Sony Ditches Power For PlayStation 4, And This Matters To IBM i
February 25, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Consumer electronics maker Sony gave a sneak peek at its forthcoming PlayStation 4 game console, expected in time for Christmas shopping seven years after the release of the Power-based PlayStation 3. The company did not say much about the technology inside of the new game console, but one thing we know for sure: Power is out, and X86 processing and GPU graphics from Advanced Micro Devices is in.
The feeds and speeds of the new PlayStation 4 are not all that impressive: an eight-core “Jaguar” processor with an integrated Radeon graphics chip from AMD, the kind of thing you might find in a notebook and perhaps not all that much more than twice as powerful as the PowerXCell chip that Sony, IBM, and Toshiba created for game machines, digital TVs, and other electronics.
I am not interested, personally, in game machines. Like many of you, I don’t have time for games, and as I tell my kids, I am playing this really hard game I call Making Payroll, and it requires all kinds of concentration and skill to play. You can read a million different places about what the new PS4 might and might not do. What it won’t do–and something that IBM must have known for a year or two–is help keep IBM’s chip fab in East Fishkill, New York, warm and the Power architecture expanding. What Sony gets out the of the new PS4 console is a device that is more or less compatible with a PC, perhaps allowing the company to sell its games for other machines or to at least play AMD off against Intel for CPU/GPU hybrids. AMD is desperate for any good news it can get these days, after Intel has slapped it around in the server and PC business, and I think having AMD keep Intel honest is important.
What worries me is the encroachment of ARM processors, as well as MIPS and X86 chips to a certain extent, on the embedded device space that used to be dominate by various Power chips. Everyone is so excited by ARM these days, Big Blue might have to do something dramatic. I’ll give you a funny one, which I will explore in a future issue. AMD just announced last fall that it would become an ARM licensee and create ARM variants of Opteron server chips and Fusion CPU/GPU hybrids. AMD has an existing X86 business that is competitive with Intel’s Xeon, and AMD needs an interconnect. IBM needs something to etch in its fabs and some kind of edge to make its System x different and prop up its Power business.
So IBM should perhaps buy AMD and make a whole lot of people nervous and confused. I am not sure how this helps Power, but at least it might help IBM as a whole. IBM i is a bunch of C code with a smattering of assembler and Java, and it can be ported or emulated. All we care about is that IBM i and RPG live and grow.