Bridging Notebooks and Servers

By Mark Hachman  |  Posted 2004-06-25 Print this article Print

with One Architecture"> But the kicker for IBM and its customers is that the PowerPC 970FX is a one-size-fits-all architecture that accommodates servers as well as notebooks. "The portable-space specs that are out there talk about 15 to 30 watts for maximum power. We want to be inside that envelope," Rohrer said. "The low-frequency operating conditions in the idle state—nap—are in the 1- to 2-watt range."
That will mean that any G5 notebooks will likely be clocked somewhat lower than the current G5 desktops.
In one hypothetical example of a low-power state, Rohrer said a PowerPC 970FX in the 1/64 "deep nap" state could run at 30MHz, which would equate to about 1.9GHz in full-speed mode. Apples shipping dual-processor G5 desktops range in speed from 1.8GHz to 2.5GHz. "Thats the whole intention of this, to make it usable in low-end servers ... down into portables," Rohrer said. "To do that, you cant start with high voltage and high frequency; you cant hit 50 watts. Youve got to start with a lower voltage and lower frequency and [then] adjust the voltage and drop the frequency." This multi-use approach is much different from that of IBMs rivals. "IBM cant afford to spend the amount of money developing multiple architectures that Intel [Corp.] can," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight64 in Saratoga, Calif. "Because of its market share, because of its growing share in the mobile market, Intel can afford to send a few engineers off to optimize a mobile processor," Brookwood said. "Youre not likely to see that kind of effort from IBM. "The mobile PowerPC market is relatively small, even though there are an increasing number of PowerBooks," he said. "If you look at Apples market share in the PC industry, and then [compare] their desktops versus their notebooks, its hard to justify the same kind of R&D Intel put into Centrino." The issue is actually a critical one for Apple. For all the concerns about IBMs manufacturing capabilities, architecting a low-power processor for notebooks may actually be more important. Although the G5 processor was first introduced within a desktop Macintosh, currently, the G5 minitowers actually represent the minority of unit shipments for Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif. In April, Apple reported second-quarter sales of 711,000 Macintosh units, of which 42 percent or about 298,600 were notebooks, Apple executives said. Sales of Apples entry-level iMac line totaled 256,000 units, or about 37 percent of the total. The remainder consisted of Apples desktops, about 21 percent of all Macintosh units sold. Penetrating all of the available markets is critical, analysts said. In the past, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. sales have been hurt, some analysts said, because its Athlon64 architecture didnt scale down easily into the "thin and light" notebooks that dominate the notebook sector. However, AMD began selling mobile versions of its Athlon XP in May, and it is developing a stripped-down Sempron chip to address the low-end desktop and mobile markets. "IBM designed the PowerPC 970 as a desktop part: high-frequency, high-performance and also for servers," said Kevin Krewell, an analyst at In-Stat/MDR in San Jose, Calif. Next Page: Should IBM Break out Mobile and Server Designs?


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