Market research for new PowerPC system


First some introductions. I’m Konstantinos Margaritis, a long time Amiga/BeOS/Linux user/developer and a PowerPC fan, former Debian Developer, also a SIMD/AltiVec fanatic and the author of libfreevec. I haven’t posted many things on the forum but I lurk on the #haiku channel as markos_. Anyway, I’ve posted this on some MorphOS/AmigaOS forums and I think it would be right to post it here as well. To anyone who is not a PowerPC user, it might seem like crazy, but here it goes:

I’m considering funding the design & production of a new PowerPC system (well, the motherboard, the rest are typical pc stuff and a case). No this is not a joke, I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and perhaps the chance will be given to me now. But before I spend any money on this, I want to do a little market research first. I know the market is literally “dying” for a new powerpc motherboard, but exactly how many are there that want to buy one?

Ok, let’s give some rough specs first. I’m considering 3 choices -not in order of probability/importance:

  1. MPC8640D-based. It will be dual core at 1Ghz -most likely, higher frequencies are much more expensive and the cost of the final board would be prohibitive.
  2. MPC8610-based. Single core at 1Ghz, slightly less expensive, and includes a 2D DIU display unit -quite fast, but no 3D unfortunately.
  3. QorIQ P1022-based. Again dual core at 1Ghz (1055Mhz to be precise). Apart from the much lower chip price, this one includes dual gigabit ethernet, dual SATA, USB 2.0 and a 2D DIU display unit (same as the MPC8610). So this one would lower the cost of the board quite much. Disadvantages: No AltiVec unit (it sucks I know), though it includes an SPE unit which is not that bad, and availability will be in Q3/Q4 2010, so that’s a long wait.

Now, the end motherboard will probably be MicroATX (in the 8640D/8610 case) or PicoITX (in the P1022 case), and it will definitely include:

  • SATA connectors
  • USB (possibly 2 back and 2 front, but that’s discussable)
  • Dual gigabit (at least one will be there, in the case of the MPC8640D we might even have 4!!!)
  • Sound (of course, SPDIF support will definitely be there)
  • 1 PCI-e slot 1x
  • 1 PCI-e slot (4x in the P1022 case, 8x in the MPC86xx cases)

Ok, what I want to know is if people would really really buy one of these. End price is estimated to be ~around~ 350EUR for the P1022 board or ~500EUR (definitely more in the case of 8640D) in the case of the other boards. Besides being more expensive, the MPC86xx chips, don’t include SATA, USB and only one of ethernet/sound (quad-gige in MPC8640D case, or sound in the case of MPC8610). I know this sounds a lot, but it’s the reality, there is not enough funding to build enormous amounts of units and bring the prices down substantially, we have to start low and build up from there. In case you are wondering, yes, the boards will be designed/produced by bPlan and funded by my company (Codex).

Support for other OSes (AmigaOS/MorphOS) will depend on the actual feedback I get from those users. But I will definitely fund the Haiku porting, because I like it and I think it has a lot of future. And I also think it would rock on PowerPC!

I would like to make a list of everyone that is really interested in such a system, so it would really help me make a decision sooner rather than later if you would send me a few personal details to with subject “PowerPC board”:

  • Name
  • Country
  • email (definitely, I’d have to reach you back!)
  • Phone/Skype (optional, please include international prefix)
  • Forum you saw this post (ok, Morphzone in this case)
  • OS of preference
  • board you would be most interested in (MPC8610/MPC8640D/P1022)
  • preferred price (please have in mind the estimated price quotes I mentioned, it might be lower but that’s not very probable)
  • Other notes/comments

I’m not filthy rich, and I’m not doing this out of a hobby, if I’m going to invest this money, I want to know that I will make a profit out of it).

Thanks a lot for your time and I hope this system becomes a reality.

Konstantinos Margaritis

Question is: why ?

Except for not being x86 (and slower, more expensive than x86), what’s the difference between a PowerPC computer and a x86 based one: either from a user or developer point of view ? Unless you’re dealing with ASM I don’t see any…

Seems like to me most PPC fans only want a PPC because it is different… Could be ARM, MIPS, whatever… As long as it isn’t x86.

I will say that if someone came out with a video game console with similar specs to the xbox 360, ps3 or even the Wii and it was open so that anyone can develop software for it…that would be a good idea.

Why is there no “Amiga 500” anymore? A lot of games came out for it and it was great for developers because they didn’t have to worry about 5 zillion PC configurations.

I agree with you that it’s slower and more expensive. The answer is: because there is a market for it and because variety is good. Why don’t we all drive cars with VW engines? There are more expensive ones, slower ones, better ones, lower in consumption ones, etc. Variety is good. And x86 isn’t the solution for everything, try to open a router or a modem, I’d love to see one x86 based. All -or most- are either PPC, or ARM or MIPS based. Anyway, I expect scepticism about the reasons behind such a system, the question should be rather “is there enough interest for such a system?”. If the answer is yes, then the numbers will speak for themselves, if not, then you’ll be right :smiley:

None of those game consoles I mentioned are x86 based either.

Well I would say it is a bad idea. No market for PowerPC hardware.

Very few people are interested in PowerPC and no one is even making hardware to run AmigaOS/MorphOS. You had Genesi but they discontinued all their PowerPC products and switched to ARM.

Only those who have become accustom to PowerPC hardware will continue using it. Apple even left PowerPC behind.

The two popular CPU architectures will be x86 & ARM.

If you go with PowerPC you’ll have a very small market. You likely will not make money off it and are better off trying to sell ARM smartbooks & nettops/desktops. ( And getting Haiku onto these ) or compact, low cost x86 netbooks & nettops.

Haiku supports x86 and will likely focus on ARM afterwards ( my guess ) after the release of ARM smartbooks become more available.

Haiku is very fast on x86 already and should run very well on ARM too when ported. In late 2010 or 2011 I’ll buy an ARM netbook and use Windows CE, Debian ( & hopefully Haiku ).

Well, the difference is that cars all use the same tyres, the same fuel, and park at the same place…

What if VW needed different tyres, made for this brand, and special fuel, made for the car… And that you could only find it in special places ?

Would there be a use for that ?

GM/VW could be compared with Dell/Apple… different machines, but all use the same tyres, fuel,… and no one cares how it works in the inside…

I think the analogy is the same.
Different engines (x86/ppc/arm) but same peripherals (tyres/fuel/etc -> SATA disks, USB2, ATX cases/PSUs, DDR dimms, etc).
So it’s a case of usage/price/power consumption and performance in the end.

yeah if you’re not going all in with the game console (no hw 3d, etc) then your best bet is with the ARM. So instead of return of Amiga, we’ll have the return of the Acorn Risc pc!

Obviously many of us who are involved with Haiku are open to alternatives, but sometimes you have to ask whether the alternative is actually useful or just an alternative for the sake of being one.

As an example Haiku is useful because it runs quite fast, it is a more cohesive system than Linux, it is open source unlike Windows or Mac OS, it builds off a more modern OS design from BeOS, etc.

So my question would be what advantage does a PowerPC platform have over x86 for a desktop system. Why exactly do some of the current game consoles use PowerPC hardware? Based on the answer to that maybe a good argument for PowerPC desktops could be made.

Though in general as far as non-x86 is concerned I think ARM is a better bet at this point.

I think relying on people just wanting PowerPC because it is PowerPC may not be wise. Though you are smart to at least post this here to get feedback on who might want it.

I’ve worked on large AIX machines and embedded PPC Linux projects over the years and I really don’t see any advantage to PPC on the desktop. PPC has a huge advantage over x86 on high end SMP and High Performance Computing although that gap is getting smaller. PPC also has advantages in the game console market with custom vector engines (Cell) and a huge company IBM profiting. PPC desktops had their chance in '94 with the IBM Power Personal Division which was huge disaster financially. Apple chose PPC at that time when IBM expected PPC desktops with OS/2 as the dominate long term desktop. Apple kept PPC as long as they did just to be different.

With all that said PPC is great for embedded projects, custom ASICs (ie. all those routers from Cisco). I would love to have a PPC desktop, but the mighty dollar (or Euro) is a huge factor here. The netbook will be tough market for PPC with competition from Atom and ARM. Without an IBM or Apple driving PPC on the desktop, there will be no demand. Sorry to be so pessimistic, but it’s the facts. There will always be a hobbyist which we all are, but don’t expect to actually make a profit.

Your enthusiasm and optimism for ppc is great but I’ve got to say -

If ppc is really your thing then get a PowerStation -

I loved the PPC platform back in the old days, remember running Linux on my trusty old iMac, but I think that is now history. Personally I do not have any desktops in my house anymore, just laptops.

I share the view of others about ARM. What I really would love is a tiny 10" laptop, with ARM cpu, around 10 hrs battery life, running Haiku on it! :slight_smile:

Imho for desktops PPC might still have a go (e.g., with Haiku), but I tend to believe that it will be always more expensive than an x86 platform, due to production volumes. :frowning:

A Powerstation with a 800Wt PSU is not in the same league as a low-power MPC8610/MPC8640D, and let’s not even compare to the P1022 :smiley:

Different needs, different solutions, the Powerstation definitely has a market and so does the board I want to make. The point is, is the market big enough, which was the reason of my post here -and in other forums.

I’ve decided to go forward if I get at least as 300 replies. If not, well, then the world will be -1 ppc board and I’ll probably move to ARM, like the rest of the world :slight_smile:

So, thanks to all that replied, I really appreciate the feedback, I understand the logic behind your arguments, but I’ll restate that the question is not if there is a market, but if it’s big enough. As to profit, well, most niche market products have quite higher profit margins due to little or no competition, so it’s not like Asus or the big players that play with miniscule profits because of competition.

About ARM, it’s a great chjp family and has a lot of potential, but that is also a drawback for me. Big companies spend out billions of dollars to make products and I couldn’t possible compete with them price/feature-wise. It would be much smarter to try and provide a product that few provide -like a ppc board.

Anyway, again thanks a lot for the feedback so far, keep it coming!!

PowerPC had its chance in the late 90’s, but I believe that it missed it’s opportunity to establish a larger market share for itself. It’s still doing fine on the game console front, and might make a good breadbox for media center prototypes. However, these days the geek and media darling is ARM. If I was looking to prototype a media center board (or a new game console), I’d be more inclined to go the ARM route. That’s just my un-informed opinion.

Good luck in your venture. It’s great to see independants adding variety into the market place. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the visionary underdogs.

Dear Sir,

I guess I have a quite good idea how to spend your money and make the business profitable (the market of the potential customers is much bigger than 300 in my opinion). Why don’t you produce the Intel based motherboard compatible in all dimensions, holes, power and external sockets (layout generally) with the ones installed in G4 Power Macs? Those are the most beautiful desktop cases ever produced: Quicksilver 2001, 2002 or MDD. You can even made the ones fitting the slightly older G3’s if there is a demand in the market. Many people all around the world try to fit popular Intel based motherboards into their Power Mac cases - but it always involves cutting metal, drilling new holes - simply saying: devastating the case. I don’t know how it looks from legal point of view: is original Apple computer with replaced, third party motherboard installed inside still an Apple computer legible for installation of Mac OS X? But who cares? It will not stop people from buying and installing the new motherboards. You can install Haiku on those machines and still have a beautiful case. I could see that there are companies which will remove the Apple logo from the plastic covers of your G4(G3) Power Mac case and put there whatever you want. Can you imagine the beautiful Haiku leaf there instead of the Apple logo? Sure, I can! So, how do you (or anyone else reading that post) find my idea? Wouldn’t it be great to have a customised Power Mac G4 with Intel inside and Haiku logo outside?
Of course the whole idea is slightly different from yours one - but it is still about producing the motherboards and making money. I wish I had your money to start that business… :slight_smile:

Greetings from Poland,

OK, couple of tips to help you.

  1. Forget about posting to x86 sites like Haiku-OS. Users on x86 websites generally care about x86 hardware. You get next to no one caring about using PowerPC.
  2. Focus on sites that support or use PowerPC hardware, ie: AmigaOS, MorphOS, Apple PowerPC sites, etc.

There may still be a big enough niche market for PowerPC hardware. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with AmigaOS & MorphOS in the future. They will have to support x86 and/or ARM if they want to increase their userbase.

You may have a little competition from LimePC but they currently focus on the low end PowerPC systems.

Your customers will be fairly hardcore, current PowerPC users. Those currently using and enjoying AmigaOS and/or MorphOS. They’re the ones willing to spend big $$$ to continue using mid to high end PowerPC systems.

As for ARM architecture, I was saying you could become a reseller ( retail level ). It would be impossible to design & manufacturer an ARM system and compete against the big players. You’re in Greece and could be one of the first to sell ( very low cost, compact ) ARM based systems to retail customers there or even wholesale to computer stores.

Lots going on with ARM & smartbooks making it very exciting.

  1. 2Ghz speed & multi-core ( upto 8 cores ) being tested for the future, 2) low power & heat, 3) long battery life ( about 8 hours on netbook ), 4) Flash acceleration ( on Nvidia’s Tegra chipset ) and 5) Very lightweight, compact & portable 6) low price ( less expensive than x86 or PPC )

edit: added in 6)


Thanks for the feedback, it’s really appreciated. Well, I guess there’s not much excitement about a Haiku/ppc port, and it’s understandable, all effort has gone to the x86 and the first alpha, and then beta or 1.0 release to worry about ports to other platforms and boards. Though the ARM port is moving faster than the PPC port -but this could change easily if the ppc port was funded.

About the board, I’m waiting until the end of October to reach at least 500 mails of interest before I fund this project. If I fail to find even 500 potential customers (so far I have ~36 and it’s only 24h after the first post), then yes, it’s doomed to fail from the start and I will just move to ARM. (Actually @tonestone7, it’s fairly easy to produce a nice ARM desktop system and that would be my next target, if this market research does not produce the expected results).

I will post news about it, as the research progresses.

Again thanks and keep up the great work on the best OS!


@ markos
Yes, Haiku is focused on x86 but with coming ARM hardware they will add support for this architecture too I believe by R1 ( or R2 at latest ). Actually, I read that Genesi is giving one Haiku developer an ARM desktop. Way more excitement about ARM than PPC and will have lots of ARM netbooks/desktops/nettops coming out in following months but I will wait for Nvidia’s Tegra II before looking at getting one.

Wish you the best for success whether PPC or ARM. If you go into manufacturing ARM systems you’ll have lots of competition to go up against.


ARM netbooks yes, desktop/nettop, I know of just one the Efika MX from Genesi (actually it was me that suggested to Genesi to give Francois Revol an Efika MX to port Haiku on).

Lack of competition is one of the reasons that this might work. If I had to take on many companies, most of them with 10-100x the budget I have, I would not stand a chance. But now things might just work.