As previously reported by Hiroshige Goto, a technology writer at Impress Watch, Sony has been looking both at a cell based and Intel Larrabee-based architecture for PlayStation 4. Larrabee has been cancelled by Intel itself due to 3D graphics pipeline performance issues and low power efficiency, and cell which has been questioned by developers as being incredibly complex to program, has left Sony in a dilemma.
So back in 2008, Sony took it to the game publishers and asked what they’d want of a Cell-based PS4 in terms of number of SPU co-processors and what kind of programming difficulties they’ve been facing with the current design.
According to Goto, Sony, IBM and Toshiba recognized some of these problems programmers were having with Cell and, early on, came up with a couple of plans for fixing the issues. Included in these was a plan for something that was at one point called “SPU2.” This new version of the SPU would shift the 256 kilobyte local store space that’s included on each SPU chip into the role of a hardware management cache, allowing the SPUs direct access to main memory and allowing programmers to program for a single memory space, similar to a standard PC CPU.
Goto says there are signs that some time this summer, Sony was looking into using this updated SPU design in the core of the PS4. At the very least, he says, the design was a strong candidate.
However, he’s recently started hearing about other plans. While he’s unable to get into the specifics, at a broad level, the new plans call for a PC-like multicore setup. Now considering such a plan is in place, its purpose would be to keep frustration from the current software developer, and to facilitate programming. Xbox 360 has been successful because of a similar configuration.
He also writes, we can expect the release of the next generation of consoles in 2012 on the basis that since Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, are looking into architecture solutions now in 2009 and it takes 24 months to take a system from concept to production.