Intel has no answer to the ‘Cell’ processor; will Apple use it in Macs?

“IBM, Sony and Toshiba unveiled a new supercomputer-on-a-chip Monday that could disrupt Intel’s dominance of the computer industry and change the nature of digital entertainment,” Dean Takahashi reports for The San Jose Mercury News. “The Cell chip will first be used in Sony’s PlayStation 3 video console next year, with Toshiba planning to use the Cell in digital television sets and IBM intending to put it in computer servers and work stations in the near future.”

“The partners say the first Cell chips, which can simultaneously juggle multiple computing tasks, will have 10 times the processing power of comparable Intel chips. Eventually, the technology could pack the power of a supercomputer in a handheld device,” Takahashi reports. “That would mean consumers would be able to buy a machine that runs video games so realistically that players will feel like they are inside the animated world of, say, ‘Shrek 2.'”

“‘This is a shot across the bow for Intel,’ said Richard Doherty, an analyst at the Envisioneering Group, a consulting firm in Seaford, N.Y. ‘Intel still uses an architecture that came from a calculator chip,’ he said. ‘Cell comes from a clean sheet of paper, where the engineers had the freedom to design from scratch for machines that manipulate images.’ There is no indication that Intel has a response to the Cell chip in the works. On Monday, the Santa Clara chip maker, whose chips run 85 percent of the world’s PCs, said it will begin selling PC microprocessors with two processors on a single chip by summer,” Takahashi reports.

“No one expects the new Intel chips to have anywhere near the processing power of the Cell, which will be made by IBM and Sony… Analysts were intrigued that the Cell uses IBM technology that enables it to run any operating system,” Takahashi reports. “Kevin Krewell, editor of the Microprocessor Report, said that raises the possibility that Apple Computer, which already uses the PowerPC design upon which Cell is based, could use the new chips in future Macintosh computers. Of course, winning over Apple might be considered a small ambition for the IBM-Sony-Toshiba alliance. ‘Cell really represents a supercomputer on a chip,’ Kahle said.”

Full article here.


  1. These rumormongers are so last year.

    Hell, I’ve been running Tiger, with Shake, Final Cut Pro, and Motion, on a prototype dual-Cell-based Mac mini for about three months now. I mean sure, it rocks and all, and Halo 2 screams even in the emulated XBox environment, but the real kicker is the tower my cousin just picked up in Cupertino, with 16 Cell chips mounted orthogonally in a hypercube, accelerated with asymmetrical clockrate morphing and a totally silent anhydrous cooling array. On this wicked-fast bastard, we can simultanously log in ten wireless iSlate Mac tablets and play multiuser emulated Halo 2, all on the same 16x CPU, but as far as the game knows, it’s sixteen separate machines on a LAN. It’s insane.

    If you don’t have seed units like these, then you really need to sign the NDA and get in the Seed Program.

  2. Oh the Humanity! Finally a chip that would match up with Apple’s OS! I really hope that Apple does make systems using this chip even if only for the ultra-highend graphic developers. It would put Apple over the top as a highend system provider.

    The revolution is upon us, listen as the Intel empire crumbles.

    Final Note:

    Microsoft is making the right moves by moving their Xbox to the PowerPC platform. They aren’t stupid. They are well aware of the demise of the x86 PC as we know it.

  3. I wouldn’t be surprised if a version of Longhorn will be made as an add on to the future Xbox. Dell should concentrate on an Open Source OS to customize as Apple has done. Simply using Linux is not good enough. Perhaps they should work with the Linspire people.

    I’m an Mac guy as you know, but competition is necessary regardless. Otherwise the innovation crawls.

  4. eon,

    how’s you AAPL allocation?

    revolution/evolution…. not sure if it makes any difference… but I like the sound, no matter which you choice!

    (listen to your own advice….. BUY!)

  5. One thing is for sure this chip backs up Steves vision of the media savvy home rather than the white elephant approach of the media PC as proposed by MS. A year ago I heard representatives of the consumer products industry say that the Media pc approach wasn’t the way forward technically (of course they didn’t say strategically but this is equally important for these companies). The cell chip will show their vision of how it will all work with all products having intelligence and an architecture and communication set up that co-operates and exploits each devices capacities to form a homogeneous and seamless network (assuming it all works of course). They will also have substanyial computing power. If computers have a role in this at all they will be much closer to the mini concept than the Media pc concept.

  6. You guys really don’t know what your talking about. The Cell isn’t hasn’t even been benchmarked, and even then, we don’t know how much it will cost and how hard it will be to program for.

    Already some have said it would take years to port OS X to this chip.

    Please stop making Mac people look like idiots.

  7. <<< I can’t believe that Steve isn’t all over this”>>>

    You can’t announce future intentions too soon without killing current sales.

    I also don’t know,
    1. Will the current OS X need to be rewritten?
    2. Will current apps need to be rewritten?
    3. Will the cell chips be hot and power hungry?
    4. Will Apple be better off waiting for a possible more compatible Cell version 2? (if there is such a thing)
    5. What are IBM’s future plans for non Cell PowerPC chips?
    6. Will Starbuck ever find happiness with less than 25,000 guys left in the universe?
    MDN magic word, “question”

  8. Chomper.

    the Cell uses a Power 5 chip for it’s CPU and that delegates tasks to the other chips. OS X is built on BSD Porting it to run should take recompile, and porting it to take full advantage should take a year or two to optimize things(aka 10.0, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3)

    As for Cost. The cell is slated for Playstation 3. Just how much do you think it will cost? maybe $250 for the whole unit when it’s first released? at that price it can easily fit into the price of a Powermac.

  9. If you don’t have seed units like these, then you really need to sign the NDA and get in the Seed Program.

    Dunno ’bout you, but I drop mine in the sperm bank every day. The nice ladies there are so helpful. Sure beats a screamin’ Halo-mp game. I’m betterin’ the species to boot!

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