Apple Shift to Intel Wont Alter IBMs PowerPC Focus

"Servers and embedded" remain the target markets for PowerPC CPUs, IBM says at the In-Stat chip forum.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Apple Computer Inc.s plan to switch to Intel Corp. processors from PowerPC CPUs will not change IBMs marketing focus for the chips.

Regardless of Apples plans, "both servers and embedded" will remain the target markets for these CPUs, including the PowerPC 970MP, the latest version, said Norman Rohrer, distinguished engineer and one of IBMs top chip designers, in his presentation at the In-Stat Fall Processor Forum here Tuesday.

Rohrer provided a detailed view of the new PowerPC 970MP multicore processor, the chip behind Apples new Power Mac line. The PowerPC 970MP, which will be available in clock speeds from 1.2GHz to 2.5GHz, is a "low-power, high-performance" processor, he said.

Based on the single-core POWER4 processor, the 970MP features twin cores, each with its own CPU, AltiVec SIMD unit and 1MB of L2 cache, Rohrer said. Though the chip itself is 64-bit, it is also compatible with 32-bit instructions, meaning that users will not have to upgrade software when migrating from previous PowerPC-based systems, he said.

Compared with its predecessor, the PowerPC 970FX, the 970MP will have twice the cache, a wider range of frequency tuning and voltage scaling, as well as the ability to run one or two cores.

Rorher said that initial tests showed a 2.5GHz 970MP reaching a score of 1,438 in the SPECint test, with a 2,076 score in the SPECfp test. Addressing the "low-power" side of his title, Rorher added that the 970MP will max out at 100W when both 2.5GHz cores are running.

Rohrer also said that the two cores of the PowerPC 970MP can operate at different wake/sleep states. When not needed, the second core will be able to work at one-quarter frequency, or even switch off.

This feature can reduce power consumption and heat by 50 percent. Both cores will also be able to run at full, one-half or one-quarter of its normal frequency, or enter a "deep nap" state that uses 1/64th the power.

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