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PowerPC revving up for next generation

Speedier RISC ahead through '97

By Robert Hess (robert@macweek.com)

Motorola Inc.'s and IBM Corp.'s plans for future CPUs are clear, and, according to sources, they provide strong evidence that Apple will have a lot of power at its disposal over the next couple of years.

At the low end of the performance spectrum is the 603ev processor, code-named Valiant. As previously reported (see MacWEEK, Aug. 14, Page 1), this chip is due next summer and was developed by Motorola with considerable involvement from Apple, which needs the processor to beef up performance of its low-end and portable products.

Next in line is the 604e, also known as Sirocco, which is expected to be available for sampling before the end of this year. It will reportedly run as high as 150 MHz and feature a larger, unified cache, which should improve 680x0 emulator performance.

The next chip may be a CPU code-named Windfall. According to sources this lower-cost version of the 604 family may not see the light of day, replaced instead by a more powerful chip.

As interesting as these chips may be, the real power will come next year when Motorola plans to begin sampling its 613, code-named Arthur, sources said. It will be the first PowerPC chip to provide performance faster than 200 SPECint92 marks.

Motorola expects to release the 614, also known as Typhoon, its highest-performance chip to date. At 266 MHz, the new processor will reportedly deliver a SPECint92 mark of 500 and should be available in 1997.

Next year, IBM expects to deliver the 615, sources said. As previously reported, the chip combines a PowerPC engine and a translator for the Pentium line of processors. This means it can run both processors' software to varying degrees of performance.

The 620, announced back when the PowerPC troika first rolled out their chip plans, is well on its way toward providing the high-end, server-level performance the companies predicted. Sources said the companies are seeing the chip, code-named Trident, demonstrate ratings as high as 250 SPECint92.

At the mind-bending high end of the spectrum are two experimental chips from IBM, Boxer and Dino. They offer as high as 600 SPECint92, and at least one of them will be designed to Apple's bus specifications.

Michael Slater, editorial director of the Sebastopol, Calif.-based Microprocessor Report, said: "It's clear they're following the track we've expected, with a line of chips that follow the 603 core, another for the 604 and yet another for the 620. That should continue until the end of 1997, when they change the core chip."

PowerPC 1996 Road Map


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