Interview: Motorola VP talks up the PowerPC

Kevin Meyer is Motorola vice-president and director of market development for the PowerPC, the chip which is out to break the Microsoft Windows-Intel dominance of the computer industry. Meyer spoke to Ria Keenan during Computerworld Expo in Auckland a fortnight ago.

Q: Why are you in New Zealand?

A: I'm spreading the word about PowerPC, talking about the right opportunities to get away from Wintel and looking at price-performance strategies.

The PowerPC's key markets are home and business. We can reach into the home through education so we're partnered throughout the world with Apple, which is the leader in education. We are also looking to Apple to see how to scale our technology down, to get into the set-top box and cable markets.

Q: What is your relationship like with Apple?

A: We're helping Apple develop lower price points and as such we were a strong advocate for licensing the MacOS. One of the reasons Wintel is so prolific is because so many companies are willing to invest in adding value to it. We hope to be able to achieve the same for Apple and PowerPC through our unrestricted sub-licensing, making sure Apple at the high end is able to perform at levels Intel can't. We're doing everything we can to help with Copland, to re-establish the MacOS' dominance over Windows 95.

Q:What will Motorola be doing with the MacOS licence?

A: Apple's technology is the driving business focus. On one hand there is Pippin, our first step at scaling down technology for the home market, and on the business side we are trying to take advantage of the Windows NT market with the PowerPC chip. With Apple's relative economies of scale, we can drive the price of RISC down under CISC.

Q:What is the difference between PowerPC and Intel chips?

A: Intel defines architecture by hardware, such as the 286 to 486 architecture, which it is now trying to kill off and replace with Pentium. PowerPC defines architecture from a software perspective so that from low end to high end you have scalability and compatibility, because the instruction set is in the application software.

Q: The impression I get is that PowerPC started with a bang but has since faded.

A: We didn't expect success overnight. Businesses are moving to networks and we're right on track to take advantage of that.

Q: But still, it's as if the PowerPC has faded away

A: When we first talked about the PowerPC we were two years from delivering a processor, so we pre-announced aggressively. Now we'd be a bit more wary of that and we've held off announcements until it's real and shippable and not vapourware.

Q: You talked of your relationship with Apple. What about IBM? Has IBM backed away from PowerPC?

A: IBM hasn't backed away from it. We are still concentrating on the enterprise space of the market. IBM has backed away from OS/2 on the PowerPC.

The enterprise space is where we think NT is very important and as we deliver higher performance we gain parity. Byte magazine in the US found the PowerPC 604/133 had twice the performance of the Pentium 133. Our focus this year is to get parity at processor level. Wintel is very good at marketing the processor advantage of Pentiums and this year that gap closes.

Q: Do you think there is widespread dissatisfaction with the Wintel which could help the PowerPC?

A: All the rhetoric in the world isn't going to make it happen. But there is pent-up demand in the software and hardware community for a different model from Wintel and they will benefit by helping bring it down.

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