AMD and Apple have been talking...

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
from el reg:



http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/39/30372.html



[edit: full text inserted]



Apple and AMD working together, claims senior AMD official



By Tony Smith



Posted: 23/04/2003 at 14:54 GMT





Apple and AMD have been working together of late, a senior AMD official admitted at the launch of the chip maker's 64-bit Opteron processor this week.



During the press Q&A, the head of AMD's server business, Marty Seyer, said the company had been talking to "all tier one and tier two vendors". Of course, only a few of them have committed themselves to supporting Opteron, leaving the company will its usual base of little known customers, but that's by the by.



All tier one and tier two vendors? we wondered, and latter popped the question, "so we can conclude you've been talking to Apple as well then?"



Said senior official fell silent for a moment then turned to his PR minder and asked, "Can we talk about what we're doing with them yet?" The answer was a muddy 'not sure... have to get back to on that' kind of thing?



So what can we read into this little interchange? Certainly there have been rumours aplenty in the past concerning Apple's possible migration to the x86 world, and AMD's x86-64 technology - now officially known as 'AMD64', by the way - in particular. We've always found such claims incredible, given the considerable difficulties of managing the migration users and software developers to a new platform. Yes, Apple is a past master at this, witness the 680x0 to PowerPC shift, but don't underestimate the effort involved.



Then again, practical issues, such as the paucity of high-performance PowerPC processors might just tip Apple's hand, forcing the company to take the hard path because it has no choice.



With IBM's 64-bit PowerPC 970 coming up, it's hard to imagine Apple feeling such pressure right now. Assuming it does choose to use the 970 - and all the indications are that it will - it will gain a significant speed boost, and an easy migration path to 64-bit computing. Users can continue to run 32-bit Mac OS X and their 32-bit apps natively on the 970, upgrading when they see fit first to a 640-bit version of the OS - which should boost the performance of 32-bit apps too - and then to 64-bit apps.



That's the same path AMD is offering to 32-bit Windows and Linux users: the 'no brainer' option of better 32-bit performance today, with 64-bit upgradeability for tomorrow coming effectively free of charge.



Its success depends on the availability of 64-bit apps and hardware vendor support. Apple doesn't have to worry about the latter, but it is concerned about winning the hearts and minds and coding fingers of its developers, and that's why the delayed Worldwide Developers Conference is expected to see the launch of 64-bit Mac OS X and 64-bit development tools.



Many of those developers also work on Windows code, and quite a few we suspect will be watching the take-up of Opteron and, later, Athlon 64 with interest. The technology's relevance to consumers is limited, but it's of considerable importance to digital content creators, a key Apple audience. AMD64 has the potential to attract a lot of content creators to the x86 world by providing very significant performance gains not only through 64-bit computing but through the infrastructure technology AMD has put in place, such as the on-die memory controller and using HyperTransport as the system bus.



Now, we're not saying that 64-bit Photoshop et al running natively on AMD64 CPUs is going to happen anytime soon, or that if it does, pro Mac users are going to switch over in droves. But the availability of such a set-up, especially if Apple hasn't got anything comparable to offer, will slowly erode Apple's user base.



It was always assumed that Apple's adoption of the PowerPC 970 was driven by the need to get closer to achieving performance parity with x86 processors. But the arrival of AMD64 technology makes that adoption a necessity. Success for AMD depends on many factors, not least what Intel may offer as an alternative. Rumours have already claimed Intel's next major mainstream processor, Prescott, will feature AMD64 technology or something similar. While that would effectively doom Intel's expensive Itanium project to all but the highest-end applications, Intel may choose to risk that if it sees AMD making too many inroads into its Xeon and Pentium sales.



Again, that puts even greater pressure on Apple to keep up or risk appearing out-moded. Again, PowerPC 970 offers Apple the only way to stay in the game.



Even then it's going to be tough. Full independent benchmarks are only just starting to emerge comparing Opteron with Xeon and other processors, and the results are looking good for AMD. AMD's own figures, for its 1.8GHz Opteron 144, intended for uni-processor systems, show the chip yields peak SPECint2000 and SPECintFP scores of 1170 and 1219, respectively. IBM's preliminary numbers for the 970 (also at 1.8GHz) are 937 and 1051.



IBM may up the figures at launch, and in any case, real-world performance depends on system configuration. Even if Apple achieves performance parity - a significant milestone, it must be said - the pressures on AMD to ramp up AMD64 performance are arguably greater than IBM's need to speed the 970.



So should Apple go AMD64? And might that be the basis for those comments from the senior AMD guy? We find it hard to imagine that AMD hasn't been talking to Apple, if only informally. Just as Dell regularly converses with AMD to keep Intel to heel, so Apple almost certainly talks to AMD and Intel to keep the pressure on Motorola and IBM. At the very least, it needs to keep up with trends among other processor platforms so it has an up-to-date contingency plan in case PowerPC proves untenable.



We're more inclined to believe that any recent co-operation between the two companies centres on Apple's move to HyperTransport as the basis of future Power Mac systems. Apple is a founding member of the HyperTransport Consortium, and its next-generation Power Macs are rumoured to sport an HT bus. The PowerPC 970 has a frontside bus capable of 6.4GBps throughput - exactly what you'd expect from a coherent HT link.



Good sources suggest we'll learn the truth at WWDC, when Apple is expected to come clean about its 64-bit strategy and the hardware that will drive that programme. We don't expect Apple to announce its pro workstations will, say, be based on Opteron 244 processors and Nvidia's workstation-oriented nForce Pro 3 250 chipset, but stranger things have happened. At this stage we'd put more money on AMD than on the likelihood Motorola can pull a 64-bit G4 out of thin air...



No, the PowerPC 970 remains the chief candidate. And we'd caution against reading too much into the AMD official's comments. But we think it unwise to rule out the possibility of co-operation between Apple and AMD, particularly at the HyperTransport level. ®
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 98
    yevgenyyevgeny Posts: 1,148member
    Of course, the most important part is the last part that clearly states that the talks are mostl likely about HyperTransport. Don't blow this into yet another unfounded rumor fest.



    Apple is not going to ditch PPC. It is NOT going to happen. If anything, the Reg is very correct to point out that this is yet another reason why Apple needs to go with the 970.
  • Reply 2 of 98
    othelloothello Posts: 1,053member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Yevgeny

    Of course, the most important part is the last part that clearly states that the talks are mostl likely about HyperTransport. Don't blow this into yet another unfounded rumor fest.





    excuse me for breathing!



    i don't believe i expressed an opinion -- i just posted what the register had written. don't take this 'apple fans should calm down' thing out on me...





    [edit for typo]
  • Reply 3 of 98
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,268member
    Should Apple decide on an X86-64 initiative with OSX teh Opteron Prime would be a good choice.



    I can see nothing that would make the Opteron a better choice over the PPC 970 however. Spec numbers are the same and the die size for the 970 is much smaller right now.
  • Reply 4 of 98
    yevgenyyevgeny Posts: 1,148member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by othello

    excuse me for breathing!



    i don't believe i expressed an opinion -- i just posted what the register had written. don't take this 'apple fans should calm down' thing out on me...





    [edit for typo]




    Sorry about that. As I get older, I'm getting less patient with unfounded rumors, and so I have a tendency to want to crush them before they grow to full sized delusions.



    For anyone else who wants to say that Apple is going with AMD, be warned
  • Reply 5 of 98
    Something is going on definitely.





    I found interesting also that AMD plans to release the AMD64 in September, around the time Apple usually upgrades hardware.

    I'm not saying that they will go x86, but that they are difinitely cooperating. The axis of goodness: IBM, AMD, Apple

    Can't wait to find out!
  • Reply 6 of 98
    bartobarto Posts: 2,246member
    In other news, TheReg, TheInq and MOSR have all been talking to each other in a giant loser-fest.



    Barto
  • Reply 7 of 98
    amorphamorph Posts: 7,112member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by hmurchison

    Should Apple decide on an X86-64 initiative with OSX teh Opteron Prime would be a good choice.



    Opteron Prime?



    Why do I get the feeling that AMD is run by people who collect Transformers?
  • Reply 8 of 98
    screedscreed Posts: 1,077member
    All right, this bit really confused me:

    Quote:

    Rumours have already claimed Intel's next major mainstream processor, Prescott, will feature AMD64 technology or something similar. While that would effectively doom Intel's expensive Itanium project to all but the highest-end applications, Intel may choose to risk that if it sees AMD making too many inroads into its Xeon and Pentium sales.



    "Intel using AMD64 technology" but then "or something similar." Is it me, a major scoop or just slopping writing?



    Screed
  • Reply 9 of 98
    Quote:

    Originally posted by othello

    from el reg:





    No, the PowerPC 970 remains the chief candidate. And we'd caution against reading too much into the AMD official's comments. But we think it unwise to rule out the possibility of co-operation between Apple and AMD, particularly at the HyperTransport level. ®




    My vote, FWIW, is that they probably got the scenario pretty much exactly right with that last paragraph.
  • Reply 10 of 98
    Quote:

    Originally posted by OverToasty

    My vote, FWIW, is that they probably got the scenario pretty much exactly right with that last paragraph.



    Agreed.
  • Reply 11 of 98
    frostymmbfrostymmb Posts: 131member
    Agreed as well. Apple has the 970 lined up, and IBM is going to make it and evolutions of the PPC a success. So, there is little reason to move to x86 to 'stay in the game' when it comes to performance. HyperTransport makes some sense, considering that the concept of putting HT into Macs has been around for a long time, and now it seems likely that that's what the co-op is about.
  • Reply 12 of 98
    henriokhenriok Posts: 537member
    Why would they talk about HyperTransport at an Opteron-event? And.. it's really no secret that Apple is a partner in developing HyperTransport. And.. IBM is not. Wouldn't that be practical if they are meant to use HT for 970?
  • Reply 13 of 98
    xmogerxmoger Posts: 242member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by sCreeD

    All right, this bit really confused me:





    "Intel using AMD64 technology" but then "or something similar." Is it me, a major scoop or just slopping writing?



    Screed




    This is Intel's Yamhill project.
  • Reply 14 of 98
    atomichamatomicham Posts: 185member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by othello

    from el reg:



    ... Users can continue to run 32-bit Mac OS X and their 32-bit apps natively on the 970, upgrading when they see fit first to a 640-bit version of the OS - which should boost the performance of 32-bit apps too ...





    HA! To hell with you 64-bit wimps, I'm jumping to 640-bit with 4e186 Mbytes of memory. Suckers at Intel will cringe when I have the entire web in RAM.
  • Reply 15 of 98
    aquafireaquafire Posts: 2,758member
    V good analysis, but I still think IBM Apple has the " Chip "

    even if it inferior, it comes with a big status Tag & when your trying to win hearts & minds, impression is the thing.
  • Reply 16 of 98
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Amorph

    Opteron Prime?



    Why do I get the feeling that AMD is run by people who collect Transformers?




    Now that you mention it...
  • Reply 17 of 98
    @homenow@homenow Posts: 998member
    There is another big reason not to put creadence in the AMD inside Apple scenerio. This would be a major chance in archatecture, and direction for the company, requireing advanced notice to both invesors and developers. Since Apple is a publicly traded company, a switch of this magnitude without prior notice would most likely bring some investor lawsuits Apples way, and would do nothing for developer relations either.
  • Reply 18 of 98
    herbivoreherbivore Posts: 132member
    I guess I don't understand the logic of Apple making use of the Opteron or Athlon64.



    For years, people derided x86 as being outdated. Now, many people are hailing 64 bit x86 as a breakthrough.



    I can understand why AMD is betting its future on 64 bit x86. But why would Apple bet on AMD's ability to keep up in the speed wars with Intel and IBM? I personally would not.



    If Apple wanted to make a move over to another architecture, the Itanium would be a better chip. Apple does not have to worry about legacy x86 software and hence, the move would be relatively painless. Of course, Mac OS classic would run poorly in emulation.



    Apple could port OS X to the Itanium and ride Intel's ability to scale the chip. In my estimation, this would be a much safer route as Intel has shown that it can consistently deliver the results.



    AMD is on life support. x86 is on life support. Intel has no plans to support the architecture for any length of time.



    AMD's successes will keep the PC users in the 32 bit x86 arena for a much longer time than otherwise would have been the case.



    I don't believe that Intel wanted to scale the Pentium in such a fashion. It was AMD that forced them to. Otherwise, Intel would have stopped development of the x86 and put all of their resources into EPIC. Once EPIC was fast enough to run 32 bit x86 apps. in emulation as fast as the fastest Pentium, they would have migrated everyone over.



    It is time to move on. x86 won't last. Intel and IBM will see to it.



    Committing to AMD would be as bad as the committment made to Motorola. We simply don't want to go there.



    We should be content with IBM's new found committment to the PowerPC. Apple should do everything it can to encourage IBM's ongoing dedication to the chip.



    Does anyone really believe that the Opteron/Athlon64 will scale at the same rate that IBM plans for the Power/PowerPC series? And does anyone feel that the Athlon will be feasible for notebooks? Finally, does anyone really feel that 64 bit x86 performance will be anywhere in the ballpark of 64 bit PowerPC? Especially if the VMX unit is brought into play?



    Time to move on. 64 bit x86 is for those who desire to remain in the dark ages of computing. It is Windows that needs the Opteron/Athlon and only then for backwards compatibility. Linux does not and Mac OS X does not.



    IBM is only using the x86 Opteron processor to get under the skin of Intel. It ties up valuable resources on the part of Intel and delays the migration to Itanium. This in turn gives IBM time to develop the Power 5 and PowerPC 980.



    I would love to be a fly on the wall in Intel's board meetings. They must know that x86 is a dead end. Why else do they stubbornly cling to EPIC? Yet, if they don't move on Itanium soon, IBM may make the chip irrelevant. Perhaps Intel might pay Apple to develop OS X for Itanium? Motorola paid Microsoft to do the same for NT on PowerPC.



    In any case, OS X on the Itanium is within the realm of possibility. OS X on the Opteron/Athlon makes no sense.
  • Reply 19 of 98
    strobestrobe Posts: 369member
    Apple would have to give 3rd party developers at least 6 months advance notice of any architecture change. What good is an OS with no apps?



    Not to mention all us developers would be POed! Such a move would drive us into WinXP faster than a meteorite landing on cupertino.



    Stop passing the hot turd around like it's a box of delicious chocolates.
  • Reply 20 of 98
    Intel is absolutely not standing still on this one either. Read the following URL for more information:



    http://news.com.com/2100-1006-997936.html



    When pushed into a corner, Intel will respond.



    Again, I don't see AMD being able to compete with Intel for any length of time.



    The use of AMD chips by Apple would amount to suicide for the company. Unless, of course, it were part of some other strategy to weaken Intel and strengthen IBM.



    Still, the only realistic long term strategy is for Apple to remain firmly dedicated to the PowerPC as its primary processor option.



    IBM is no slouch and can compete with Intel. The PowerPC also allows Apple full backwards compatibility and offers advantages in areas that Intel/AMD cannot match. 8)
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