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Mr. Goto on Larrabee in PlayStation 4

The respected tech writer shares his second column on PS4


Hiroshige Goto delivered his latest "Weekly Overseas News" column to Impress Watch. Who is Goto and why should you care about overseas weekly news when you're probably already "overseas"?

Goto is a well respected freelance tech writer who gets major access to higher-ups in the industry, notably Ken Kutaragi in the early days of the PlayStation 3. In a September 2008 column, he offered the first bit of PlayStation 4 chatter with the claim that Sony had begun looking into using Cell for the system. In that same column, he speculated that the company will likely take a more Wii-like approach with the new system's tech.

This latest column is also about the PS4, although it appears to be mostly speculation. Still, it's educated speculation from someone in the know, so I thought I'd provide a brief recap. As always, please note that I'm not the biggest tech head out there, so the wording of my translations may be a bit awkward.

The column is titled "Why are the hurdles high for a Larrabee based PS4?". Larrabee is Intel's new architecture.

[end_p text="Continue reading for more on Goto's thoughts on PS4, Cell, and Larrabee" /]

Goto begins by saying that Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) is looking into the CPU and GPU selection for the PS4. In addition to an expanded Cell Broadband Engine, the company also had the idea of using Larrabee as the CPU & GPU.

Goto suggests that while SCE's higher-ups might have been (or may still be) looking into the use of Larrabee, actually using the first generation of the chipset in the PS4 would be difficult. As reasons, he notes that Larrabee is a new concept processor, with little field experience as far as applications go, leading to the possibilities of problems with the architecture. Additionally, like Cell, which from an architectural viewpoint was put together in a focused way but saw criticism about difficult programming due to a lack of software and tools, Larrabee also has a "taking the challenge" side to it.

While it should be expected that Sony would look into Larrabee's use, Goto says, it's also ironic given that Larrabee is actually Intel's own Cell.

He does note that the approaches between the two CPUs are different, both in the structure of the vector engines, the memory architecture, and in the method for expanding the command sets.

One similarity, however, is something that was planned for Cell. As is widely known (I think this is widely known, at least), there were originally plans in place to make a graphics processor based around the Cell B.E. architecture. While this never happened, Goto uses this as an example of how some areas of the direction of the two processors were similar.

Moving away from Larrabee, Goto talks a bit about the use of an expanded Cell B.E. in PS4. While this would seem to be the natural route, the hurdles are high here too, as the negativity from third parties regarding Cell is high. If Sony were to use Cell for PS4, and if it wanted programmers to take advantage of additional SPUs that might make it into the updated system, Sony would have to get programmers focused on the architecture. There could be a problem here, as Sony no longer has someone like Ken Kutaragi to go around enticing developers by explaining the vision of Cell.

Closing off, Goto suggests that Sony's investigation into using Larrabee is indicative of something more significant: the era of game machines leading technology is on the way out. The PlayStation architectures, from the original PSX through the PS3 caused impact in the CPU and memory industries, he notes. One of the reasons for this was that PC chip makers had to deal with legacy issues. Starting in 2003 and 2004, however, Intel and AMD made a change in their approaches, abandoning some level of legacy support and focusing on improving CPU performance. He suggests that cases of game machines leading technological revolutions could disappear and that such revolutions will instead be attempted on the PC side of things.

Typical of a Goto feature, there's a lot more detail about Larrabee in the article, so those with Japanese reading abilities should definitely check the original story out.

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