and cut into margins compared to having a cost-effective, powerful integrated GPU like the 9400M.

As someone pointed out above, Apple may be Intel's bitch... Well, just like Apple had a long running exit strategy with compiling for x86 (codename Marklar or something)... Apple had better keep in touch with AMD, ATI and PASemi etc. to avoid being painting themselves into a corner with Intel and/or Nvidia.
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