With the recent introduction of IBM's Power5 processor and that company's move to sell-off its PC business, Apple's future processor plans could include the Power5, Infoworld claims.

A piece by Tom Yager speculates that, "the Power5 design will arrive in some form in a Mac in 2005". Apple's G5 processor is already a variant of IBM's Power4 processor, albeit with a single core, smaller die, lower heat and lower power consumption.

What happens if we work together?

IBM launched its PowerPC Consortium this month.

The organization aims to give IBM's partners better access to Power technology so they can more easily build things like processor simulators, compilers and algorithm sets. It will also give them a way to develop and share common power components themselves, without having to work directly with IBM.

With 15 members already signed-up to the Consortium, Apple is notable by its absence. The launch of the body also stresses the fact that, "PowerPC and Power form a continuum of compatible, and now open, processor designs", Yager said.

Cutting-edge advances

The PowerPC incarnation of the Power architecture is optimized for smaller machines, and there's a history to Apple's relationship with IBM, and with Motorola: "Back in the early '90s, it was Apple's desire to move beyond the performance limitations of the Motorola 68xxx line of microprocessors that led to the creation of the Somerset project in Austin, Texas," Yager said.

"There, engineers from Apple, IBM, and Motorola (AIM) collaborated and fought with one another (mostly fought) to create the first PowerPC, the 601, a single-chip derivative of IBM's high-performance RS/6000 CPU. As soon as the processor shipped, Apple began delivering the first model of Power Mac. That initial PowerPC-based machine outsold Intel-based PCs, helped by the fact that Apple and Motorola developed tools that generated "fat binaries," software that ran identically on 68xxx and PowerPC-based systems."

Apple is still the driving force behind PowerPC engineering. It got Motorola spin-off, Freescale, to create the MPC7447A to replace the inefficient CPU used in the first 17-inch PowerBook G4. Freescale's next work will be the 7448, which doubles the cache size of the 7447A and raises the ceiling on the bus and clock speeds. The company also has a dual-core, 32-bit PowerPC chip coming up, Yager said.

The 64-bit Quick Step

The report continues: "Apple drove IBM to create the 64-bit home runs PowerPC 970 and 970FX, chips that, similar to the 601, appeared in Apple hardware in record time."

The introduction of these chips accomplished a seamless migration to a 64-bit platform. "Just as intriguing, Apple, IBM, and the public partners that sign IBM's open license could carry Mac users all the way to Power without the suffering that blocked users' migration from x86 to Itanium," he adds.

Yager believes that the move to create the PowerPC Consortium could propel IBM to the forefront of technological advantage. "If all things were equal and IBM made its systems as accessible as Dell and Hewlett-Packard do theirs, the IBM Power5 processor could bury Intel's Itanium 2," he proclaims.

Triumphant engineering

"The Power5 is a one-two punch, a triumph of engineering from a company that excels not only in processor design but also in the submicron science of chip manufacturing and packaging."

Power5 advantages include: improved power efficiency, scalability, support for multiple operating systems; and virtualization and partitioning technologies Intel can't match today.

"The Power5 also foreshadows a new generation of 64-bit, PowerPC-based workstations and servers from IBM's longtime partner in Power, Apple ," he explains.

"Power5's got just about everything: speed, simplicity, innovation, seamless backward compatibility, a mature development toolset, and the backing of a technological giant. It's an unrivaled engineering achievement, created by what may be the world's smartest engineers. If IBM's marketing ever matches the intelligence of its engineering, watch out, Intel."

Read more about the Power5 in Yager's Infoworld piece here.