LONDON – ARM is set to fight the established order in the games console market, which means variants of PowerPC, according to market research company Semicast Research. Semicast forecasts that Microsoft will increasingly focus on being an ARM house from mobile devices through games consoles as part of a convergence strategy and could use Nvidia Corp. as its ARM chip provider of choice for the next Xbox games console.
ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England) has been specified as the provider of the architecture within the next handheld Sony PSP, displacing MIPS Technologies Inc., and Nintendo's DS and 3DS have been based on ARM from inception. Now that ARM has the handheld games market wrapped up it is well placed to move into the consoles, Semicast said.
The current generation of games consoles consists of Microsoft's Xbox 360, Nintendo's Wii and Sony's Playstation 3. Sony also continues to produce the Playstation 2, selling approximately five million units in 2010, although Semicast expects production to cease in 2012. The main processor for all three of the current generation of consoles is based on Power Architecture, with Microsoft and Nintendo using chips developed by IBM, and Sony using its Cell processor which is based on the Power Architecture.
"Semicast judges it unlikely that x86 will be used in any of the next generation of consoles, so the question is can ARM break the current dominance of Power Architecture," said Colin Barnden, principal analyst at Semicast Research, in a statement.
Barnden said that Sony will continue to use its Cell Broadband Engine in the Playstation 4 console. He added that Nintendo will continue to use Power-based processors from IBM for its follow up to the Wii console.
I'd read elsewhere that 1 possible next-gen Xbox MMP configuration would include an array of 4 core arm cpus. I'd find it hard to believe Sony would continue using any future Core derivative. I think it more likely they'd wait to see what MS does and then finalize a design. Apple though is something I'd never thought of.
And why not! Most of the processing in a game is in the graphics which parts like the Nvidia Tegra seem to be good at.
The only thing that is really in PowerPC's favour is that it is big-endian which is better for some types of graphics manipulations.
I would think that with the multi-core ARM offerings and the increased speeds of 800Mhz to 1Ghz (maybe more?) that ARM stands a good chance to capture some of the gaming market. The questions are: how hard will it be to write/re-write the gaming software on the ARM platform, what will the performance be on the new ARM platforms, and what will the cost of these new platforms be relative to equivalent performing PowerPC processors?
Interesting speculation. It looks like the Fusion conference is going to be THE place to be both in terms of discussion of technical progress in heterogeneous multicore computing and also in terms of that other form of networking -- in the corridors.
On a related matter. I was exposed to a Fusion processor in the Lenovo ThinkPad X120e compact long life notebook. The long life seemed to be there but the performance was poor. On my set up it was barely able to run Windows 7 and the the attendent firewall and antivirus software that UBM requires.
As a result I have switched to a Lenovo T410 notebook which runs Windows 7 fine on an Intel Core i7 processor -- but the battery life is back down to 2 hours or less.
Consider this scenario...
Recent speculation is indicating that AMD is considering becoming an ARM license. AMD is the current GPU supplier for Xbox 360. AMD, ARM and Microsoft will soon be having a conference together on heterogeneous computing suggesting the companies are in a joint working relationship on a project together. AMD could come up with an ARM based Fusion chip (replacing the current X86 Fusion cores) for a future Xbox successor. Microsoft, that is currently working on hardware with ARM for Windows on ARM, could play a role in the actual chip' design. Or perhaps, Microsoft, ARM, and AMD could collaborate on a 64bit high end version of the ARM architecture specifically for running Windows which could also find itself in the next Xbox.
This would be a rival chip to Nvidia's 64bit ARM based CPU--Project Denver. Nvidia is the current GPU supplier for Sony PS3 and is expected to debut Denver in it's high end, scheduled for 2013 GPGPU--Project Maxwell, which could be the basis of PS3.
Under this scenario you could have high end ARM cores in both next-gen console while retaining backwards compatibility with existing GPU suppliers.
Sony choosing the consolidate it's handheld products on a single architectural family makes sense.
But, I can't fathom why a company seeking to build a world class interactive graphics processing system in a game console form factor would ever leave IBM or MIPS.
The notion that the ARM architecture can computationally compete with the PowerPC or MIPS architectures on a performance per watt basis is simply without serious merit maybe even ludicrous.
But I suppose that for some resistance is futile.
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