OpenCL goes beyond Apple

OpenCL specification, an open industry standard for 3D graphics and computer audio that started as an Apple proposal but has gained many supporters, has been ratified.

On Tuesday, an industry consortium ratified the OpenCL 1.0 specification, a standard that started as an Apple proposal but has gained many supporters, including graphics chip companies Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices.

OpenCL, or Open Computing Language, is essentially an open industry standard for 3D graphics and computer audio and is meant to extend the capabilities of the graphics processing unit (GPU).

Not surprisingly, graphics chip companies have been quick to pick it up, including Nvidia and AMD's ATI graphics unit, which both made separate announcements Tuesday, along with the broader announcement from The Khronos Group consortium.

OpenCL has been developed on Nvidia GPUs and the company was one of the first to show working OpenCL. Nvidia is the graphics chip supplier for Apple's MacBooks.

Other computer graphics-related companies supporting OpenCL include Imagination Technologies and ARM. The complete list is long and includes 3DLABS, Broadcom, Electronic Arts, Freescale, IBM, Intel, Nokia, Samsung, and Texas Instruments.

Nvidia combines support for OpenCL with its CUDA language
Nvidia combines support for OpenCL with its CUDA language Nvidia

The language itself--based on the C programming language--is designed for programming parallel computing across both GPUs and CPUs (central processing units). Apple proposed OpenCL in June for standardization work, targeting Mac OS 10.6 "Snow Leopard."

Apple's goal for Snow Leopard is to let any application tap into the prodigious parallel computing capabilities of GPUs, which integrate hundreds of computing cores.

"We are excited about the industry-wide support for OpenCL," said Bertrand Serlet, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, in a statement. "Apple developed OpenCL so that any application in Snow Leopard, the next major version of Mac OS X, can harness an amazing amount of computing power previously available only to graphics applications."

AMD, which supplies both CPUs and GPUs, is well situated to exploit OpenCL. "The potential benefits of having applications run on both the CPU and GPU within a system are enormous," said Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager, Graphics Products Group, AMD, in a statement. "Unfortunately, up until now programmers could only choose proprietary programming languages that limited their ability to write vendor-neutral, cross-platform applications. With today's ratification of OpenCL 1.0, I'm happy to say those days are over."

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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