OpenCL spec is almost out the door

The Khronos group may release the completed OpenCL specification in about a month, according to a report by MacWorld. One of the site's editors was at the SC08 high-performance computing conference in Austin, where Intel's Tim Mattson revealed what's going down:

"The bottom line is, we've defined it technically," Mattson explained. "Now you go through a process where all the companies involved get all their lawyers to pore through and make absolutely sure there's no IP and that all the i's have been dotted and all the t's have been crossed. There's a minimum of 30 days where companies can pore over it and approve it to say that ‘yes, we bless this. It does not expose IP, it does not create any trademark problems, it's okay.' But until that 30-day period is up, and until all of our companies have signed the paperwork saying ‘yes, we bless this,' we cannot release demos, we cannot release the specs."

Apple announced OpenCL (or the Open Computing Language) in early June, promising the C-based programming interface would allow developers to "efficiently tap the vast gigaflops of computing power currently locked up in the graphics processing unit." Think of OpenCL as an open, royalty-free cousin of Nvidia's CUDA and AMD's Brook+ that's designed to work with all kinds of hardware—even "cheesy integrated graphics" and x86 microprocessors, Mattson says. The OpenCL working group includes AMD, Nvidia, and Intel.

Khronos president (and Nvidia VP) Neil Trevett points out that the spec was completed in record time: "If you go to some other larger standards bodies, it's quite normal for a standard to take five years or more . . . Our record was 12 months, up to now; we've done this one in six." Reportedly, the OpenCL team worked overtime so the spec would be ready for Apple's upcoming Mac OS X "Snow Leopard" operating system.

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