IBM Touts 64-Bit PowerPC Chip

The 1.8GHz PowerPC 970 will offer a dramatic performance boost over today's quickest PowerPC processors.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—IBM on Tuesday touted the first in what it said will be a new line of 64-bit PowerPC chips, the 1.8GHz PowerPC 970, which the computer maker hopes to have featured in a future product by Apple Computer Inc.

While neither Apple nor IBM would comment on whether the Mac maker has agreed to adopt the new chip, eWEEK sources first reported in Augustthat the PowerPC 970 (known internally as GigaProcessor Ultralite, or GPUL), will be the centerpiece of future desktop systems from Apple.

Paired with a fast 900MHz bus, the chip, scheduled for launch in the second half of next year, would offer a dramatic performance boost over todays quickest PowerPC processor, the 1.25GHz PowerPC G4 from Motorola.

The chip utilizes some of the same architectural features as IBMs 64-bit Power4 processors, the chip that the runs the companys top-performing servers, such as the 32-way eServer p690, which sells for more than $1 million.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., gave its first public discussion on the details of its new chip architecture at the annual Microprocessor Forum here.

While the processor is designed to support new 64-bit applications, which will be able to take advantage of the chips ability to address large amounts of memory, IBM said the PowerPC 970 will also be backward compatible with existing 32-bit PowerPC applications, smoothing the migration path for customers.

The design also supports symmetric multi-processing, allowing systems to be created that link multiple processors to work in tandem for additional processing power.

eWEEK sources said that Apple and IBM have been collaborating closely for at least a year on the chip. They said the companies are collaborating on tuning the chip to for compatibility with Altivec, the multimedia extensions currently used in the PowerPC G4 and marketed by Apple under the name Velocity Engine.

Apple and IBM are also reportedly tailoring the chip for a new high-frequency, point-to-point Mac bus dubbed ApplePI, short for Apple Processor Interconnect, that Apple plans to use as a replacement for its current MaxBus.

Besides testing the chip with Mac OS X, eWEEK sources said IBM also plans to deploy the PowerPC 970 as part of its desktop-Linux efforts.

(Editors note: This story has been updated since its original posting to add additional reporting from Matthew Rothenberg, online editor for Ziff Davis Medias Baseline and CIO Insight magazines.)

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