Tuesday, March 15, 2005

CHUD 4.1.1: References to quad CPUs and 970MP removed

CHUD 4.1.0 provided many clues to future dual-core and quad (dual dual-core) Macs, with its references to "970MP" and "Quad", as well as MONster.app's obvious support of 4 cores:

However, with the new 4.1.1 version, all the above clues have been removed. MONster.app now just shows a single CPU for my Cube, with no greyed-out CPU 2, CPU 3, and CPU 4. Interestingly however, the font size in 4.1.1 is the same as in 4.1.0, which means there is sufficient space to display CPUs 2-4, if the cores are present:

It's obvious now that 4.1.0 wasn't pulled for just bug fixes. ;) Too late though, since IBM has already confirmed the existence of the dual-core G5 970MP. :)

[Update 2005-03-16]

Although the above clues have been removed, not surprisingly one can still find several other references to 4 CPUs in the code of the updated MONster.app.

It's official! IBM confirms the 970MP.

IBM has quietly confirmed on its website the existence of the 970MP, by way of a document titled Using Thermal Diodes in the PowerPC970MP® Processor, which begins as follows:
The dual 64-bit core PowerPC970MP™ (970MP) is the next evolutionary step in the PowerPC 970 family of microprocessors. The higher frequency grade versions of the 970MP consume higher amounts of power than earlier IBM microprocessors do, and that can cause temperature issues. Each 970MP processor core contains a thermal diode used to monitor its operating temperature. The thermal diode must be monitored to ensure that the maximum operating temperature of the 970MP is not exceeded.

So my friends, no more conjecture. Not only is the 970MP real, it's officially real. ;) Bring on the new Power Macs!

[Update 2005-03-16]

The IBM document has now been pulled. It seems everything is getting pulled right after release these days...

Monday, March 14, 2005

"Interesting" article about Cell and Apple

Not too long ago, I wrote an article about Cell and Apple, as well as an article about the Xbox 2's CPU and Cell. When I heard tech writer Robert Enderle had written an article called The New Xbox and Apple's Big Decision, I read it with great interest. Unfortunately, it was a dreadful disappointment.

I normally don't write critiques about other people's articles, but this one is simply bizarre. It uses a series of blatantly wrong assumptions to claim that Apple is doomed.

1) The article hints Xbox 2 uses Cell.
There is also a processor change that heralds a huge benefit for Microsoft (and likely Sony and Nintendo as well). The change also creates a risk for Apple.
The Cell Processor
That is incorrect. Cell is a chip designed by Sony, Toshiba, and IBM, and Microsoft has nothing to do with it. Actually, Microsoft has not given us the exact specifications yet of the chip for the Xbox 2, but from what we do know it seems its cores are similar to Cell's PPE core. However, what really makes Cell, well... Cell... is everything but PPE.

2) The article says that since Cell is so different, OSes that run on it have to be so different that any PowerPC support would be through emulation.
But this doesn't come without a price. This processor is very different from current technology. To make proper use of it, the related OS will need to be largely rewritten, and the only way to run older applications will be under emulation.
As I said, Cell's PPE is PowerPC. It uses the same instruction set. Support for Cell's SPEs would be harder, but that's a different kettle of fish. The bottom line though is that there would be no emulation required at all. Cell's PPE is PowerPC, so the OS would just simply have to support one new PowerPC chip, and would maintain full native backwards compatibility with other PowerPC chips.

3) The article says that IBM is migrating to Cell, and therefore PowerPC is dead.
Apple must now realize that the PowerPC will be less interesting to IBM, which is moving its base toward the Cell. Certainly IBM will continue to produce the part for Apple, but it will ramp down development on future versions in order to work on the new Cell instead. At some point, perhaps even within 3 years, IBM will have finished migrating its own platforms to Cell, leaving Apple nearly alone on PowerPC. This is the Apple nightmare scenario.
IBM has made no such statement. It could build some some machines with Cell, but could you imagine IBM's big iron POWER servers being replaced by Cell in the foreseeable future? The ironic part is that Cell's PPE unit IS PowerPC.

4) The article says that since PowerPC is dead soon, so is Apple, unless they switch away from PowerPC.
When this point approaches, Apple will have three choices. One is to exit the computer business and concentrate on the more powerful accessories market, focusing on competing with Logitech and Creative Labs rather than with Microsoft. A second option will be to adopt the Cell architecture, but this would signal the obsolescence of the current generation of products and make it more difficult to hold customers. (Remember that the move to OS X Latest News about OS X cost them better than three quarters of the market they had before the migration.) Three is to move to x86, and rumors are once again flying that this choice is being discussed. Such a move, however, would have a dramatic and likely negative initial impact on the installed base.

A final option would be to do nothing. This was the strategy that Apple used against the inferior Windows 95 product, and it cost Apple better than 90 percent of the market share it had enjoyed before Windows 95 launched.
See previous points.

If anything, Microsoft's and Sony's choice (and likely Nintendo's choice) of IBM reaffirms IBM's strong backing of the POWER/PowerPC platform. Indeed, IBM has just recently launched Power.org, a site to promote the architecture.

Quite frankly, even to this undereducated reader, Enderle's article is the worst I've read in a long time about Cell, Xbox 2, and Apple.

[Update 2005-03-14]

It seems the article has been pulled. The link at TechNewsWorld.com no longer works.