Intel readies Mac OS X developer tools; Altivec (Velocity Engine) support uncertain

“Intel Corp. will port its software developer tools to Mac OS X and will ship its first beta later this year, the chip maker told developers on Tuesday at its first-ever session on Mac OS X at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco,” John Rizzo reports for eWeek. “Kevin Smith, director of Intel Compiler Labs, said that Intel will port a complete set of compilers and performance-enhancing libraries to Apple Computer Inc.’s Intel-based version of Mac OS X.”

“Intel’s compilers and libraries will work as plug-ins to Apple’s Xcode development environment running in Mac OS X for Intel. Smith said Intel has no plans to offer the Mac tools in a version running on its Windows development environment. Developers creating software for both operating systems must use the tools running on each platform. The Mac OS X compilers and libraries will require Apple’s prototype Intel-based Macs hardware and won’t run on generic PCs, he said,” Rizzo reports. “Intel has also not considered whether it will support Altivec instructions, a 128-bit vector execution unit in PowerPC G4 and G5 processors. Such support won’t be in the early betas.”

Full article here.


  1. macnut222:
    They are talking about backwards compatibility. Will Intel supply compilers that will allow a developer to create a composite application that will run on both PowerPC with Altivec (G4 & G5) and Intel processors with SSE?

    The Intel instructions that are similar to Altivec are the SSE series. They recently announced SSE3 which brings them even closer to being the same as the Altivec stuff.

    The biggest issue for some is that SSE and Altivec have different focuses. This will not be a major issue for graphics application developers, but may be an issue for scientific researchers.

  2. So we’ll get Intel compilers in XCode? Big whoop. I’ll bet they won’t support Objective-C, which makes them useless to me.

    Also if they don’t output PowerPC code as well as i86 you’ll need to write code that compiles perfectly with gcc as well as Intel’s compilers – all compilers have their quirks, so I’m guessing only people porting stuff from Windoze that want to run only on i86 Macs will use Intel’s tools.

  3. I’m guessing these compilers are for people concerned with getting every ounce of performance from an Intel CPU. It’s a good thing they do this, because one can imagine that the tuning going on will be very good (like those IBM PowerPC compilers no one seems to have…)

    As for Altivec, it’s not their technology (and in fact, it’s the competition’s), so it’s hard to believe they’d support it at all.

  4. “Will Intel supply compilers that will allow a developer to create a composite application that will run on both PowerPC with Altivec (G4 & G5) and Intel processors with SSE?”

    No. It will only compile to x86.

    However, the “more interesting” question is will the compiler automatically optimize for SSE3? For example, if I have a loop which would obviously benefit from using SSE3 instructions, will the compiler automatically put them in? I know Metrowerks CodeWarrior will, in certain situations.

  5. My interpretation of the article is that the Intel compilers will not create universal binaries. Hmm.

    Guess that means my app (which has FORTRAN in it) will need to have separate versions for PPC and Intel. I was hoping for a single version.

  6. <objective-C, which makes them useless to me.”</i>

    This is a very big whoop, and I’ll take that bet. With some work by Apple, GCC supports Objective-C very well, which it was not meant to do in the first place. ICC (Intel C Compiler) for x86 is noted for the high performance code it yields, apparently significantly more so than the code GCC turns out. It should be no more difficult to adapt ICC to Xcode than it was for GCC. This is major news, and should lead to OS X applications that run even faster than those compiled with GCC.

  7. Viridian, to say that “GCC was not meant to support Objective-C” is essentially misinformed. GCC has for many years been a modular compiler, and it’s easy to create a new “front end” for a new language. If Intel’s compiler is not as modular, it could be much harder to make an Objective-C version of it. For all I know, though, Intel’s compiler is also modular.

  8. I’m really interested in seeing what happens here.

    So many people attribute Altivec to Motorola, however Motorola only OWN the Altivec name for their implementation of the underlying technology.

    My understanding (and correct me if I am wrong) is that Apple, Motorola AND IBM developed Altivec (Motorola)/ Velocity Engine (Apple) / VMX (IBM – IBM LOVE their TLAs) ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

    As such they ALL own the technology.

    However the thing that I found most interesting was when I stumbled upon this the other day in Wikipedia:

    “AltiVec was developed between 1996 and 1998 by Keith Diefendorff, the distinguished scientist and director of microprocessor architecture at Apple Computer.”

    Is it possible that APPLE own most of the patents for what they call the ‘Velocity Engine’?

    Maybe Motorola were simply the first to implement it FOR APPLE?

    As stated in the Wikipedia article:

    “IBM has consistently left VMX out of their proprietary POWER systems, which are intended for mainframe and server applications where it is not very useful. However, the most recent PowerPC 970 (dubbed the G5 by Apple) desktop CPU from IBM does include a high-performance AltiVec unit. The core includes a multiplier/adder unit and a full VMX unit.”

    So maybe IBM aren’t that interested in Altivec/VMX once Apple is no longer a customer?

    I think this information is relevant, as it counters the majority belief (and misinformation) that Motorola OWNS Altivec/Velocity Engine/VMX. They only own the Altivec trademark and SHARE ownership with Apple and IBM, of which it would seem Apple was a MAJOR contributor to the intelectual property (IP).

    Maybe Apple will allow Intel to use whatever IP they have for Velocity Engine in order to create a new instruction set for Apple ONLY x86 products? I know this is a BIG maybe, but hey if they own the IP, they are free to use it (not withstanding contractual restrictions with Freescale/IBM).

    The Wikipedia article is here:

    my 2 cents


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