Apple hire Bob Drebin

Silicon Graphics News

News has come through that Apple have announced the appointment of Bob Drebin as a senior director. Bob was a chief engineer at Silicon Graphics, where he was part of the group working with the Nintendo 64 chipset. When that group left to form ArtX, Bob worked on the design on the Gamecube’s graphics chipset.

ArtX was then taken over by ATI, where Bob become Engineering Director, After the merger of ATI and AMD, Bob became CTO of the graphics product group.

Now he’s left AMD to join Apple, and the question is – what are Apple up to? Bob is hugely experienced and had a hand in the design of some of the most compact and scalable graphics cores in the industry – why would Apple need such a tech heavy weight on their staff?

The most obvious answer is the iPhone – but with Nvidia struggling in the market place and Apple making a serious play for the high end workstation market, could this be the start of a new line of graphics chipsets from Apple, tuned for OS X?

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IBM buys Transitive – possible problem for SGI and Apple users?

Silicon Graphics News

Transitive are the guys who came up with the immensely clever emulation software that allows MIPS code to run on x86 and Itanium platforms. Apple also licensed a version called Rosetta, which enables PowerPC code to run on their newer x86 machines. Intel and Sun are users as well, allowing legacy SPARC code to run on Solaris on x86.

IBM have been using Transitive software for a while, allowing legacy x86 code to run on their Power machines. So the news that IBM has bought transitive could herald some problems ahead, especially with IBM saying “IBM is evaluating Transitive’s other products as part of its overall Systems product strategy.”

Hmm. You could argue that, come on, MIPS for SGI and PowerPC for Apple died years ago, upgrade already. Maybe that’s true for Apple, but a lot of Silicon Graphics gear is bought for the long haul, and isn’t part of the usual 2-3 year cycle of upgrades that desktops and workgroup servers get. A lot of MIPS based kit is still in support and still being heavily used – although the market can’t grow any more, that installed base isn’t shrinking too rapidly either.

It’s unclear at this stage what effect IBM dropping non-Power support for Transitive would have. Presumably new customers with MIPS gear would be left in the cold (although they’ve left it a bit late to think about a migration) but with no new versions of IRIX coming out it’s doubtful the announcement would have any effect on existing users.

Apple appear to have licensed Transitive code as Rosetta and bundled it into OS X. With Snow Leopard (10.6) rumoured to totally drop PowerPC support, no longer having an emulation layer in the OS could be a non-issue.

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