Is Cell a Threat?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
http://www.macnewsworld.com/story/38633.html



This article was linked in the Power5 thread, but I believe it deserves a separate discussion. The author, Paul Murphy, paints a dark future for Apple at the hand of IBM, and I find it difficult to believe it could be true. His opinions are so different from anything I've heard so far. Yet he appears to know a lot. Is this doom and gloom just nonsense and full of logical holes? I certainly hope so.



I don't know enough to contribute a lot, but have notice a couple oversights. He says Sun is Apple's only hope for the future, but fails to address how Alti-Vec would be accommodated. Also, he does not mention that IBM is in the independent chip making business, and Apple could still contract chips from them, even if IBM were heading in a different direction.



Comments? I hope Programmer reads this. I know a developer personally, but I cannot disturb him now with such questions. He's getting a product ready for beta and working almost around the clock.



Jerry

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    I swear this guy did the same article a couple months back. I remember reading this word for word back in September or October. If true this guy is desperate for news.
  • Reply 2 of 14
    snoopysnoopy Posts: 1,901member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by quagmire

    I swear this guy did the same article a couple months back. I remember reading this word for word back in September or October. If true this guy is desperate for news.



    I believe you are right. In looking back to their home page, this listing has "Best of ECT News" on it, meaning it's a re-run I think. Likely it is just fill for the holiday, while nobody is writing. They could at least put the correct date on it so it doesn't look new.



    Still, it is a disturbing read, even if old. I hope he's way off.
  • Reply 3 of 14
    rbrrbr Posts: 631member
    "For the last three weeks"... was a 6/17 article. This is definitely and old article. It is still provocative and poses the question of where will Apple go both in terms of development and the corporation itself. I believe that the Sun/Apple connection is old information and is not a likely occurrence at this time as Sun has problems of its own with the SPARC platform, among other things. IBM, on the other hand, seems to be moving right along even taking into account the occasional glitch in manufacturing.



    If, as indicated, the cell processor will be fast, cheap, and flexible it may well be that it is time for Apple to ditch Altivec and move along. This might well be part of the reason that the IBM/Apple discussion have been somewhat confusing about exactly what they would do together...it is not yet decided. With a multi-core, partitionable CPU with a clear price/performance advantage (and a prospect of long term development) it would be worthwhile to make the operating system changes necessary. IBM has the cash to do that if Apple does not and it seems clear that IBM likes what Apple has been doing with the X-Serve.



    The article also talks about the lack of "management bandwidth" in a Sun/Apple combination to pull off the change. The fact is that any sort of acquisition of Apple will have to be done in such a way as to integrate the essential elements of Apple (and Steve) into the offspring or loose much of the reason for the acquisition in the first place.



    My bet is on IBM, not Sun.
  • Reply 4 of 14
    amorphamorph Posts: 7,112member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by RBR

    If, as indicated, the cell processor will be fast, cheap, and flexible it may well be that it is time for Apple to ditch Altivec and move along.



    That would be insane, as AltiVec is just starting to really take off. IBM is about to roll out a compiler with autovectorization. Strange as it sounds, that particular innovation is just starting to hit its stride.



    AltiVec is 2 additional processing units integrated into a PPC core. The implementation on the 7445 takes up less than 10% of the die. It's not a big deal to include it anymore.



    Cell is a PPC core + a bunch of simple, high-speed SIMD units. Since AltiVec is an optional and relatively small part of a PPC core, it's an optional part of a Cell processor. Since it has strengths that the independent Cell cores will not, and the independent Cell cores will have strengths that AltiVec does not, it makes perfect sense to roll out an Cell CPU built around a PPC core with AltiVec.



    Such a thing would change the Mac landscape considerably, in fact... not in a bad way.
  • Reply 5 of 14
    hirohiro Posts: 2,663member
    The last line of the story: "This story was originally published on July 8, 2004, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series"



    Crap then, still crap now.
  • Reply 6 of 14
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Indeed.



    Let's see, a low-power, rapid fast new PPC-based multi-core design with the option of AltiVec included quite trivially...



    Naw, I can't see Apple having *any* need for *that*.
  • Reply 7 of 14
    snoopysnoopy Posts: 1,901member
    I'm feeling much better now.
  • Reply 8 of 14
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Good. What most of these anal-ysts from the Wintel side seem to miss is that, unlike the x86 architecture, the PowerPC was *designed*.



    The core PPC architecture and instruction set hasn't changed since its inception, which means that a compiler for a PowerPC 970 needs some tweaking for a Cell to be sure, but it's nothing like the shift from say a P4 to a Centrino, or worse, Itanium.



    64-bit? Check. Added to gcc in a few months. Didn't require a whole new compiler, just a new module.



    AltiVec? Ditto.



    Multi-CPU? Way done.



    Multi-core? Ditto.



    A new PPC derived CPU doesn't mean having to start from more or less scratch (or worse, support 20 year old technologies) like it does over on the other side. Different rules apply here, and the analysts who have just a mild understanding of technology in the first place don't seem to understand that. They never have.
  • Reply 9 of 14
    programmerprogrammer Posts: 3,409member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by snoopy

    Comments? I hope Programmer reads this.



    Don't worry about it. Just another writer pontificating without any real information or domain knowledge.
  • Reply 10 of 14
    randycat99randycat99 Posts: 1,919member
    Maybe he wanted to make a fluff story that would give Sun stock just a bit more kick so he could finally dump his shares at cost?



    I thought it was fairly well known by now that Cell will be using a PPC 970 series unit to coordinate the subordinate processing units, anyway. So if it has that, I don't see why it is so unimagineable for VMX (Altivec ala IBM) to exist on the die, as well. This is entirely ignoring that all those existing banks of SIMD style sub-units on a Cell die couldn't be any more well suited to emulate VMX outright. In a most optimistic scenario, Cell might have the means to emulate what is essentially 512-bit or 1024-bit Altivec engines?! (4 and 5x wide Altivec processing is what I'm getting at) Now don't tell me Apple couldn't use something like that... Can you say, "realtime filters in Photoshop, that you tweak by simply dragging a screen slider"? Ok, who knows if any of that is possible. I guess the more important note is Apple couldn't have a better CPU partner right now than IBM, wrt future-proof architecture/technology. Jump to Sun processors?! Is this guy on crack?
  • Reply 11 of 14
    programmerprogrammer Posts: 3,409member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Randycat99

    I thought it was fairly well known by now that Cell will be using a PPC 970 series unit to coordinate the subordinate processing units, anyway.



    Considering nothing has been published, nothing is "fairly well known". There are just a lot of guesses and suppositions.
  • Reply 12 of 14
    murkmurk Posts: 935member
    The real question is should I buy a G5 this spring or wait for CellMac?





  • Reply 13 of 14
    randycat99randycat99 Posts: 1,919member
    Well, that's why I said "fairly well known", not "absolutely well known". What will happen to me tomorrow isn't documented anywhere, either, but I have a fairly good idea right now what I will be dealing with tomorrow. The major point is, it is a partnership with IBM, hence the use of PPC's in some way, shape, or form, is not at all unlikely. If there can be a PPC, then the presence of Altivec is equally plausible and feasible. The current line of speculation right now is that the "housekeeping" CPU will be some sort of PPC 970 variant. Whether or not that comes to be true or not is largely irrelevant as to how plausible Altivec could appear or be emulated in a Cell architecture. That Altivec or its functionality could not be incorporated into a Cell architecture seems to be the dealbreaker premise the guy in this article was trying to push as a reason IBM could "hypothetically" be a dead end for Apple. He doesn't give any reasons for why not, but somehow a jump to an entirely different RISC architecture (Sun) seems beneficial to him (???).
  • Reply 14 of 14
    programmerprogrammer Posts: 3,409member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Randycat99

    Well, that's why I said "fairly well known", not "absolutely well known".



    Lets try "broadly speculated" then. To me the word "known" is too strong for this situation.



    Quote:

    The major point is, it is a partnership with IBM, hence the use of PPC's in some way, shape, or form, is not at all unlikely. If there can be a PPC, then the presence of Altivec is equally plausible and feasible. The current line of speculation right now is that the "housekeeping" CPU will be some sort of PPC 970 variant. Whether or not that comes to be true or not is largely irrelevant as to how plausible Altivec could appear or be emulated in a Cell architecture.



    Your logic is impeccable. The major issue, in my mind, is how the IP is distributed across the IBM, Sony, Toshiba partnership.



    Quote:

    That Altivec or its functionality could not be incorporated into a Cell architecture seems to be the dealbreaker premise the guy in this article was trying to push as a reason IBM could "hypothetically" be a dead end for Apple. He doesn't give any reasons for why not, but somehow a jump to an entirely different RISC architecture (Sun) seems beneficial to him (???).



    Right. Like I said, the author of that article is clueless. Probably has shares in Sun or something.
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