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Friday, June 06, 2008, 03:55 pm PT (06:55 pm ET)

Apple said to have sights on Nvidia's CUDA technology

Apple may adopt and roll into its own set of developer tools a version of Nvidia's CUDA technology that will allow programmers of everyday Mac apps to reap the parallel computational benefits of the chipmaker's graphics processors.

In an interview with CNet News.com's Tom Krazit earlier this week, Nvidia chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang dropped hints that Apple was extremely interested in the technology, so much so that it plans to distribute its own flavor of the technology to its developer base.

"Apple knows a lot about CUDA," Huang said, adding that the Mac maker's implementation "won't be called CUDA, but it will be called something else."

Essentially CUDA, short for Compute Unified Device Architecture, is a proprietary set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allows developers of various types of applications — not just those specialized for graphics operations — to leverage the parallel processing capabilities of Nividia's latest graphics chips, such as the GeForce 8600M found in the new MacBook Pros.

In the weeks leading up the launch of those MacBook Pros, AppleInsider reported that Nvidia was preparing to deliver its first Mac-based graphics chips that support CUDA. Since then, the Santa Clara-based chip maker has gone on to say that programs developed for the GeForce 8 series will also work without modification on all future Nvidia video cards.

CNet, which actually visited Nvidia's headquarters for the interview with Huang, noted that engineers "demonstrated how a CUDA-enabled version of a program similar to QuickTime running on a desktop or laptop could dramatically speed up the processor of transcoding a movie or television show into a format suitable for the iPhone."

While Huang declined to share any further details regarding Apple's intentions for his firm's technology, the speculation is that Mac developers could hear some specifics as early as Monday's opening keynote address at the company's annual developers conference in San Francisco.