IBM's 64-bit desktop chip

— 5:08 AM on August 9, 2002

This mention of IBM's new 64-bit PowerPC microprocessor was linked in yesterday's Shortbread, but it deserves a little extra attention. Coverage over at C|Net has some additional information:

In addition to having Power4 DNA, the new PowerPC will use an eight-way superscalar design, meaning it will be able to issue up to eight instructions per clock cycle. It will also support symmetric multiprocessing, allowing more than one chip to be used inside the same computer, according to the Microprocessor Forum Web site. But it's not likely this new PowerPC will use chip-multiprocessing techniques--unlike the Power4, which includes two processors on a single chip--sources familiar with the plans said.

Moreover, the new PowerPC will have a vector-processing unit with more than 160 specialized vector instructions, the Microprocessor Forum site said. This processing unit, which is similar to Motorola's AltiVec technology, will allow the chip to break up large amounts of data and process them in parallel form. It will be used when the chip is handling graphics or processing signals.

What's perhaps most interesting about this new chip is that it's supposedly being targeted at desktop computers rather than workstations and servers exclusively. Some are even suggesting that the chip could eventually find its way into PCs from Apple, which would give Macs a much-needed boost in processing power.

Still, we have over two months until IBM is scheduled to officially disclose more technical details at the Microprocessor Forum. I'm sure there will be plenty of speculation to wade through until then.

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