: Focus on Mac OS X"> GPUL: Focus on Mac OS X While GPUL is also designed to support eight-processor systems running the AIX OS, sources said Apple is focusing on testing the chip on dual-processor, Mac OS X-based systems. Apple and IBM are also tailoring the chip for a new high-frequency, point-to-point Mac bus dubbed ApplePI, short for Apple Processor Interconnect. According to sources, the companies describe ApplePI as "a replacement for the MaxBus used on current Apple systems. ApplePI is used to connect high-performance PowerPC processors to memory and high-speed I/O devices."Perhaps the most disappointing news for Mac fans, sources said, is that IBM does not expect to be finished with GPUL project until late summer 2003. Apples recent
confirmation that new Macs released after January 2003 will boot in Mac OS X only had sparked speculation that the company was planning to unveil 64-bit Mac systems at Macworld Expo/San Francisco that month.
Like AMDs 64-bit Clawhammer (the release of which was recently delayed), GPUL processor is backward-compatible with 32-bit OSes and applications. One source said 32-bit Mac applications could run on GPUL with "a very small performance difference," although recompiled programs, as well as a recompiled OS, would be able to take advantage of new addressing modes as well as other 64-bit features.
Sources said this transition should be less complicated than Apples early-90s move from 68000-series Motorola processors to the PowerPC family founded by Apple, IBM and Motorola.
Development of a new processor line has become increasingly urgent for Apple. Even as its desktop offerings, powered by Motorola PowerPC G4 chips, have stalled near the 1GHz mark, Windows-based PCs sport CPUs from Intel and AMD that approach 3GHz.
Although many metrics minimize the link between simple clock speeds and real-world performance between radically different CPU architectures and OSes, the slow advance of Motorolas chips has apparently depressed Apples Mac sales.
However, sources said, Motorola probably will continue to play a role in Mac hardware. One observer familiar with Apples processor strategy said that even if Apple wanted to abandon Motorola chips, it wouldnt happen in less than three or four years -- at least when it comes to laptop-friendly chips such as the PowerPC G4 and the IBM-developed PowerPC G3, which still powers Apples consumer-level iBook notebook.
Meanwhile, sources said, the long-awaited PowerPC G5 CPU from Motorola is likely to break cover perhaps as soon as early 2003. The G5, according to published product road maps from Motorola, should be available as 32- and 64-bit products with backward compatibility, though Motorola has provided few additional details.
Official at Apple and IBM declined to comment.
Mac veteran Matthew Rothenberg is online editor for Ziff Davis Medias Baseline and CIO Insight magazines.
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GPUL will also apparently play a role in IBMs desktop-Linux efforts. The Mac-focused Architosh site recently reported that Linux developer Red Hat, for one, may be working with IBM on a 64-bit, Altivec-compatible distribution. eWEEKs sources confirmed that GPUL is intended for Linux systems as well as the Mac.