The next big step is Maxwell, Nvidia’s next big graphics core. It will arrive in 2014 sporting a capability to share virtual memory between the graphics and ARM host processor.
This is a key step in simplifying the job of programming chips that pack graphics and host ARM or x86 processors. It is so important, AMD launched an alliance called the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) group to set open standards for how to do it. HSA includes ARM, Imagination Technologies, Microsoft, Qualcomm and many others.
Analysts such as Krewell and Patrick Moorhead expect Nvidia will probably borrow the open techniques the HSA group defines and plug them into Cuda, using different marketing names. That’s pretty much what Intel did with its 64-bit instructions because AMD defined the 64-bit x86 architecture first working with Microsoft and the Windows giant refused to support two different flavors of the technology in its operating systems.
But this time, the move to a new architecture is a three-way game with AMD, Nvidia and Intel all competing. Presumably Intel is taking its own route to SoCs that share a common pool of cache coherent memory between graphics and x86 cores It likely will embrace both its current on-chip graphics cores and its external Xeon Phi. But it has yet to reveal its exact plans.
There’s another new wrinkle this time. Microsoft is not the only or even the biggest player in operating systems anymore. Google is set to displace it with Android as the client OS observers expect to run in the majority of tomorrow’s client computers.
So we have three competing microprocessor camps and two competing OS providers (three if you count Apple which will do its own thing) all racing toward one common architecture. There could be a lot of twists ahead in this road map.
Rick, regarding "...Google has been mum on any plans for Android in notebooks..." -there is Android's daddy on notebooks today...Linux! I am skeptical about Google taking on M'soft on OS's for notebooks, in light of Windows8's success(?) so far! If touch-based computing is the determining factor, it may very well be that Windows8 and beyond will prevail on notebooks (assuming that notebooks will exist in the future!).
Frankly, I don't now if the CUDA vs. OpenCL was answered at GTC this year. As GPGPU based computing is gaining prominence in CAE/CAD/EDA tools market, developers of simulation tools seemed to be left with a choice that nearly doubles their effort in code development.
"And we are still waiting to hear anything about Windows Server for ARM."
ARM servers are of most interest to big cloud data centers. Cloud infrastructure is largely open source and Linux based, and doesn't care about the architecture it runs on.
The success of ARM in the server space has very little to do with Windows Server.
My feeling is that long term, Microsoft will become less and less relevant to anything. Look how they missed the boat on smartphones. Everyone is getting along just fine without them. They seem to be set to miss the boat on ARM servers as well, and I really don't think they will be missed there either.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.