After years of struggling with Motorola G4 processors Apple finally announced the use of a new processor and architecture in Power Macs yesterday at WWDC. And it really is quite a leap from the G4 Power Macs (which basically are derivatives of the older G3 machines, same limited bus protocol, etc.).
The magic bag: Power Mac G5 & Panther
So the G5 has a whole new architecture behind it. To me it seems quite decent, future wise. They made some good choices there: HyperTransport, SATA, AGP8X, etc. The whopping 8GB limit (the board probably supports more when larger chips are available) on the high-end models should be enough for pretty much anything done on a desktop for quite a while. If IBM keeps it’s commitment and provides a good CPU roadmap and this should be a good foundation for the future.
With Apple products the exterior design is always a subject for discussion and speculation. In the first shot from the MacNN IRC chat the case looked quite awkward. “Surprisingly” the official marketing materials made it look a lot more desirable. I’m still hoping to see the case in real life, but at the moment I do like the simplicity of it. But in the end it’s just another box, a quiet aluminum box to be specific. Design wise I like the iMac more. It’s still something different.
Performance has been a tender spot for Apple for quite a few years. The PC counterparts have been putting in new technologies as Apple has struggled with the poorly scaling G4 and the limited motherboard architecture. Adobe even openly promoted the use of PCs last March. Now the page has been removed and an Adobe exec was on stage praising about the G5 performance. Go figure 🙂
The benchmarks themselves immediately spawned critic. It’s best to be critical when you’re listening to marketing statements, especially with Apple 🙂 To me the benchmarks seem quite reasonable, but I just don’t like labeling any product to be “The world’s fastest personal computer in the world”. Intel just released a 3.2GHz P4 yesterday and Apple has totally forgotten AMD’s Opteron. Where do they stand in raw performance against the G5?
In the end having the fastest processor does not even matter to most of us. Pricing, now there’s an issue. In the US the low-end model is going out the doors for $1999. It’s not a bad price for a workstation with some unique features. It is still a lot of money for a computer if you’re planning to do word processing or other basic tasks. I know the PMs are not targeted for such crowds, but there are personal users that insist on having options for expansion (PCI, use of several monitors) and thus disregard the iMacs. The Cube (RIP) could have been a computer for such people, let’s see if Apple tries that again.
Steve also did a preview of Panther, the next version of OS X. It seems to pack a bunch of new features. iChat AV and iSight seem nice, but to me they’re really not that revolutionary. Trouble free video conferencing is nice, but the camera is a bit too expensive for me. The thing I missed from the keynote was Panthers performance. With Jaguar they always underlined more features, more performance. I’m just wondering could they still improve Panther performance with older Macs? Jaguar sold a s**t load because of the speed increase. On my iBook 10.0 was horrid and 10.1 was OK for occasional use. With 10.2 (Jaguar) the performance and features became acceptable for everyday use. What are Panthers requirements and will it take advantage of the 64-bit G5 or will it remain completely 32-bit?
More notes from the fruit market
I also wonder how long will it take Apple to build a PowerBook with a G5 in them? Earlier this year Steve claimed this year to be the year of the portable, but so far we’ve seen the 12″ & 17″ PowerBook and a 100MHz bump to the iBook. It’s now been six months since the PB bumps, so I hope they have something in store. I figure they want to use the motherboards of the 12″ and 17″ for more than six months, so they’ll probably drop in slightly faster G4s.
The infamous switch campaign has been running for a while now. I’ve no idea how successful it has been, but with the price drops (cheap iBooks and eMacs) they might have a chance of increasing market share and get people hooked on using Macs. They should, however, increase the base RAM because it’s cheap and OS X is terrible with only 128MB.
It’s funny how things change in the computer world. A few paragraphs above I told about the Adobe incident, but it’s also funny how the relationship with IBM has changed. IBM used to be the archenemy, but right now Steve must be so in love with IBM… If you don’t know about the history I suggest you read a book about Apple or see this movie.
There were quite a few other things in the keynote. If you’re interested I suggest you see the stream for full coverage.