Cahners Micro Design Resources, publishers of the Microprocessor Report, announced the winners of its second annual Analyst Choice Awards last night at a dinner ceremony in Jan Jose. IBM and Motorola processors were nominated in different areas, but the PowerPC came up short. The awards, given this year in eight categories, recognize excellence in semiconductor innovation and design.
The IBM PowerPC 750CX was nominated for best processor of the year, but the analysts gave the nod to the AMD Athlon. The analysts cited the fact that it was the first to break the GHz mark, and continued to increase incrementally in speed all year. Intel’s Pentium 4 came in a close second, but the analysts agreed that the Pentium 4 needed to perform better in a much wider set of applications.
Before the award was presented, Kevin Krewell, senior editor at Microprocessor Report, made some forecasts for the PC processor industry for 2001. First, Intel will hold the clock speed crown for all of 2001. AMD, according to its own roadmap, is expected to hit 1.5GHz by the fall, with 2GHz being reached by 2002. Secondly, AMD is to begin releasing MP (multiprocessor) configurations this year. Finally, Krewell made some bold predictions about the PowerPC processor family and Apple in general.
The big story in processors last year was the race to 1GHz, and this is a race that the PowerPC could “only watch from the sidelines,” began Krewell. After recounting Motorola’s G4 ‘Apollo’ announcement at last year’s Microprocessor Forum, Krewell noted that the Apollo would probably pass 1GHz near when Intel passes 2GHz.
At last summer’s Embedded Processor Forum, IBM announced the 750CX and 750Cxe — smaller, cheaper, lower power consumption and faster G3s. These processors, which also sport a 256KB on-die L2 cache, were soon available in volume at speeds of 500MHz to 700MHz. Krewell cruelly noted that the 750CX and 750CXe “have put Apple in the awkward position of being able to ship G3s that have a higher clock rate than the G4s but lack the G4’s AltiVec multimedia processing units.”
Even though Apple shipped dual processor systems using their 500MHz G4s to make up the MHz-gap, Krewell said that the current OS and the lack of MP enabled applications limited the impact of the new MP systems.
Although he paints a bleak picture, Krewell made a surprising forecast for Apple. “The PowerPC will continue to lag, but Mac OS X will keep interest alive,” said Krewell. Additionally, Krewell said that Apple is “well served” by the PowerPC. “I believe that it would be a total mistake for Apple to go to X86 processors at this time. Migrating software right now would be a very bad thing for Apple,” said Krewell.
Similar detailed forecasts were made in each of the awards categories. Some of the highlights include a tongue-in-cheek admission that “perception is reality according to Intel marketing,” made by one Intel award recipient.
Microprocessor Report Senior Editor, Peter Glaskowsky, also noted that there was no best 3D or graphics processor category, and that the network processor market looks like the 3D market did in 1997. “At one point there were over fifty companies making 3D processors. Now there are only two chips worth considering, and one is a clear winner,” said Glaskowsky, although he did not expressly say whether that chip was Nvidia’s or ATI’s. There are a similar number of players in the network processor market now — some larger and some smaller. Glaskowsky hazarded against additional companies entering this market, and predicted consolidation as players figure out the market.