How long does it take to create a standard in the tech industry? Let’s put it this way: we’re still waiting for the final word on videotapes (die, Betacam, die). So when you hear that a universal interface between applications and computing hardware has been hammered out in six months, you better be impressed. A team with members from NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel among others has finished putting together the base for OpenCL, a language designed to allow programmers to take full advantage of the parallel processing units standard in almost every PC these days
With multiple cores and video cards lying idle a majority of the time, there is the capability to improve the computing experience immensely behind the scenes by using these incredibly powerful processors to their full extent. The team was spurred on by the imminent release of Apple OS X 10.6. Snow Leopard is all about behind the scenes improvements, and it’s the first Apple release I’ve been excited about in years. The addition of OpenCL, the streamlining of apps, the unification of code bases, all these are going to be serious improvements, unlike the 300 useless or redundant “features” touted by 10.5. A good look at the language (went right over my head mostly) is available from Aaftab Munshi here (PDF) as well as some other interesting presentations.
The OpenCL team still has to shop their spec around to the non-developer members of the coalition (people like IBM, Texas Instruments, Nokia, and Blizzard) to see if there are any problems or legal incompatibilities (code or libraries companies are barred from using, that sort of thing), but then it should be on its way to Macs first, if Apple has its way. As promising as Windows 7 is looking, Snow Leopard may just one-up it, and I’m not usually the guy to say that sort of thing.