OK, so we all sort of knew this, and it’s not like PS2 was famous for ease of programming, but it looks like it may take a lot of work to properly tap that cell chip. What’s news is that IBM is writing a special compiler called the Octopiler to break down single threaded code so it can feed all eight cores on the cell processor. What this means in layman’s terms is that a developer can take a simple program without many special optimizations for the newer multi-core processors and the new compiler will split it into threads to most efficiently use all those cores.
The bad news is that this new compiler is a long way off. It won’t be fully ready or functional anytime soon. Also not a whole lot of game code has been designed for multiprocessing in the past, so switching to three cores (on the Xbox) is going to take some ramp up time, and eight (on the PS3) is going to take even more. Honestly, I think Sony has a lot more on the line here, and Microsoft’s easy programming library (XNA) is pretty much ready to go.
Sony’s PS1 beat the Saturn for a number of reasons, but one you hear a lot is that it was easy to program for. It seems they’ve some a long way from that. Is Sony at risk here? Only time will tell.