Updated on April 27 at 8:20 a.m. PDT with additional information about DirectX 11 and correcting for Intel comments at bottom.
Graphics chips will be tapped to accelerate more tasks in upcoming versions of Apple's and Microsoft's operating systems, according to Nvidia.
In an interview Friday with Sumit Gupta, product manager for Nvidia's Tesla products, Gupta described how new programming environments will tap into the latent compute horsepower of graphics processors to accelerate software in Apple's upcoming OS X Snow Leopard and Microsoft's Windows 7 operating systems.
Graphics chips aren't just for games anymore. The trend toward general-purpose graphics processing is defined by an acronym that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue: GPGPU. But the essence of General Purpose computing on Graphics Processing Units is pretty simple: use the scores--or even hundreds in higher-end chips--of processing cores inside GPUs to speed tasks that, in some cases, would be done much less efficiently by the central processing unit (CPU).
This is where OpenCL (Open Computing Language) comes in. OpenCL is a programming environment for "heterogeneous" computing. That is, computers using a mix of multicore CPUs and GPUs. Microsoft's analogous programming environment is DirectX.
Apple says this about OpenCL on its Web site. "Another powerful Snow Leopard technology, OpenCL...makes it possible for developers to efficiently tap the vast gigaflops of computing power currently locked up in the graphics processing unit."
Today, on a PC or a Mac, the CPUs made by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are adept at handling general operating system tasks. For instance, handling the sequence of things that must happen after the user clicks on an icon to start an application on their desktop. … Read more