UK and California-based software firm Transitive Technologies plans to make software that will effectively create a 'virtual' PowerPC chip running on an x86 processor within 18 months, the company said on Wednesday.
At the Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, Transitive chief technology officer Alasdair Rawsthorne demonstrated "code-morphing" software that translates from one instruction set architecture to another as the code executes. The software, called Dynamite, effectively allows applications written for PowerPC -- such as Macintosh software -- to run at about 1GHz on a 1.4GHz Athlon processor.
The company said that within 18 months the "virtual processor" would hit 3GHz, based on AMD and Intel roadmaps.
Dynamite is designed to allow users to switch from one processor architecture to another without having to change the entire library of software they use or suffer a significant performance hit. The company recently unveiled software for running x86 software on embedded MIPS processors and is collaborating with Alchemy Semiconductors on an ARM to MIPS version of Dynamite.
"With our Dynamite software, we are showing the industry how two CPU roadmaps can be bridged together to give users a flexible, high-performance migration path without paying the dreaded legacy code penalty," said Rawsthorne in a statement.
Dynamite is designed with front ends and back ends that "plug" into different processors and code bases. Venture-funded Transitive is planning to have front- and back-ends for most architecture combinations available by the second half of next year.
At the moment, "soft OS" applications such as Connectix's VirtualPC allow operating systems, such as Windows, to run on non-native hardware like the Macintosh, but such applications face performance and compatibility problems. Transitive's product is designed to get around such glitches, but industry observers have said it is likely to face similar issues.
Transitive has operations in Manchester, England and San Diego, California.
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