Intel's next-generation processor is expected to add support for a key OS X technology that accelerates gaming and financial applications. That potentially means a more powerful MacBook Air in the future.
Listed as a "core" OS X technology, OpenCL "dramatically accelerates" applications by tapping into the special processing power of the graphics processing unit (GPU), according to Apple. It taps into what an Apple developer page states as the "the amazing parallel computing power of the GPU."
GPU-centric acceleration can be used for financial modeling, accounting applications, analysis on large media files, games, and media applications. In general, the GPU is much better than the CPU (central processing unit) at certain types of computations--thus the necessity of GPUs in games.
In fact, much of the performance boost in Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge processor (up to 60 percent faster than Intel's current Sandy Bridge chip) is due to more graphics circuits. Of the several hundred million additional transistors in Ivy Bridge (compared to Sandy Bridge), many are dedicated to boosting graphics performance.
To be fair, Nvidia's and Advanced Micro Devices' GPUs already support OpenCL but since neither of those GPUs are in the third-generation MacBook Air, the popular Apple MacBook would likely need an updated Intel processor to get that support.
That's where Ivy Bridge comes in. That Intel chip is due for volume production in the first quarter of next year potentially putting it in a refreshed MacBook Air sometime after that.
Indeed, that's a question that may dog the MacBook faithful in the coming months. When, in fact, will MacBooks get the Ivy Bridge processor?
Which leads to another intriguing question. Ivy Bridge also supports USB 3.0--a faster version of aging USB 2.0. Will Apple also equip MacBooks with USB 3.0 ports next to the existing Thunderbolt port?