back to article Apple's Snow Leopard set to exploit GPU power

Apple's Snow Leopard bounded closer to reality today - and there's a strong possibility it leapt well past Windows 7 in the process. Today, at SIGGRAPH Asia in Singapore, the Khronos Group, a self-described "member-funded industry consortium focused on the creation of open standard, royalty-free APIs to enable the authoring …


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  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. John Savard

    Doubly Wonderful News

    It is wonderful that there will be a standard way to access the computational power from high-end graphics cards which will be usable by software makers; perhaps Wolfram might come out with a version of Mathematica that makes use of it, for example.

    And I like the name for the new OS X too, since the Snow Leopard is a symbol of the struggling land of Tibet.

  3. filey
    IT Angle


    this article is acronym hell

    only the nerdiest of nerds can read the whole article

    you all need to get out more

  4. James O'Brien

    I know this isnt really relevant but

    Where has Webster gone? I miss his usual ranting and frothing at the mouth with Apple articles. Sad day at El Reg. My guess hes in the sanitarium.

    As for the article, meh who cares.

  5. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    OpenCL and 3DLabs

    Just to fill in the background for this... if you think OpenCL sounds a lot like OpenGL there's a good reason.

    SGI came up with IrisGL then OpenGL, releasing the full specs. OpenGL ARB (Architecture Review Board) took over OpenGL in 1992, then gave it up to Khronos Group in 2006. OpenCL sounds good to me though, right now the utilities to get stuff running on a GPU look pretty nice but standardizing it is even better. Nvidia's existing GPU programming sounds pretty similar to OpenCL... you write your code and put in some nvidia .h's at the top and (ifdef'ed I'm sure) nvidia-specific mallocs on your data set memory (or explicit memory->GPU and GPU->memory calls), and nvidia-specific few lines of code around loops. It compiles normally through gcc, somewhere in the pipeline an nvidia-specific step puts in the library calls that allocate memory on the card, build the nvidia opcodes, etc and autoparallelizes your flagged loops. (Probably Visual C rather than gcc on Windows I suppose...) OpenCL sounds like this but standardized so that same build will work on Nvidia, ATI, 3dlabs (who i didn't know where still in business), etc. Nice!

    (did a little googling).. ok, 3dlabs still makes the glint and permedia but die-shrunk for embedded use. Nice!

  6. Dana W
    Jobs Halo


    Speaking as an Apple convert, I'd just like to say HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA! Furthermore YES!

    Take that Microsoft! Yet again, they are a day late and a dollar short! I expect I will enjoy my Snow Leopard purchase even more than my Leopard one! It does explain why the new lower end Macbooks all suddenly have snappy 3D chipsets, You know Steve had to have a reason for that other than undermining Macbook Pro sales.

    "Well if that does not drag Webster out of hiding nothing will, I expect he choked to death on his own bile"

  7. Eric Dennis

    Serious problem for Microsoft

    If Microsoft doesn't support OpenCL , they will have a serious problem. People who need that functionality to work with compatible applications will either defect or include Macs on their networks. The worse thing about it for Microsoft is that intel Macs dual boot Windows and have been shown to run it faster and more reliably than standard PC kit.

  8. Lyall
    Gates Halo


    Direct3D 11 will include GPGPU support so MS aren't too far behind, if at all.

  9. David

    No compiler?

    Without a compiler this seems like vapourware.

  10. Kenny Millar
    Gates Horns

    How many times?

    They said I was 'odd' and put me in the 'odd box' when I said you'd be able to do browsing on your games console.

    They told me I was odd, when I said you'd get in-game advertising.

    They told me I was odd when I said search engines would sell your searches to advertisers.

    They told me I was odd when I said you'd search, browse, shop and play games on the same console, and that the adverts you get when your online would be targetted directly AT YOU.

    They told me I was odd, but in reality I was just telling you what was coming. It came. In fact, its so passè now. (See my article in mid nineties in Develop magazine).

    Now listen. I'm telling you what's coming - now don't call me odd, just listen.

    Windows is moribund. Got it? I'm not odd. I just know how to ignore the hype and look at the facts.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Macs dual boot Windows and have been shown to run it faster and more reliably than standard PC kit

    lol.. where did you hear this horse shit from?!

  13. Alexis Vallance
    Jobs Halo


    Really makes you wonder what MS are up to, apart from fixing Vista and charging you for it again, under the guise of Win7.

    "Macs dual boot Windows and have been shown to run it faster and more reliably than standard PC kit "

    One test showed a Mac Pro got better benchmarks under Windows than same specced PC hardware. Apple are actually pretty good at producing decent motherboards - it's no witchcraft, they just produced better mobos than Asus, Gigabyte etc. in a benchmark.

  14. Grant
    Gates Horns

    More difficult for Microsoft?

    As with the Vista Compatible debacle, the issue is that Windows is supposed to run on everything from Net-books up.

    Apple can simply make sure that all machines they make have the right video chip set & Snow Leopard will run well.

    MS have much more of an issue that Windows 7 is supposed to be lighter & less clunky than Vista; but if it doesn't take advantage of the many chip-sets out there - like the on-board Intel graphics my Vista laptop suffers from, then it just won't look as good. Of course there will no doubt be many versions of Windows that have performance that varies a lot depending on the hardware as per usual, but the message from Apple will be clean & simple; buy a machine running Snow Leopard and watch video editing performance skyrocket.

  15. yeah, right.


    Microsoft won't support OpenCL. Instead, they'll create something called DirectCL which they claim is "completely compatible you can use it with no issues trust us". If enough fools fall for the old, old scam, they'll start to extend DirectCL so that it's no longer truly compatible, but will blame OpenCL for any breakage. Developers will have to code for both, or pick one.

    I can only hope that by that time Microsoft has a low enough market share that people will not pick DirectCL.

  16. Hywel Thomas


    Try putting "Vista fastest laptop" into Google. You don't need to prime the search with "Mac". You'll hit sites like Windows Vista Magazine and PC World magazine.

  17. Kanhef
    Jobs Halo

    "infallible voice recognition"

    Not possible. No matter how good you make it, there will always be some damn <ethnic> who will come along and foul it up with their accent.

    And once again, no matter how many new features there are in Windows 7, it will look like they're just trying to catch up to the Mac OS. Which has more than a little truth to it.

  18. snafu


    Microsoft only has to wait for the OpenCL gang to port it to Windows (after all, where do all these guys hope to run their mighty OpenCL thingies on? Macs and Unix/Linux only?). Meanwhile, they'll deploy their own solution as planned (I am under the impression that Ms made some GPGPU noises well before OpenCL was ever mentioned). So there, no problems no Microsoft is dying nonsense.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    .. now its not just games that will have compatability issues, with nvidia/ati doing special driver fixes for specific programs to work on specific cards.Good idea in practice, gonna be hell for the first year or so. Hardly a windows beating feature as microsoft will be supporting it anyway(and everyone that bitches about directx, how many pc games now use open gl and how many use directx?).

    Give less biased article next time, k thx.

  20. Roland

    MS fanboy moves on..

    have to say its all quite interesting. MS seems to be a very "reactive" company now. nothing new innovative for a long time. windows 7 is not even a new OS, its just a "intermediate release" according to the blurb. paying dollars for what is effectively a service pack? I have to say I feel shafted. I have Vista & the experience has not been good.

    Macs always been expensive but the total cost of windows machines is now getting to a point where im seriously thinking about getting my 1st mac in 2009. This snow leopard might just swing it if its really good...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Great news

    This is tremendously exciting stuff from Apple. I absolutely cannot wait for an OpenCL version of Mathematica from Wolfram.

  22. Thomas

    @Diana W

    Hasn't the "not updated in at least 18 months" Mac Mini still got an integrated Intel chipset? It's one of the ones with programmable shaders though, so I guess it may be able to help a little.

    Here's hoping that Microsoft adopt OpenCL and as a result it finds its way into Photoshop, etc. Three cheers for a concerted effort to take useful functionality and make it vendor neutral. I'm optimistic that the only reason Microsoft haven't been involved is that they're just not really involved with Kronos, it otherwise being the OpenGL group.

  23. Thomas

    @snafu. @AC

    snafu: Can Microsoft really just wait for someone else to provide it on Windows? It's extremely unlikely, but given that the technology seems likely to be partly integrated at the compiler level, would waiting not risk loosing some Visual Studio customers to Eclipse/GCC-based setups?

    AC: I'm not sure you're completely right about the bias in this article. It does seem to be Apple who have been the catalyst for the creation of an open, royalty free standard, and they are probably going to be the first to implement it. They're being completely open about things and have not yet used the technology as the basis for any overly smug corporate posturing. Isn't this the sort of behaviour by Apple that we should be rewarding?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    It's a nice idea but CUDA has been out for a couple of years now and have we yet seen any application that uses it?

    Cell/Larrabee are the future, not requiring us to shoehorn stuff quite so badly. GPGPU raytracing is still slower than CPU raytracing, for instance, because of the compromises required to get raytracing onto a GPU at all. And GPUs have 2 orders of magnitude more FLOPS.

    Khronos are a bunch of muppets in any case. Their updates to OpenGL are so late as to be irrelevant, while DirectX continues to push new ground with DX11 forthcoming and DX12 in the pipe. Oh, and DX11 includes "compute shaders" to compete with OpenCL. Khronos is interesting for Mac people only (actually, Sony implement OpenGL/ES on PS3, but no-one uses it because it's a layer too much).

  25. Julian Lawton

    No Adobe

    Given that Photoshop is probably THE majorly used application that could benefit from this, it's a shame not to see Adobe on the list - I know they're interested in GPU acceleration, and something like this would probably be the logical thing to develop filters in . . . although they already have PixelBender to abstract filter development from x86 now.

    For Apple, this is a no-brainer - Final Cut Studio is again an app that does precisely the sort of tasks that are suitable for both highly parallel computing, and true 64-bit computing (i.e. if you're working on HD-video editing the ability to address > 4Gb of RAM in a single program might actually be useful) - basically just look at any task where users still cannot get enough power of their desktop.

    As for whether this gives OS X a general edge over Windows - I presume that OpenCL will be supported on Windows in the same way OpenGL is - by the graphics card vendors, so Windows developers will be able to use it. The key question is what cards it will be supported on (will it only work with new hardware, or retrospectively?).

  26. Abe


    I cant wait to use Kid Pix!

  27. Anonymous Coward

    @ MS Fanboy

    "...MS...nothing new innovative for a long time..."

    It's funny, but as a longtime and (increasingly frustrated) Mac fan, that accusation more and more can be levelled at Apple IMO. The recent Open/Closed/MS vs Apple Reg article touched on this as well.

    Take Snow Leopard Server - two of the key features Apple are barking on about are wholesale products of the engineering talent at Sun Microsystems: ZFS and DTrace. All well and good, but when Apple slaps a pretty GUI on it and then claims innovation....well.

    Next for Apple, Solaris Zones, but with a gay name (maybe Apple Chambers) and GUI as well...

    Needless to say I'm more and more looking at Solaris/OpenSolaris as my primary platform. Still, OpenCL sounds interesting.

  28. Gareth Saunders

    Microsoft not in the group...

    Of course not! They'll probably just force out thier own 'Direct Parallel', or perhaps 'InDirectX', and try and reign in this OpenCL.

    Wonder if the *nix types have started implementing this yet?

  29. Michael B.

    November 2008 DirectX SDK

    ...contained the DirectX 11 technical preview with support for "Compute Shaders" which is Microsoft's term for GPGPU support.

    The race is on as to who can get the first product actually released with appropriate driver support. Then the long wait until the first product that usefully takes advantage of these features.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's fairly hard to imagine nVidia and ATI putting a lot of effort into compilers and libraries etc that work on PC(Mac) but won't work on PC(Windows) isn't it?

    Of course Microsoft can't be arsed they'd spend a lot of effort producing a compatibility layer that won't achieve anything but slow systems down unless they've got the hardware layer provided by the hardware manufacturer.

  31. Nexox Enigma


    """Without a compiler this seems like vapourware."""

    The lack of a compiler at this stage doesn't mean a whole lot, since usually it's good to have an agreed-upon spec before you go and start writing code that depends on the spec. Seems like there are a good set of corporations behind this thing, so I imagine that it'll go ahead.

    And it has a better chance of catching on than CUDA since it'll be cross-platform and hardware independant, so obviously there'll be more incentive to code apps for it.

    I'm not terribly eager for this sort of thing to show up on OSX, but I will eagerly await support and applications on Linux... maybe with some nice Python modules to back it up. Might be a good reason to spend more than $25 on a video card for my servers...

  32. Chris
    Thumb Down

    Super stuff - yawn....

    The burning questions here are:

    Is Snow Leopard going to have a slightly more reliable file system than Leopard?

    Will Snow Leopard actually network with PCs reliably enough for serious use?

    Can Apple possibly make AirPort work properly?

    And, most importantly, will Apple kindly stop making expensive hardware that works with earlier versions of the OS that work rather better (speed/reliability) than Leopard?

    A lot of us aren't too worried about the techno-geekoid bleeding edge features - we just need a stable OS that, to quote Stevie, 'just works' - Leopard doesn't - and hardware which allows us to stick with earlier OS versions which worked reasonably well. So we can earn our living with the kit. So we can afford Apple's inflated prices...

    Don't get me wrong - I like Macs, I like the OS user interface. But the currently available hardware/software is trying my patience rather badly!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Programmed in C99? That won't please the Objective-C fanboys

    Programming in plain old C (albeit and updated version) on a Mac? Oh dear, thats a bit like driving a BMW in cordoroys and a worn out raincoat isn't it?

    Actually I don't think so , I think its good that for once someone has concentrated on the minimum of whats needed and not tried to get clever with the API language (hello Microsoft with your endless churning out of new languages and versions just so you can cynically force developers to upgrade every year) plus I always thought Objective C was a friggin dogs dinner bastard child of a language that should have been shot at birth.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Great idea

    However as was mentioned in the article we currently have CUDA and nothing really to show for it. Don't get me wrong I love the concept but actual application has been sorely lacking. My hope is with that many names behind this standard we can finally start to see some good solid applications of this kind of technology.

    So far as M$ not being in that mix. Well all I can say is meh, at this point OpenCL is still not much more than a good idea. So in all likely hood they are expecting they have an advantage with Direct3D11 being (at least in their minds) closer to a finished product than OpenCL is. Of course we all know that A: M$ is constantly late to the party and often looking like shit when they do show up and B: They have in the past been forced kicking and screaming into adopting a widely accepted standard after the fact, and if this takes off I suspect the same thing will happen.

  35. Dana W
    Jobs Halo


    You must be the only person I've ever seen outside forum spin doctors "oops" Who are having trouble with Leopard. Leopard has been every bit as stable as my best Linux box, with ease of use Ubuntu can't touch. If you can't use Leopard without problems, you simply are not trying. "I didn't say like, I said USE". I'm a Mac fan, and frankly a retarded box turtle can reliably use Leopard.

    Even my old Tiger servers uptime is pretty much till I feel like shutting it down. And the only machine in my network that has issues with the Airport is the XP 64 system.

    Not usable on Old Hardware? I can run Leopard on Macs from 2001 This machine was built in 2001 and in 2011 it s still going to be in use.

    Lets see a PC from 2001 Run Vista, oh please? For rugged "When I don't want someone spilling a Latte in my Macbook Pro" use. I still use a Clamshell G3 from 1999 running Tiger, and it still does websurfing and word processing fine. The company that can't keep their hardware workable with age and time, and that requires endless, bottomless hardware investment is a certain nameless Redmond Washington firm.

    So, Mac Pro hardware is too behind for you? Pray Tell, what tries your patience in Octo-Cores? Even the cheap bottom end Macbooks have decent 3-D punch now. "AS to the guy who brought up Mac Minis, yes we know they have crap video, its a niche product

    Your complaints are as follows.

    A: Mac OS is evolving too fast and making you chuck usable kit. Flatly wrong, Leopard will run on decent business machines back to 2001, see screenshot. and if your office systems are over nine years old, it may be time for an upgrade.

    B: Leopard does not work you say? Ask people who actually USE it daily. I've had a lot of computers since my old Vic-20 back in the day, and Nothing has beaten the stability I'm getting from Leopard 10.5.5. Oddly enough the only "Leopard does not work!" people I meet are self appointed gurus on technology forums.

    Networking issues? Funny, we have a mixed Mac, Linux and Windows network. Three guesses which machine won't play nice with the network? Hint, its not the Macs or the Linux Server. Guess which machine has an issue reading the removable drives? Which Machine has a had a hard time dealing with anything but its own proprietary file system? I'll give you a hint. Mac and Linux open doors, only one company makes you work through a closed Window.


  36. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    @ Kenny Millar

    Actually I do think you're a little odd.

  37. SiliconSlick

    @David and Nexox Enigma

    If it is anything like's API, then you can use gcc or any other C++ compiler of your choosing. Unfortunately, RM's solution isn't open source (though, since it is C++, most of the source is available via header files).

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Dana W

    "...Leopard does not work you say? Ask people who actually USE it daily ... Oddly enough the only "Leopard does not work!" people I meet are self appointed gurus on technology forums...."

    maybe that's because the 'self-appointed gurus on technology forums' [and yes, i am one] have actually tried to use leopard for more than sending the occasional email and looking at facepuke. if your out-of-the box install of leopard and the included playschool apps work for you, well done! - but don't be so arrogant as to suppose that everyone else who has found leopard a steaming pile of crap and gone back to using tiger [and there are thousands of them, just try googling!] is some kind of idiot. it's far more idiotic to assume that everyone else who encounters software problems you don't is therefore of lower intelligence than yourself.

  39. Dana W


    Sorry, thought you were a Windows fanboi. And yes I do actual WORK with my Macs.

    I don't have a Facebook account, a Twitter or any of that stupid social networking crap, "Sadville excluded, I admit it" I don't want one either.

    You just assumed I used the standard out of the box apps. Actually, except to load my pod I use NONE of the stock apps, No iLife, no iChat, no Quicktime Player. I don't even use iTunes except to load the pod.

    See? There it is, the "I am a genius and everyone else is a stupid end user" attitude you are showing. This is what I mean by "self appointed technology guru" Go take a good look in the mirror. Don't assume I'm a 16 year old girl who bought a Mac cause it was "pretty".

    Wah, Tiger, Wah Wheres my Firewire? Wheres my PPC? WAH! You are the other form of pretentious Mac snob, the kind who wants Tiger and Power PC back so you can feel "special" again. Its no fun to be a sanctimonious Mac head when Macs are everywhere these days. Macs don't make you SPECIAL anymore, they just make you productive, deal.

    I'm a self admitted switcher, so I have no emotional attachment to Apple's past. I'm running Leopard AND I'm running Tiger. And I have done so on the same hardware, Tiger is slower, its less responsive, and its less stable, though I admit it runs a bit cooler. But Tiger is OVER like XP is OVER. And Snow Leopard will improve Leopard further, but I doubt you will care, You will doubtless be bent over your G5 crying about Intel and the lack of Carbon support.

    You are the equivalent of the snottier Linux people who hate Ubuntu because it lets clueless people use Linux and takes the magic off their "specialness" . Move with the times or move out of the way. Technology stops for no-one.

  40. Rich Turner

    Sorry to burst your bubble ...

    ... but Microsoft already has "Compute Shaders" built into DirectX 11:

    MS has been working on taking advantage of the enormous latent processing horsepower laying dormant in most people's machines for many years. Now they have something that's appreciably easy to work with (for a subject this complex) and yet VERY performant.

    If you know DirectX, you won't find Compute Shaders THAT hard to get to grips with.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Will be on Windows even without MS love.

    Not that I am a big Windows fan, but the fact that MS is not a part of the OpenCL group probably does not mean much with respect to support in Windows. This is why: it is just another library, with some low level access to the video hardware, much like OpenGL is; IHV's will just provide a .dll (or set of) that interface with their driver; there is only one issue: Vista restarts the video system if it fails to respond after a few seconds, so the driver and openCL.dll will need to be written to handle that issue.

  42. Anonymous Coward


    "I cant wait to use Kid Pix!"

    Doesn't that belong in the IWF comments?

    *grabs coat and runs*

  43. Chris

    What about the MacBook Pro dual GPU?

    One area that hasn't been touched on is the MacBook Pro's dual-GPU architecture. It will be interesting to see whether Apple arranges things so that that the GPU 'not in use' gets used for OpenCL programming

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