AltiVec is marketed by Apple as Velocity Engine, and has been available in G4 Macs since August 1999. Upon its launch Apple described AltiVec as: "The heart of a supercomputer miniaturized onto a sliver of silicon."
Motorola's move means developers using Linux can use the technology to produce four-fold speed hikes in networking and communications applications. The company has built a downloadable library of source code for AltiVec technology-enabled applications frequently used in Linux.
Beyond Apple, the market for G4 PowerPC processors and AltiVec has so far been restricted to "high-performance applications in networking, telecom, imaging and computing applications", Motorola said.
Apple's developer pages say of AltiVec: "It expands the PowerPC architecture through the addition of a 128-bit vector execution unit that operates concurrently with existing integer and floating-point units. This provides for highly parallel operations, allowing for simultaneous execution of up to 16 operations in a single clock cycle.
Speed gains "This combination of new instructions, operation in parallel on multiple bits, and wider registers, provide up to 30-fold speed enhancements of up to on operations that are common in media processing."
Motorola hopes that introducing the code library will inspire developers in new markets: "High performance must be balanced with power consumption, system cost and peripheral integration."
The move suggests Motorola is attempting to increase demand for its G4-processor products by bringing formerly high-end technologies into the embedded-processor market - which has traditionally lagged behind the PC market on processor speed.
Motorola computing platforms division corporate vice president and general manager Bill Dunnigan said: "The library helps developers accelerate the performance of their Linux OS and Motorola G4 processor-based applications, without having to invest in higher clock speeds."
Motorola will also assist developers port their G4-based applications to market.