Motorola looks to 68060 chip

by Simson L. Garfinkel

Austin, TX After consulting with customers, Motorola Corporation said it has decided to cancel its 68050 microprocessor project and instead devote its resources to developing the 68060, a superscalar version of the 68040 microprocessor.

Traditionally, Motorola's odd-numbered microprocessors, such as the 68010 and 68030, have had only minor speed improvements over the previous generation. Each generation of even-numbered numbered parts, though, was designed to significantly boost system performance. NeXT currently uses Motorola's 68040 microprocessor in its NeXTstation and NeXTstation Turbo workstations.

Superscaling is a technique for increasing a microprocessor's speed by executing multiple instructions at the same time. Industry experts expect the 68060 to be between three and four times faster than the 68040, which would give the new processor a speed of approximately 75 to 100 MIPS. Like the 68040, multiple 68060 processors could be used in a single computer. The 68060 is expected to be available in engineering quantities in 1993.

Motorola indicated the 68060 will be a complete redesign of the 68K family. It will borrow much of the superscalar technology originally developed for the company's 88110 RISC microprocessor.

Motorola's decision to beef up the 68K family may further confuse matters for NeXT, which is widely believed to be developing a new workstation based upon Motorola's 88110 microprocessor. Although the 88110 is a superscalar RISC microprocessor, it would have roughly the same performance as the 68040.

Furthermore, Motorola's commitment to the 88110 has been openly questioned in the computer industry since Motorola teamed with Apple and IBM to develop the PowerPC RISC microprocessor family. Although the Ford Motor Company had committed to a billion-dollar purchase of 88K-based microcontrollers to improve engine fuel efficiency, the company decided to shift from 88K to PowerPC.

"Ford was counting on Apple's use of the 88110 to provide desktop systems for software development and to ensure the availability of a range of compilers and other development tools,'' wrote Michael Slater in The Microprocessor Report, an industry newsletter. "From Ford's perspective, the architecture itself is relatively unimportant, as long as it provides the minimum performance level they need and can be implemented in a reasonable amount of chip area,'' wrote Slater.