IBM, Sony and Toshiba have vowed to open the specifications to the Cell processor to the world, and provide libraries for software libre developers.
The news comes three days after the Wall Street Journal published a story that Apple was seriously looking at Intel chips for future systems. IBM is Apple's primary source of CPUs. The Cell, unlike IBM's G5, will be suitable for low power operation in notebooks, if not handhelds quite yet. Open specifications will permit Apple to develop for the Cell without a potentially costly licensing agreement. It's tempting to see these facts as related, but of course it may all be a fortuitous coincidence for Apple.
But "free" libraries may not be "free", EE Times reports.
"We're not yet sure about the right licensing terms for the libraries. It can be hard to give stuff away for free," says IBM cell chief Jim Kahle. IBM did however commit to open sourcing the software for cell. EE Times has a few more tidbits about the Cell that haven't been disclosed before. A team of 400 IBM engineers worked on the project across ten design centers. And the software-based I/O design was inspired by Hong Kong airport.
There are more details for developers, courtesy of Sony Semiconductor, here. ®