updated 08:40 pm EDT, Wed July 30, 2008
NVIDIA Candidate for Mac
Apple's rumored non-Intel mainboard platform may primarily involve a change of suppliers to NVIDIA rather than any kind of custom development, PCPer suggests. The enthusiast site notes that Santa Clara, California-based NVIDIA has been developing its first nForce mainboard chipset for Intel-based notebooks, currently codenamed MCP79, with the aim of improving several weaknesses that have affected Intel's own designs and thus Apple as well. The architecture would support all the necessary components for Intel's just-announced Core 2 processors, including a 1,066MHz system bus and the option of DDR3 memory.
The MCP79 would consolidate graphics as well as interface and memory controllers into a single chip, shrinking the amount of needed space in notebooks and other computers that are becoming increasingly thinner and smaller at the Mac producer. It should additionally scale better with an ultra-low power MCP79U variant having the same basic layout as its full-power counterpart but focusing on the minimal power consumption needed for ultraportables like the MacBook Air.
Certain extra models of the chip will also use workstation-level Quadro integrated video or support dual discrete video chips through NVIDIA's SLI technology, though Apple has traditionally excluded both from its mobile computers. However, it could potentially use technologies such as Hybrid SLI, which powers down a dedicated GeForce or Quadro graphics chip in favor of an integrated solution when the computer isn't under a heavy workload.
NVIDIA's current integrated GeForce graphics are also considered faster than the alternative from Intel and would bolster 3D performance both for games and for the Quartz Extreme 2D layer in Mac OS X itself. Significantly, Apple has become increasingly dependent on 3D performance for its high-end customers and has already implemented drivers for NVIDIA's CUDA general-purpose computing technology that leverages the video card's unused power, with Mac OS X Snow Leopard expected to implement a more universal OpenCL standard.
Adding to suspicions of Apple's involvement is the unusual level of secrecy regarding MCP79. Unlike with past nForce unveilings, NVIDIA hasn't held media events to explain the technology and has largely left news of the hardware to leaks. Apple has often asked its own partners to avoid revealing more details than necessary about parts that will be important to Macs, including some details behind IBM's PowerPC 970 (G5) processors.
NVIDIA is considered a relatively neutral party and one of the few performance-oriented mainboard producers that would support Intel processors. Although now a rival to AMD in graphics, it produces a large number of AMD-oriented mainboards and isn't believed to put restrictions on including AMD's ATI Radeon HD video as a discrete chipset.
In potentially related news, Bernard Charlès, CEO of Dassault Systems, will speak at the NVISION 08 conference on August 26th to discuss megatrends in 3D design. Dassault's products are commonly used for modeling conceptual products before production begins, while Charlès is know throughout the aviation field for eliminating the need for physical concept models.
"It is an honor to have Bernard join us at NVISION 08," said Jen-Hsun Huang, president and CEO to NVIDIA. "Dassault Systèmes' innovative work in modern 3D design and simulation is helping to solve complex problems across a range of industries - from automotive to aerospace to life sciences - while making 3D tools available to more and more people. I look forward to hearing Bernard's insights into 'what's next' for creative professionals and end-user consumers."