Apple will adopt IBM’s powerful new PowerPC processor, a report claims.

IBM's much-discussed PowerPC 970 processor will be previewed by the company later today at the Microprocessor Forum.

A Reuters report cites an "industry source" as claiming that Apple is set to use the chip in future Macs. The revelation follows speculation from industry watchers that Apple would turn to IBM as it strives to close the megahertz gap between itself and its PC competitors.

The new chip goes into production late next year, and can process 64 bits of data at a time at 1.8 GHz or 1.8 billion cycles per second. In common with today's PCs, the Motorola G4 processor – the chip that currently drives Apple’s machines – supports 32-bit data streams at a maximum 1.25GHz.

IBM's vice president of microprocessor development Chekib Akrout told Reuters that large databases and the Internet challenged PCs: "This is the time to introduce a 64-bit machine capable of being used on a desktop," he said.

The piece claims that adopting the chip would drive Apple to the "technological head" of the industry, and reports speculative analyst comment describing the solution as a "great processor" for Macs. The new processor can run both 32- and 64-bit applications and is tuned for graphics.

IBM has already confirmed the processor is: “Based on the award-winning Power4 design". The company has also admitted its solution uses an: "Eight-way superscalar design that fully supports Symmetric MultiProcessing. The processor is further enhanced by a vector processing-unit implementing 160 specialized vector instructions and implements a system interface capable of up to 6.4GBs.”

The chip is capable of processing eight instructions during a single clock cycle (8-way superscalar). The inclusion of vector processing means the same instruction can be applied to multiple units of data simultaneously, advantageous to graphics applications. It works in a similar way to that of Motorola's AltiVec – called Velocity Engine by Apple.

Microprocessor Report senior editor Kevin Krewell has called the chip "the natural upgrade path for the Apple community". However, Microprocessor Report editor in chief Peter Glaskowsky told Macworld in August: “My understanding is that the G5 processor will appear in Macs in due course, and that Motorola intends to support and extend this product line as long as Apple remains in business.”

Apple sources refused to comment on that company's future product plans.