100% PowerPC abandonment or only 50%?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple's move to the Intel processor is said to be because they weren't getting what they were looking for, especially for their portables. This sounds a reasonable explanation. Now I see the Playstation 3 with and 8 core "Cell Processor". This thing looks perfect for an XServe machine that would be used in a cluster, or even by itself, offering top of the line performance. This got me wondering whether Apple would attempt to use Intel based CPUs for most of the line and remain on the PPC for the top end?



I must admit this does sound like a crazy idea and I am not sure that it would be feasable?



Does Intel have anything to compare to the "Cell Processor"?



Just my 5c and would curious on your view.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    ajmasajmas Posts: 557member
    Hmm, just found that Jobs was offered the possibility, but turned it down:



    http://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/8504/S...ell-Processor/
  • Reply 2 of 26
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    It's been mentioned before on these forums, but it's probably lost amid the noise... Cell isn't really suitable for a general purpose processor.



    Ars Technica had a good article on this, and it was corroborated by a friend of mine who I recently found out helped design the thing. He concurred that it wouldn't be really all that fast at the type of tasks that the average PC needs to do, but that it does indeed kick tuckas for running one app (the game) and one app only, with constrained specs. Ie, a console.
  • Reply 3 of 26
    elronelron Posts: 126member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by ajmas

    8 core "Cell Processor".



    The cell processor is interesting for some fields, but as someone mentioned already, it isn't really meant for desktop/server applications. The cell isn't really an 8-core CPU. It has one PPE, which is a PowerPC core that executes instructions in order (the G5 executes out-of-order where possible, which leads to enormous speed increases). The other "cores" are called SPEs. You can think of them as AltiVec units. They're basically there to execute vector instructions. That's nice and all, but most desktop and server applications don't use many vector instructions. So basically, the cell is a very specialized processor that will find use in the scientific and gaming communities.



    I may have over-simplified a bit and/or just plain gotten things wrong, but that's the jist of it. For more info, try the Ars article (http://arstechnica.com/articles/paedia/cpu/cell-1.ars). There are some other good ones on-line too.
  • Reply 4 of 26
    sunilramansunilraman Posts: 8,133member
    i think it is pertinent now to reflect, 1.5 months post macintesh announcement, that we can forget about Cell. unless its a dedicated co-processor thing for h.264 encode/decode and similar usage.



    as a core cpu, apple won't be using Cell anytime soon.



    i think there's 2 more years of mileage left in apple pushing xserve g5s. i got the feeling that science/bio/tech/cluster/etc. people were just starting to really dig it.



    as for webserving, i think market research will show strong dominance in terms of marketshare by linux and windows2003server.



    well, once apple gets the Power back in its PowerMac and PowerBook (late 2006) they can start playing ball there.



    in the mean time, bring on the consumer-ipod-halo-omfg-look-ma,-no-viruses crowd: iBook, Mac Mini --> Intel, iMac g5 --> intel mid to late 2006...



    just some thoughts at this stage...
  • Reply 5 of 26
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Here's a wacky thought - Cell as a coproc... on an Intel machine.



    Yup, mix and match the PPC and x86 instruction sets, generating the PPC code snippets on the fly, ala CoreImage, but for AltiVec processing of the things that it excels at, such as scientific number crunching.



    It would certainly ensure that Apple's boxes were not just PC clones. They have the PPC experience already, heck, they have the OS running on it just fine. All that beautiful code just sitting there... "If there's a Cell coproc, send it these PPC chunklets, otherwise, use this x86 library and go through the main CPU."



    Not that I think it'll happen, but boy howdy, it'd be an interesting setup from both technical and marketing standpoints.
  • Reply 6 of 26
    sam damonsam damon Posts: 129member
    Not wacky, but d**ned interesting for the video editing crowd.



    SJ has *always* liked software solutions -- witness Apple's advances in DVD burning, and before that, AltiVec. Routine now, not so when the SuperDrive-equipped PMG4s came out.



    They changed my industry considerably (and will continue to do so). A hybrid x86-Cell machine running OS X... hmmm.



    Unless, of course, SJ has blown not only the IBM bridges, but approaches to those bridges as well.





    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kickaha

    Here's a wacky thought - Cell as a coproc... on an Intel machine.



    Yup, mix and match the PPC and x86 instruction sets, generating the PPC code snippets on the fly, ala CoreImage, but for AltiVec processing of the things that it excels at, such as scientific number crunching.



    It would certainly ensure that Apple's boxes were not just PC clones. They have the PPC experience already, heck, they have the OS running on it just fine. All that beautiful code just sitting there... "If there's a Cell coproc, send it these PPC chunklets, otherwise, use this x86 library and go through the main CPU."



    Not that I think it'll happen, but boy howdy, it'd be an interesting setup from both technical and marketing standpoints.




  • Reply 7 of 26
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    The more I think about this, the more sense it makes, to be honest.



    What's Apple's biggest problem moving into the Intel world? How to distinguish themselves from the PC box makers. More to the point, how to make a *better* box than the PC box makers without breaking the customers' pockets.



    No other box maker (even if they made their own) would be able to add in a PPC based chip, because they don't write the OS.



    MS isn't going to be doing this, because they don't make the boxes.



    For the Windows crowd to pull this off, MS and Intel would have to make a new spec mobo using a competitor's product. Ain't. Gonna. Happen.



    For Apple though, this might be quite doable. They have the hardware experience, obviously, and CoreImage has shown that they can pull off exactly this sort of magic with a graphics card as the coprocessor, and provide solid OS support for it.



    IBM gets another customer for a chip that doesn't require a bunch of custom work, so Apple can just ride the coattails of Sony and MS on this. They've shown they can be flexible with CoreImage, why not this? If the Cell changes (in a few years), they can adapt then. But it means that they have a solid and steady source for a chip that probably isn't going to change much for quite a while.



    The question is price, of course... is Cell cheap enough, and the cost of making a custom mobo small enough, that they can do this without being seen as 'just a pricey PC maker'? I think being able to say "Yeah, you know the PS3? That's our *co-processor*" would turn some heads though, assuming the performance was there. Definitely some possibilities here for workstations, since I don't think the iMac would support the price point needed.



    But at one stroke Apple boosts themselves ahead in performance at the top end of the market (where they can command a premium), distances themselves from the rest of the PC pack, and ensures that MacOS X on a real Mac kicks the butt of it running on any other hardware (assuming it might be able), leading to people wanting to buy that Mac for the speed after getting hooked on the OS...



    Nope, never going to happen.
  • Reply 8 of 26
    sunilramansunilraman Posts: 8,133member
    kickaha, bloody fucking brilliant. i wouldn't give up on the idea so easily.



    the key is that apple has to make the *experience* worthwhile and leverage the Cell to the MAX.



    they can always glean a bit off the oodles and oodles of Cell chips that IBM is going to make



    i don't think steve has completely dumped IBM, he's given them a bit of a kick up the ass, or a sharp sting, if IBM is a big mammal and apple a kickass wasp



    i've come up with something: the key is

    SONY-APPLE partnership



    no, i'm not just blindly echoing steven mulnovich's pie-in-the-sky-to-boost-apple-stock ramblings, but think of this:



    1. sony gets to license macintesh Mac OS X onto its VAIO MAC line

    2. apple storms back into the higher-end

    computing scene with Cell coprocessing

    3. sony electronics, sony pictures, sony ericsson and apple execs

    all sit down one day, take a couple of eccies (xtasy)

    and work some mobile-high-def-video-movie-content-home-theatre

    WHATEVER

    that we all know we are craving for**



    **ihome/ ipodvideo/ iCinema/ iPhoneMobile/ iTunesMobile /iMovieMobile/ etc/ etc.... it's so close you can almost taste it, but it's just beyond our grasp now. like homer's dream, where he invents the most amazing thing, but in his dream he can never actually see what the hell it was



    SONY-APPLE. so close, yet so far....

    .................................................. ...............



    ps. i've said this before, and it got shot down, but number 4. above could be the bringing GAMING to the Apple ~ guess what. Sony licensing PS3 ability to Apple plus revenue in gaming titles, well, it stands a chance of a win-win situation. *sigh* maybe in an alternate universe, but if i sllide into that universe, i'll let you know how it all goes



    edit: imagine if your macintesh with cell coprocessor could actually play PS3 games as well, and that is the primary gaming platform on the mac. that would solve tons of headaches right now like "the gpu sucks", "the game port sucks", "there is no no port", "it's too slow", "its too hard to write games for mac", etc, etc.



    edit2: remember that the PS3 coprocessor in the Macintesh would be 'not much extra' to pay for top-of-the-line, reliable, wide-title-available gaming ~ we're talking maybe an extra us$250, probably down to just an extra $100 if its a 'daugtercard' version of the PS3



    edit3: imagine if wirelessly your kid/brother/sister/boyfriend/girlfriend could BE PLAYING THAT PS3 daughtercard through the TV and PSP3 controler while you are also using your Mac for important stuff (like downloading porn). and when the kids have gone to bed or your girlfriend/boyfriend is out shopping, and you've done your work, you can have a bit of PS3 action yourself right there on your LCD high-res display.



    boy, so close yet so far. this is such a great idea (to me anyway) i swear it can't happen...
  • Reply 9 of 26
    Quote:

    Originally posted by sunilraman

    << A lot of excited typing.>>



    What kind of coffee do you drink? I'd like to get my hands on some.



    Thanks!
  • Reply 10 of 26
    Quote:

    Originally posted by audiopollution

    What kind of coffee do you drink? I'd like to get my hands on some.



    Thanks!




    what makes you think it's coffee?
  • Reply 11 of 26
    dutch peardutch pear Posts: 588member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Sunilraman and Kickaha

    - lots of brilliant but so not going to happen plans -



    Please do apply for a job in cupertino and be hired, will you 8) 8) 8)
  • Reply 12 of 26
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Naw, I'm a software engineering analysis guy, not a hardware monkey.
  • Reply 13 of 26
    nepy05nepy05 Posts: 10member
    I think you are right, who needs 'Intel Inside'? We have tons of it, just find nowhere to dump.

    X86 is an older than old clumsy structure, it was only luckly picked by IBM.

    Apple has been genius along the way in handling elegant structures such as

    6502 -> 65816 -> 68Ks -> PowerPCs

    However the economic issue runs sometime very tough, maybe

    Apple-IBM-Motorola-Sony

    is the answer.

    So the new concept is Expansion rather than Transition called

    'MacOX Everywhere'

    Over PowerPC to PC to TV, Cellphones, ..., even Watches and Robots.
  • Reply 14 of 26
    Quote:

    Originally posted by ajmas

    Does Intel have anything to compare to the "Cell Processor"?



    Well, Cell is exclusively made for multimedia processing, with home theaters/video game systems, 3D and video rendering server farms, military and scientific supercalculators, etc.



    Intel has plans for massively multicore asymmetric processors in the near future (2007 and so forth). "Massively" means 8 to 32 cores and more. "Asymmetric" means like in Cell, there will master cores and a lot of dedicated integrated coprocessors, sorta DSP. But contrary to Cell, they will be targeted for desktop and server markets.



    This family of new multicore chips is codenamed Nehalem (nota: the Nehalem project, originally initiated to bring 10GHz+ Netburst P4 successor has been recently retargeted as a new and more efficient design of multicore Pentium-M derivative).



    The first quadcore processor of this era will be Whitefield in 2007, beginning at 3 GHz. It will also be the first to bring an embedded memory controller with the high speed CSI bus (Common System Interface), competitor of HyperTransport. I think this very powerful chip is the one that Apple will use in the first Intel Power Mac.

    In 2008, the second Nehalem generation Dunnington and Bloomfield (made with a 45 nm process) will have 4 to 32 cores. Intel calls this design "Cores-a-Plenty".



    For the near future and beyond, see this English Babelfish translation of a French article from x86-secret :

    - Dual Core: And after?

    - Vision for 2015
  • Reply 15 of 26
    wmfwmf Posts: 1,164member
    Hey look, the 840AV is back!



    You could use a Cell coprocessor under Windows if you just wrote drivers for it. I could imagine Avid, Canopus, or Matrox using a Cell coprocessor PCI card for video, although it would be expensive.
  • Reply 16 of 26
    sunilramansunilraman Posts: 8,133member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by audiopollution

    What kind of coffee do you drink? I'd like to get my hands on some.

    Thanks!




    if you must know it was like 11pm and my evening xanax was starting to kick in, so at that stage my body/mind fights it by being super creative. by about 11.30pm the xanax fully takes over then i get sleeeeeppppyy...



    so i was bashing out what was a very clear sony-apple strategy which i was inspired by... before i got sleeeeeppppyyy...



    i don't drink coffee, i get too excited... i'd probably have a heart attack if i had something like a starbucks double espresso latte or whatever
  • Reply 17 of 26
    sunilramansunilraman Posts: 8,133member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by dutch pear

    Please do apply for a job in cupertino and be hired, will you 8) 8) 8)



    I think silicon valley has a restraining order against me. I'm not allowed to go anywhere south of the San Francisco airport
  • Reply 18 of 26
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by wmf

    Hey look, the 840AV is back!



    You could use a Cell coprocessor under Windows if you just wrote drivers for it. I could imagine Avid, Canopus, or Matrox using a Cell coprocessor PCI card for video, although it would be expensive.




    It also would require the companies to roll their own PPC code from scratch, which they don't have a lot of experience with.



    CoreImage shows that the OS can provide a nice API that utilizes on-the-fly customized code production for a coprocessor, and falls back to a traditional library on the CPU if that coprocessor is missing or not up to the task. Apps would have a hell of a time dealing with it compared to letting the OS do it.



    A Cell coprocessor on the motherboard would, IMO, probably require much more for Windows than a simple 'driver' to let Windows boot on said mobo, depending on how the Cell was integrated. Mobo units aren't like peripherals.
  • Reply 19 of 26
    drboardrboar Posts: 477member
    A coprocessor to offload the CPU would be nice, for example sound processing, lets call it a "sound card"
  • Reply 20 of 26
    sunilramansunilraman Posts: 8,133member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by DrBoar

    A coprocessor to offload the CPU would be nice, for example sound processing, lets call it a "sound card"



    whoa... that's like... old skool man
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