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IBM Plans to Open the Cell Processor

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the fantasy-and-microchips-shooting-from-the-hip dept.

IBM 430

morcheeba writes "According to an EETimes article, IBM is planning on releasing the full specifications and software libraries for the powerful processor that will be in the Playstation 3. The goal is to stimulate open-source development for other applications of the chip. The article doesn't mention if there will be some affordable development systems for all these programmers -- I'm hoping for a ps3 devkit." From the article: "IBM is eager to find other opportunities for Cell, but it's going to take a lot of software work...Going to the open-source community makes sense, because they could attract a lot of pretty smart programmers who could spin out software and applications for Cell."

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430 comments

What I wonder... (3, Insightful)

caino59 (313096) | more than 8 years ago | (#12625943)

is how does Sony feel about this?

Re:What I wonder... (2, Insightful)

Winterblink (575267) | more than 8 years ago | (#12625980)

It's IBM's creation, is it not? What say does Sony have in the matter?

Re:What I wonder... (2, Insightful)

caino59 (313096) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626023)

Oh, I realize Sony doesn't have a say in the matter, however, I still wonder how they feel about this.

This will blow 3rd party development wide open for the next gen Playstation.

Look at Sony's history - they normally don't like that so much.

Re:What I wonder... (2, Informative)

bradkittenbrink (608877) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626058)

This will blow 3rd party development wide open for the next gen Playstation.

Just like 3rd party development is wide open for the xbox, just because the cpu is publicly documented. Keep dreaming.

Re:What I wonder... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626087)

Right, and how much did the Linux Development Kit for the PS/2 take off (the HD, USB keyboard and mouse, Ethernet card + software)?

Doesn't mean I don't want one still...

Re:What I wonder... (4, Funny)

BawbBitchen (456931) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626139)

>Right, and how much did the Linux Development Kit for the PS/2 take off...

Well it you can run Linux on a model 9595 with the P166 but it is slow. Now I had a Type 4 complex that I upgraded to a P233, and had 256MB of ECC memory on the system and got Gentoo Linux running on it. Was never quite as good at OS/2 on the box..... ...What?!?...Oh, sorry, you mean PS2 as in Sony not PS/2 as in PersonalSystem/2 from IBM with the MCA bus.

Damn, which people would pay attention to details.

Re:What I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626198)

The times change old man.

Quit your god damn whining and bitching about obscure details that almost no one knows about.

Re:What I wonder... (2, Insightful)

Winterblink (575267) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626200)

That doesn't mean everything that someone in their basement makes for the PS3 will end up on store shelves in a box indicating the game's been cleared for release on the platform.

Besides, they might not like it, but they sure as hell have to see the benefit to it over a totally closed system. Well I HOPE they see the benefit. As you say, this IS Sony we're talking about.

Re:What I wonder... (3, Insightful)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 8 years ago | (#12625989)

The goal is to stimulate open-source development for other applications of the chip. The article doesn't mention if there will be some affordable development systems for all these programmers -- I'm hoping for a ps3 devkit."

Just because the chips specs will be out, doesn't mean the whole PS3 will be open. So that won't happen.

Re:What I wonder... (1)

taskforce (866056) | more than 8 years ago | (#12625990)

Even if Sony did feel strongly against it (which I doubt they do, because it's a good idea when you don't have a major OS being made or your platform - look at FreeBSD & PPC = OS X) I doubt they'd say anything - Sony, especially their Home Entertainment division seem to be pretty good with their geek PR - anyone remember the PS2 Linux kit?

Re:What I wonder... (3, Funny)

sintacks (886546) | more than 8 years ago | (#12625993)

I'm sure they're thrilled to have a much larger collective effort being put into their product. Wouldn't you?

Re:What I wonder... (1)

0kComputer (872064) | more than 8 years ago | (#12625994)

they'll probably be wondering what to do about the influx of mod chips that will probably come after the release of the PS3.

Re:What I wonder... (5, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626008)

Probably do not care. The Cell is only part of the PS3 it is pretty unlikely that anyone else will build a console with it. It could actually help Sony in the long run.
The more people that buy Cells to put in to widgets the lower the cost for Sony.

Re:What I wonder... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626167)

...it is pretty unlikely that anyone else will build a console with it.
Yeah, but the PowerPC CPUs in the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Revolution are pretty darn close...

Re:What I wonder... (5, Insightful)

Wandering-Seraph (878056) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626019)

"In this light, IBM, Toshiba and the third Cell partner, Sony Corp., are turning to the open-source community to drum up interest in the architecture."

Doesn't sound like they're particularly upset about it.

Sony must have approved this (4, Informative)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626071)

how does Sony feel about this?

Sony must have given its approval for releasing this information. It could not happen without them.

If Sony did not know, and IBM made this move without their approval, I could see Sony NEVER buying from IBM again. That is too big a risk for IBM. Heck, most companies would think twice.

Will it be easier to make a mod chip if people know how the processor works? Or did Sony add their DRM elsewhere? Who knows. IBM is not releasing the blueprints for the Playstation 3, just the processor.

Sony is a big company that hires smart people. Maybe they figured out hiding the electronics will not prevent reverse engineering. Maybe the new PS3 has some technology that makes it difficult to mod.

Maybe this is like Microsofts WMV, it is unhackable, nobody can get it to play a stream if DRM v9 is enabled. Not one person on the planet. And it has been over a year now.

For the PS3, they don't need for their game machine to be unhackable forever, just until the PS4 comes out. :)

Re:What I wonder... (3, Insightful)

lord_rob the only on (859100) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626075)

IBM is gonna release the CPU specs, not the PS3 specs, big difference.

For example, the PS1 uses a MIPS R3000. You can find the specs for this processor in a lot of places (just google "mips r3000" if interested).

Knowing that, you know about NOTHING of the Playstation, as there are a lot of additional hardware.

A game console has more CPU dedicated to a special task than a PC.

Re:What I wonder... (0, Redundant)

lastchance_000 (847415) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626083)

from the FA: The three developers of the Cell processor are preparing to release full chip specifications and software libraries
Those being IBM, Toshiba, and Sony.

Sign me up! (1, Interesting)

stuffduff (681819) | more than 8 years ago | (#12625947)

I'll have it doing a lot more than just playing games in no time!

Re:Sign me up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626103)


I'll have it doing a lot more than just playing games in no time!


Damn straight. What good is a console unless you can surf porn with it.

Re:Sign me up! (1, Flamebait)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626135)

Like connecting to the Internet? Oh wait...

You mean like crunching numbers and displaying the results on the screen? Oh wait...

Do you mean like making real time simulations? Oh wait...

My point is that game machines do everything that all the other machines do. They just do it graphically.

Error message (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12625951)

Why did I keep getting the message "Nothing for you to see here. Please move along" when I tried to click this article? It's almost as vague as the "You don't exist. Go away" that every command gave me after I rm -rf'ed /etc on an old linux box.

the real question (1)

jeanjean83 (624273) | more than 8 years ago | (#12625962)

will it be able to run linux?

Re:the real question (3, Informative)

nadamsieee (708934) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626003)

From TFA:

The trio is almost done with an application binary interface and language extensions for Cell. A system-level simulator is also nearly complete. Yet to come is a full-fledged Linux implementation for the CPU.

So it sounds like IBM is working on porting Linux to it.

Re:the real question (3, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626104)

I wouldn't be suprised if they are half way there. While Sony is the first one to use this chip, I have no doubt that IBM will be trying to put this in all sorts of stuff. It's like Apple. While Apple is the biggest (or, should I say, most obvious/famous) use of PowerPC chips, they are also used in other servers, embeded things, etc. The more people get their heads around developing for the Cell, the easier it will be for IBM to sell the chip and it's descendants.

Of course, it would benefit Sony too.

Really there isn't too much of a story here. It is only a story because Sony is involved. If Sony wasn't using the Cell in the PS3 and the Cell was just some new chip from IBM, they would be doing the exact same thing anyways. We tend to think of the Cell as the "PS3 chip", but really the PS3 is just the first product to market to use it.

It has still yet to be explained to me (3, Interesting)

mcc (14761) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626132)

Exactly what do the SPEs *do* in a timesharing OS such as Linux? Are the SPEs all parcelled out to processes on an individual basis, like normal processors would be? Are the SPEs attached to the same process as their corresponding normal-CPU PPC core, and the SPE's onboard memories just gets copied to main memory and then overwritten on every single context switch? Or what?

Re:It has still yet to be explained to me (1)

shadowzero313 (827228) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626268)

IIRC, the Cell main CPU divided up the work by itself to the different sub-processors. So you'd just need to modify the source to run on Cell, not have to worry about breaking up the work.

aw, you beat me too it (1)

G27 Radio (78394) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626013)


From the article:

The trio is almost done with an application binary interface and language extensions for Cell. A system-level simulator is also nearly complete. Yet to come is a full-fledged Linux implementation for the CPU.

Cell: new desktop processor, or video-card killer? (5, Interesting)

wiml (883109) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626282)

Linux? Sure. The "PPE" portion of the Cell is a POWER64, which Linux already runs on. The "SPE" engines are effectively going to need their own kind of OS to manage them, but you could start with a mostly-user-space API and move it into the Linux kernel after people have figured out what that OS should really look like. This is all new stuff.

Looking at the CELL architecture overview [scea.com], though, the Cell doesn't look to me like a desktop replacement. It looks like a video card replacement. Think about it: the biggest piece of closed-source, proprietary hardware in your PC right now is your video card, with its sekrit interfaces and binary-only drivers. We're already starting to see a movement towards more general-purpose use of that hardware with things like nVidia's Cg toolkit [nvidia.com]. The CELL is the logical next step in that direction. You'll have a video card that runs Linux (or, ideally, a video card that acts as just another (heterogeneous) processor in your system).

May I be the first to say... (3, Insightful)

theGreater (596196) | more than 8 years ago | (#12625964)

Holy crap! That's amazing. Now, is this "fully open" a la' "Shared Source" or "fully open" as in "you have the same docs we do?" And what's with the comment about hardware discounts?

-theGreater.

All 3 consoles = IBM? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12625971)

I just realized this means both next-gen consoles and the GameCube all use IBM processors. Impressive. Now I hope they can hang on to the Mac market, and maybe both will benefit from advances in the other.

Re:All 3 consoles = IBM? (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626044)

I agree.

Mac notebooks are particularly excellent - both iBook & Powerbook.

Now if they can make good products from these processors, maybe more games will be available for that platform. At the very least, one would have some market value in porting the games to that platform.

I'd have switched to Mac a long time ago, but games are one of the main things holding me back. I already use Linux exclusively for development, but there aren't many games for Linux. But Mac could have the best of both the worlds! Who knows...

Re:All 3 consoles = IBM? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626212)

Now if they can make good products from these processors, maybe more games will be available for that platform. At the very least, one would have some market value in porting the games to that platform.

I've been hearing this argument a lot lately but I just can't quite understand it. So the consoles will all be using a variation of the Power processor. How does that translate into more games for the Mac? Linux has been running on x86 hardware forever yet no one has every tried to say, "Windows games run on x86 hardware so they should be easy to port to Linux or at the very least have some market value in porting the games to that platform." There's a lot more to it than just what the underlying instruction set happens to be...

Re:All 3 consoles = IBM? (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626264)

In case of x86, Windows was an early adopter and that is why it is stuck - it has nothing to do with the hardware, but rather the OS.

On the other hand, if you have a hardware platform made specifically for games and one which excels in games by providing more processing muscle, people *will* make games for it.

In this case, it is originally being made for games *anyway* - which means, it is already a big plus. Therefore, the chances of more games being developed is high, if it gets adopted by a large chunk of computer users.

PC users aren't going to change tomorrow, but Mac users will - if Apple takes up the hardware - hence my argument

Re:All 3 consoles = IBM? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626224)

You can get an iBook and still keep your Wintendo, you know. Talk to some of the other Mac users at Tech; I guarantee that's what they do.

Re:All 3 consoles = IBM? (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626283)

You think so?

I'd love to own an iBook, my damn notebook is SO humongous when compared to those Macs that I feel stupid lugging them around.

I probably should find out if there is a Tech Mac User's Group of sorts! ;)

Re:All 3 consoles = IBM? (2, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626199)

When you say "both next-gen consoles," don't you mean "all three?" The Nintendo Revolution will have an IBM CPU too!

Re:All 3 consoles = IBM? (1)

Trigun (685027) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626250)

IBM had also planned on releasing multi-power5 processor computers, although I haven't heard anything as of late. Hopefully IBM updates the roadmap for multi-cell computers, or blades, or something that I can fit in my home office.

All I can say is... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12625987)

...f*ck yeah! Thanks IBM! :D

Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12625997)

How is this different from every major processor's specification that is easily downloadable on the web. We're talking processors like Intel, PowerPC, etc.

When respoding to this message, please confirm you're not a script by typing the text shown in this image: [bvayigg/\/\<<<]

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626097)

What if I am a script?

Re:Interesting (1)

utexaspunk (527541) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626179)

When respoding to this message, please confirm you're not a script by typing the text shown in this image

how do i respode to a message?

heh... (0, Troll)

fitten (521191) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626002)

Good thinking by IBM. Basically, get a lot of labor for free to make their chip popular. All that labor will surely make them more money as they sell the hardware and make money off the free labor.

Re:heh... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626207)

Damned if they do, damned if they don't. And, you wonder why no one tailors to the F/OSS crowd... you people are never happy!

I really like this idea, personally. Full disclosure on hardware is always good. Regardless of running Linux, or not.

Calling all pawns... (5, Interesting)

PenchantToLurk (694161) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626011)

IBM wants open source dev on cells like MS wants developers coding for Windows. It's an sales tool to convince manufacturers to source their parts.

Given that the only cell device is the PS3, and that sony would sooner slit their wrists than let users write their own code for it, we can only assume that IBM is hoping somebody else will pick up the cell for consumer devices.

Re:Calling all pawns... (1)

Wandering-Seraph (878056) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626059)

"Instead, IBM has set up a team in its engineering services division to help others custom-design versions of Cell that could be made in IBM's fabs."

You're right, they're looking for people to help in developing spin offs of Cell, not actually making a product, other than the PS3, for Cell.

Re:Calling all pawns... (2, Insightful)

colmore (56499) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626267)

Well I can only assume Sony didn't sign any sort of exclusivity agreement for Cell, and in the corporate world "hey that's kind of unfair!" isn't exactly a grounds for suit.

Sony can't do much about this now, anyway, it's way too late in the game to switch processors, and IBM probably has enough patents on the thing to prevent anyone from making an equivalent too soon.

Somehow I don't think this is going to hurt Sony though. True blue Geek Buzz generates the right kind of attention to a new product. If people think that cool hacks will be coming out for the PS3, then they'll be more likely to hold off and not buy an XBox 360 (this is certainly changing MY opinion, and while my main reason for buying a PS3 might be to hack around, I'll still get some games -- it's been a while since I've played anything up to date, and I'm certainly never going to drop the crazy money it takes to get a PC up to respectable gaming speed)

Sony is generally a lot more hacker friendly that major competitors Apple and Microsoft. I think they'll be smart enough to see that this a) only affects a very small market segment and b) will generate good press.

Why is IBM pushing Cell? (1)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626021)

What other applications could Cell have besides the Playstation 3? What makes it special, and what applications is it best suited for?

Good to see... (1)

Vrejakti (729758) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626026)

IBM continues to be a major supporter of Open Source.

I still have to wonder about their intentions. Do Sony and IBM truly believe the Cell will be the replacement for Intel and AMD based chips?

Intel to start making Mac chips (1)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626105)

I doubt IBM will get back in the mix anytime soon. Intel is becomming the next big chip maker, again. If they get the Mac market, it is over for their competition. The competition will look for niche markets, things too small for Intel.

BTW, whatever happened to Motorola. They were pretty big dogs about 10 years ago. Now they are just an after thought, they laid off over 10,000 people and are in a decline. They made good chips.

Re:Intel to start making Mac chips (1)

DataPath (1111) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626190)

The motorola that you're thinking of is now called Freescale. They fell off the face of the tech world into its armpits - embedded processors. Competition is pretty stiff in that field, too, and Freescale hasn't been doing so hot.

Re:Good to see... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626276)

Do Sony and IBM truly believe the Cell will be the replacement for Intel and AMD based chips?
Why not? AFAIK, Cell is basically a PowerPC G4 with fancy vector units, and G4s work in Macs just fine...

has this happened before? (1)

betamaxV2.1 (609267) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626028)

Please correct me if I am wrong, but didn't IBM do the same thing with the x86 processors. If so would we be looking at the potential for another "IBM clone" situation thereby making cell the next x86 architecture?

Re:has this happened before? (1)

taskforce (866056) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626099)

Actually one of the reasons IBM isn't such a major player in the PC market despite having invented the damn things is becuase it wouldn't switch to x86... "a la 486 is good enough."

Re:has this happened before? (1)

The Bubble (827153) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626156)

Intel created the x86 processor, not IBM. IBM 'clones' as they were typically called came about when the functionality of the IBM BIOS was able to be duplicated.

Applicable uses (2, Interesting)

module0000 (882745) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626045)

Unless mainstream systems start shipping, are we really going to see people using cell-based personal computers? If some affordable boards are developed then it would make sense to see alot of open source developed embedded solutions. After the demo of the cell processor some time ago decoding 17 video streams simultaneously, it should have some real potential for home/commercial media centers on embedded platforms.

The next "IBM Compatible" standard? (5, Insightful)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626048)

The original IBM compatible standard (what we just call X86 nowadays) took off when Compaq reverse-engineered the BIOS and created the first "clone" of a "genuine" IBM PC. This undoubtedly resulted in explosive growth for Intel, who made the CPU. Now that IBM is manufacturing the chip (instead of Intel for the first IBM PC), it is absolutely in their best interest to make the Cell processor as mainstream as possible by opening up all of its specs.

Linux anyone? (4, Interesting)

sleepingsquirrel (587025) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626169)

Linux Insider is running a couple of editorials speculating [linuxinsider.com] about running Linux [linuxinsider.com] on the 'Cell'. The bold prediction? 'the Linux developer community will, virtually en masse, abandon the x86 in favor of the new machine.'

Java??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626049)

Does anybody know anything about Java on these chips? I assume Linux will run, but how about a java runtime? Isn't that and example of where something like harmony would be useful just in case Sun didn't release a JRE for the cell?

Re:Java??? (1)

module0000 (882745) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626106)

Will Sun really need to? I'm sure IBM has a C or C++ compiler working for the cell, for Sun it's probably a [slightly more complicated] issue of typing 'make our_uber_runtime_environment', and presto! The JRE is born from the primordial ooze.

Interesting Progression (4, Interesting)

harryoyster (814652) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626068)

This could have a good plus side for many developers. One of the issues that I have been getting into lately is the open source appliance development. Previously I have been using xbox's and more recently the mac mini. One of the problems that I have had in developing software, tools and libaries is that I am often stuck with a lack of alternatives in hardware and performance. by having open plans for a high performance platform it will potentially give or open entirely new roads in development.

Functional Compilers, anyone? (5, Interesting)

jameson (54982) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626069)

Good thinking, IBM. Now, let's get SML/NJ [smlnj.org], Haskell [haskell.org], and O'Caml [ocaml.org] ported to these things.

"Why", you may wonder, but the answer is simple: Referential transparency or any kind of confinement of side-effects makes for easy parallelisation, which is what these Cell thingies are supposed to rock at.

This might be the one thing that will put FP back into the undergraduate curriculum.

-- Christoph

Re:Functional Compilers, anyone? (2, Interesting)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626145)

Difficult as it is, I think most programmers would rather learn multithreading than functional programming.

Re:Functional Compilers, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626238)

If there is a programming language of the universe, it's a functional one.

Re:Functional Compilers, anyone? (1)

jameson (54982) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626254)

Hi,

Interesting conjecture, and I frankly don't know whether you'd be right about that or not. The reason why I mentioned "putting FP back into the curriculum" was, however, that it is my understanding that, if you're right, there's a good chance that programmers would prefer multithreading in imperative languages precisely because it'd be closer to what they'd be used to. So, by getting them used to FP, we'd see a "more fair" evaluation of the practicality of this approach.

Alternatively, we might ultimately wind up with some "middle ground", as proposed in
imperative functional programming [ed.ac.uk]
on the functional end and
type system improvements for imperative languages [microsoft.com] of one kind or
another [mit.edu] on the imperative/imperative OO language end.

-- Christoph

Re:Functional Compilers, anyone? (1)

Zwets (645911) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626252)

This might be the one thing that will put FP back into the undergraduate curriculum.
I agree, these languages will be instrumental in getting undergraduates First Posts!

8mod up (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626085)

AAsholes, as they over the same Do, an3 with any win out; either the

Sounds good (1)

macaran (766186) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626094)

Makes sence to me, I've been iching to program some assembly hacks the second I first read about the CELLs PPE/SPE disign. I'd guess it'll take a lot of creativity to figure out ways of useing them to vectorize ordinary tasks, exactly the kind of challenge I'd love to play with, along with all those GNU Hurd people :o.

Obligatory (0, Offtopic)

nickptar (885669) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626098)

How long until somebody makes a Beowulf cluster of these?

Re:Obligatory (1)

brontus3927 (865730) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626272)

If I understand the basic idea behind the cell proccessor in that there are 8 proccessing units in one cell proccessor, wouldn't a cell be a Beowulf cluster by itself?

Luring in the real coders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626123)

Luring in the real coders by offering those busy on writing codecs and multimedia and science stuff with a special offer PCI Express cards may help.

If we've got add-on card known to be capable of decoding ogg theora or dirac or playing complex animated VGG there might be a big linux market in the future. But nobody is going to buy this card without any useful software for it.

Neat But... (0, Redundant)

0kComputer (872064) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626124)

How would someone go about acquiring a CELL chip and other hardware required to run it? Sounds like a pretty big investment for the casual OS programmer.

This can only help the OSS community (3, Interesting)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626131)

Something this high-profile will help the business world see even more clearly the sheer, unadulterated power of Open Source.

I predict that the most innovative and enjoyable apps and games will come from developers who are working independently, on thier own, or in small groups, out of pure love of code. That is the way it has always been.

Open HARDWARE movement (5, Interesting)

WebCowboy (196209) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626136)

Nice to see someone as important as IBM realising the importnace of open HARDWARE. I've found that until recently the concept has been overlooked or even derided. Even open software advocates didn't "get it" and said it could never work, becasue hardware is different--the argumant was that hardware isn't something individuals or small companies could influence becasue of the high cost of entry, and big companies needed to make money off licensing closed IP to fund development and production of new hardware.

This day and age, such an argument is complete BUNK. Hardware design is done on computers and chip specifications are more often than not specified in VHDL or Verilog--the "source code" of hardware if you will. Not only is design and simulation within the reach of even hobbyists, the end result is very similar to software in characteristics. While IBM is not completely opening things up to the point of showing the "source code" of the Cell processor, it is a great step to see all the specifications etc. without encumbrances.

Quite frankly I'm surprised the open source movement hasn't advocated open hardware much more vigourously. After experiences around NVidia and ATI and Intel you'd have to be a fool not to realise that open hardware isn't just an interesing idea, it is NEEDED for the success of open software.

Re:Open HARDWARE movement (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626257)

I think you're reaching for an analogy that isn't there. Intel, AMD, etc. publish specs on their processors, too. This isn't a new thing.

Hardware design is done on computers and chip specifications are more often than not specified in VHDL or Verilog--the "source code" of hardware if you will. Not only is design and simulation within the reach of even hobbyists, the end result is very similar to software in characteristics.

Except when I write software, I can actually run it. If I got ahold of some VHDL for a real chip and modified it... I'd be nowhere since I couldn't actually use the result. (Don't talk to me about FPGAs; they're not competitive with high-volume ASICs.)

Re:Open HARDWARE movement (2, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626280)

Yeah, you can simulate it in Verilog (on a high-end Linux server, no less), and get other companies to do your fab for you, but it still costs a minimum of about $100,000 for each chip spin to get actual hardware -- hardly within reach of your average hobbyist. Add to that tens of thousands to license the cores used. I think only a handful of large companies will be designing and building chips for the forseeable future. In fact, if you can't amortize your development costs over about a million chips, it isn't really economically feasible to roll your own.

Luring in the real coders first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626152)

Luring in the real coders by offering those busy on writing codecs and multimedia and science stuff with a special offer PCI Express card may help.

If we've got an add-on card known to be capable of decoding ogg theora or ogg dirac or playing complex animated SVG there might be a big linux market in the future. But nobody is going to buy this card without any useful software for it.

Hard to give stuff away? (1)

Vorondil28 (864578) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626162)

"We're not yet sure about the right licensing terms for the libraries. It can be hard to give stuff away for free," Kahle said...

Yeah? Since when?

A free anti XBOX 360 Army (5, Insightful)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626181)

Why wouldn't Sony want IBM to do this. Since the platform specific game developer is going the way of the Dodo, how do you get an edge?

Perhaps by giving every anti-Microsoft fanatic video game freak an outlet? When licensed 3rd party support becomes even on both sides of the map, it will be consumer mods that make the difference to gamers. Can I mod chip it to play foreign games? Can I put vinyl kits on it? Can I use it to power my toaster?

Theoretically, one might be able to write some code that will allow you to play foreign games without having to void your warranty. How huge is that?

Also, Sony is going to need something extra to get people to buy it's system after a XBOX 360 Holiday season, and this may just be that.

Re:A free anti XBOX 360 Army (2, Funny)

0kComputer (872064) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626277)

I think Army may be a little strong, more like platoon or possibly regiment, most of whom probably don't have time for video games.

PS3 Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12626182)

Im not a lawyer and dont completely understand the GPL, but does this mean that since the processor specs and program libraries and the PS3 SDK will be GPL all the games the come out for the PS3 will have to be GPL? That would be cool.

But anyways kudos to IBM, by doing this they have just expanded their market by 10 fold and I'm sure it will work out for them. Hopefully if this works out, other processor companies, and all software companies will switch to OSS.
Good job IBM!

Wonderful (1, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626187)

Now if someone can just tell me:
1) When will the chip be available?
2) How much power will it disipate?
3) How much will it cost?
Then maybe I can design a product around it. Until then, it's vaporware for all practical intents and purposes.

The Cell's Future? (3, Insightful)

quark101 (865412) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626204)

It seems to me that this is a first step by IBM to try and move the Cell more into the foreground of computing i.e. to start transitioning computers over to start using Cell instead of x86. Going to the open source community with this project is the only feasible way to do this anymore, really. As much as big companies might like to, they will not be able to put in near the amount of effort or creativity that open source can provide.

As well, I think that moving to Cell would be a very positive step for the computer industry as a whole, helping it to get out of a rut that it seems to have fallen into. The benefits are enormous, the least of which is that if Cell starts becoming standard, average computing power of a desktop will skyrocket, allowing for brand new, highly computing intensive applications to be developed.

Fortune Cookie in the Oven (4, Funny)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626214)

"It can be hard to give stuff away for free," Kahle said in an interview

This has the sound of the next Slashdot Fortune Cookie in the making -- or should I say in the baking?

The more chips sold... (2, Insightful)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626219)

the cheaper it will be to produce for the long haul. I would think Sony would be in favor of that.

Script Flip Chip (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626229)

This setup looks a lot like the inverse of IBM's greatest strategic loss: the PC. That time, IBM had the brand, and sold hardware to a maverick niche market of PC hobbyists. They viewed software, including the OS, as a necessary sidelight, and let Microsoft judo them out of their control of the market revolution they created. IBM later lost $20B as their market failure came home to roost, and never recovered the leadership they squandered.

This time, IBM is the necessary part in the Playstation, which is in the hands of this generation's maverick niche market: gamers. Their Cell processors give them Microsoft's opportunity: base the market in the demanding niche, and market their product outside of it, leveraging their market feedback and brand into the larger market, including supplying competitors to the original platform. IBM is flipping the script: selling hardware means opening the software promotes their sales, inverting Microsoft's formula of taking software proprietary to capture more of the market defined by the hardware.

It all looks great on paper. Especially the greater scalability and persistence of open software, compared to Microsoft's centralized, proprietary approach. Time will tell if IBM can manage the opportunity, competing against Microsoft, as well as Microsoft did in the 1980s - and better than Microsoft will in the 2000s.

Hardware isn't open (1)

melted (227442) | more than 8 years ago | (#12626234)

They're opening up the specs and associated software. Why TF does the processor need associated software, that's something I don't really understand.
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