Will Apple take advantage of powerful new ‘Cell’ microprocessors?

“In a new volley in the battle for digital home entertainment, I.B.M., Sony and Toshiba will announce details Monday of their newest microprocessor design, known as Cell, which is expected to offer faster computing performance than microprocessors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices,” John Markoff writes for The New York Times.

MacDailyNews Note: “Cell’s designers say their chip, built from the start with the burgeoning world of rich media and broadband networks in mind, can deliver 10 times the performance of today’s PC processors,” Matthew Fordahl reports for The Associated Press here.

Markoff continues, “Anticipation of the announcement, to be made at an industry conference here, has touched off widespread industry speculation over the impact of the new chip technology, which promises to enhance video gaming and digital home entertainment.Sony plans to use the new Cell in its PlayStation 3, likely to be introduced in 2006, and Toshiba plans to use the chip in advanced high-definition televisions, also to be introduced next year.”

“However, many industry executives and analysts say that Cell’s impact may ultimately be much broader, staving off the PC industry’s efforts to dominate the digital living room and at the same time creating a new digital computing ecosystem that includes Hollywood, the living room and high-performance scientific and engineering markets,” Markoff writes.

“One area of wide speculation is whether Apple might become a partner in the Cell alliance in the future. Apple is already the largest customer for the PowerPC chip, and it would be simple for the company to take advantage of the Cell design. Several people familiar with Apple’s strategy, however, said that the computer maker had yet to be convinced that the Cell technology could provide a significant performance advantage,” Markoff writes.

Full article here.

39 Comments

  1. I hope Apple is seriously studying the issue. There is a lot of hype around the Cell which has to be seperated from reality. Committing to the Cell should not be taken lightly, as a bad call on such a big decision will be a huge disaster.

    But here’s why Apple SHOULD seriously investigate the Cell, and not dismiss it off-hand.

    Dual 2.0 GHz PowerMac G5 or XServe: 30 gigaflops

    Single Cell processor: 256 gigaflops

  2. CELL may well have a future in the Apple world, but in the supercomputing cluster market into which Apple’s Xserve has recently been making inroads.

    I can well see a Xserve/Xserve RAID/Xsan implementation being used to control a blade-type implementation of CELL – imagine a rack of these things (3U/shelf & 8 blades/shelf) controlled by a fault-tolerant Xserve cluster. So you’d have 96 CELLs managed by an Xserve cluster.

    Now imagine 32 of these racks tied together.

    Now that would be a visualisation/simulation supercomputer that would seriously kick some Itanium ass.

  3. Dual 2.0 GHz PowerMac G5 or XServe: 30 gigaflops

    Single Cell processor: 256 gigaflops

    —-

    Which begs the question: WHAT FSK do we need 256 GFLOPS for??

    The Server market? Sure… But mass producing a powermac that costs about 5 grand and pumps out a scorching 256GFLOPS…

    Did I mention the Mac gaming scene is very lonely?

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    Xserve kicks ass.. but 256 gflops on the client base? Weird..

  4. Here’s a detailed explanation of the Cell architecture. Whether or not Apple will use it is open to debate, and depends on many factors. They will have to study the matter carefully before making the decision to undertake the huge task of migrating to a new architecture.

  5. “WHAT FSK do we need 256 GFLOPS for??”

    Mike,

    Very good question, but the point is that this architecture will purportedly offer such a huge leap in processing power that if you buy a new Mac you’ll have that power, whether you want it or not. That’s assuming that Apple moves to Cell. Let’s face it, the average user doesn’t need the type of power we have now, but marketing will ensure that they’ll demand the latest and greatest.

  6. DakRoland,

    Sorry, I missed your earlier post asking about the types of applications which will benefit from Cell. Read the article to which I linked in my earlier post; it offers clear and very detailed explanations on the Cell architecture and Cell computing. Crudely put, a Cell is like an AltiVec unit on steroids, and uses vector instructions. That being said, it occurs to me that with Apple’s experience with vector units, this might indeed be a natural fit for their software. Here’s the article again, in case you can’t be bothered to scroll up to my last post. Well worth reading.

  7. Jobs said that thee major PC maker are wooing him to liscence OS x, can you say IBM, Sony and Toshiba? HP, and Dell are so huge already and Gateway/eMachines in pointless. Anyone planning on using a PowerPC processor in their new devices knows OS X is the OS to use.

  8. It sounds like this CELL is more network-oriented than the current CPUs. If it’s designed for grid-processing, then what purpose would it serve to the normal computer user?

    Magic Word – “planning”

    What is Apple planning on doing with the CELL?

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