Next Mac OS to include GPGPU programming interface

Nvidia is generating a substantial amount of hype surrounding its CUDA application programming interface, which lets developers tap into GeForce 8 and 9 graphics processors for general-purpose computing tasks. Apple seems interested in the concept, too, but it apparently wants to go about the implementation in a different way.

As the iPhone 3G fervor died down yesterday, the iPod maker announced a few details about its upcoming Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" operating system. Included among them was the Open Computing Language, or OpenCL, an API Apple says "makes it possible for developers to efficiently tap the vast gigaflops of computing power currently locked up in the graphics processing unit." The similarities with CUDA don't end there, because OpenCL is also based on the C programming language.

However, Apple says OpenCL "has been proposed as an open standard," meaning the company may want a single GPGPU API that can drive both AMD and Nvidia graphics processors. CUDA is Nvidia-only right now, while AMD has its own, lower-level API dubbed Close to Metal. Nvidia Chief Scientist David Kirk recently revealed in an interview with that Nvidia was open to licensing CUDA to AMD, but that hasn't happened yet. Kirk explained, "[CUDA]'s not exactly an open standard, but there's really not very much that is proprietary about it. . . . The pieces of the tools we build are made available to whoever is interested in using them."

Aside from OpenCL, OS X 10.6 will feature supports for greater amounts of RAM, Microsoft Exchange, and "unrivaled support for multi-core systems" through a new set of technologies called Grand Central. Snow Leopard will also include QuickTime X, "a streamlined, next-generation platform that advances modern media and Internet standards." The new OS will come out in roughly a year, Apple says.

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