Could Snow Leopard leave Windows 7 eating its dust?

Could Snow Leopard leave Windows 7 eating its dust?

Summary: Today has been an interesting day for those interested in GPGPU (General Purpose computing on the GPU), and Apple's support for this technology could mean that the next incarnation of Snow Leopard could leave Windows 7 eating its dust.


Today has been an interesting day for those interested in GPGPU (General Purpose computing on the GPU), and Apple's support for this technology could mean that the next incarnation of Snow Leopard could leave Windows 7 eating its dust.

Today at SIGGRAPH Asia the Khronos Group, which describes itself as a "member-funded industry consortium focused on the creation of open standard, royalty-free APIs to enable the authoring and accelerated playback of dynamic media on a wide variety of platforms and devices" has released the OpenCL 1.0 spec. OpenCL is noteworthy because, according to the Khronos Group, it is "the first open, royalty-free standard for cross-platform, parallel programming of modern processors found in personal computers, servers and handheld/embedded devices."

So, what's the big deal about GPGPU? Well, because of the huge parallel capabilities that graphics processors offer, tapping into the GPU would benefit applications that leverage parallel processing. This no only means applications such as image and video processing, but also more advanced and demanding features such as real time ray tracing, life-like gaming and voice processing and much more. All this is off in the future, but both NVIDIA and ATI have pledged support for OpenCL. OpenCL has a huge industry-following: 3DLABS, Activision Blizzard, AMD, Apple, ARM, Barco, Broadcom, Codeplay, Electronic Arts, Ericsson, Freescale, HI, IBM, Intel Corporation, Imagination Technologies, Kestrel Institute, Motorola, Movidia, Nokia, NVIDIA, QNX, RapidMind, Samsung, Seaweed, TAKUMI, Texas Instruments and Umeå University.

Now, notice how Apple is on that List and that Microsoft is not. That's of interest because Apple is scheduled to bring OpenCL to the desktop. In fact, Apple is already pushing the benefits of OpenCL:

Another powerful Snow Leopard technology, OpenCL (Open Computing Language), makes it possible for developers to efficiently tap the vast gigaflops of computing power currently locked up in the graphics processing unit (GPU). With GPUs approaching processing speeds of a trillion operations per second, they’re capable of considerably more than just drawing pictures. OpenCL takes that power and redirects it for general-purpose computing.

No backing for OpenCL from Microsoft won't mean that the benefits of OpenCL won't come to Windows (after all, OpenCL is cross-platform) but it does mean that while Apple is baking technologies into the Mac OS that will be of benefit to developers and end users, Microsoft is left twiddling bits and releasing a revamped Vista. That's a potential PR issue that Apple could pounce on.

OpenCL certainly feels like it's the beginning of something very interesting, and it could well bring a mainstream relevance to multi-GPU PCs. ATI and NVIDIA will sure like that!

[UPDATE: TG Daily shares some thoughts on OpenCL:

"OpenCL in Snow Leopard may very well be only a technology showcase, but if it provides those dramatic speed improvements Apple promises and if it sparks the development of a wave of new applications, then Microsoft may have a much bigger problem at the end of next year than it has today. A cleaned up interface and touchscreen support (see our slideshow) may not cut it".]

Topics: IT Employment, Apple, CXO, Microsoft, Processors, Windows

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  • Its dust

    • Cheers ...

      ... mistakenly hit "change all" in the spell checker and then my Internet connection went down as I tried to edit the post.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Damn Macs

  • RE: Could Snow Leopard leave Windows 7 eating it's dust?

    It's possible but then since 95% of the world uses Windows I doubt it.

    And, since it's cross platform, people will just build it into drivers anyway.

    It's no biggie.
    Sleeper Service
    • Valid point ...

      ... sure, this feature could be added to apps, but that method would be a clumsy approach. Nice to have the facility baked in.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • It's already *in*apps.

        Maya 8.5 uses dx10 to assist in enhancing rendertimes, and photoshop cs4 uses opengl like maya has for 10 years to accelerate prerender workspace acceleration.

        There's also CUDA, so, this really isn't all that groundbreaking, and I figure it will just be another opengl anyways. Really good idea, but no developmnet $ behind it, so it will just turn into a hardware intensive coding nightmare.
      • What more bloat

    • Wake up!! It's not 95%!!

      Btw, I'm not a believer of Net Applications but other statistic sites have it about the same. :-)
      Arm A. Geddon
      • Actually it is...

        ...when you consider that most corporate PCs are Windows based and, since about two thirds of them are not connected to the internet, don't register on sites like Hitlinks. You may want to look at Gartner's and IDC's sales figures to get a feel for what the actual sales splits are which will give you a better idea of what the OS share is.

        Of course whether it's 93% or 95% is a moot point - Windows is unlikely to drop lower than 80% soon and still represents the world's favourite operating system by a massive margin thus the one everyone will bend over backwards to support.

        So it goes.
        Sleeper Service
        • Re: world's favourite operating system?

          I wouldn't go that far but to each their own. I use the big 3(Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux) and I still prefer Linux. Why? One of the big reasons is control over the OS. Anyway, about the percentages of OSes, browsers, etc. you do know the old saying about statistics, right? ;-)
          Arm A. Geddon
          • I use 'favourite' as an...

            ...adjective here, not a noun. :)

            And I do know that adage about statistics which is why it's much more sensible to use the actual sales figures that Gartner and IDC provide.

            Hey, I'm not raising a flag about it, I'm just stating the obvious - everything is geared towards the big player and in this case that's Windows.
            Sleeper Service
        • Lies, damn lies and statistics

          It's obviously false to claim "95% of the world uses Windows", when at least half the people in the world not only don't have a computer, but they've never used one and likely never will.

          It is also wrong to assume that the percentage of people whose primary OS is Windows is the same as the percentage of new computers sold that have Windows as the OS.

          The statement that two thirds of business PCs aren't connected to the internet is pure speculation, my real world experience tells me otherwise - I can't remember a site I've worked on in the last 10 years (and there have been many) that didn't provided internet access for all users.

          Quote all the statistics you like, no one believes you.
          Fred Fredrickson
          • Behind NAT firewall, All Are One!

            In general, to a site on the Internet, wouldn't all users behind a firewall look like one user (except if logged in or cookies set)?
          • Dear me, Fred...

            ...if you want to be the king of literalism then feel free to amend my phrase to "95% of the world who use computers".

            Or grow up. Whatever.
            Sleeper Service
  • i hate to be rude

    i you are a regular msft hater, but you are writing for the public. just want tell you loudly:

    Shut up!
    • Cut down on the caffeine

      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • LOL...

      Is this that baby off the e-trade commercials? You must have stock in MSFT? Any good inside information?
      • Oh! I have one, I have one!

        When ballmer turns red in the face and puffs a lot, that means sell!
  • I'm not so sure ...

    Look at how Adobe has embraced the GPU, and Wolfram.

    Leveraging the GPU has a lot of potential.
    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • GPGPU isn't API centric

      Sometimes when you're programming you're interacting with an API constantly, over thousands of lines of code. Then the specifics of an API are important and significant.

      With GPGPU the amount of time you spend writing code that'll actually run on the GPU is quite small, and the overall number of lines of code is tiny compared to the overall size of any real project. We'll spend months with our GPGPU code in matlab and maybe only a few weeks actually implementing it on the underlying API.

      OpenCL may make life a little easier, but far less than advertised. It has the potential to remove some headaches as far as cross-platform support, but I suspect I'll be writing separate kernels for every piece of hardware that crosses my desk, for years to come.