Whats Right About the PowerPC? - Page 2

By David Morgenstern  |  Posted 2005-06-05 Print this article Print

Interestingly, Apple has pushed each of the centers along, especially on the consumer side, instead of limiting performance at the low end to help differentiate the professional and consumer capabilities. The company should be given a lot of credit for this. For example, instead of holding back the iMac by running the older G4 processors, Apple moved it quickly to the G5 line. Still, theres a significant performance difference in the professional desktop side, since the Power Mac G5s dual-processor architecture, expandability and eight memory slots really produce workstation-level performance for 64-bit content and sci-tech applications.
The problem is in the notebooks. The difference between the G4-based iBook consumer and PowerBook professional lines has shrunk (again thanks to Apples driving the bottom forward and ignoring the potential pain for the higher-end line). Or customers dont perceive the value in the higher-priced spread.
But will this performance gap be better filled by Intels processors or some forthcoming solution from Apples current PowerPC partners? Or has Apple grown tired of the manufacturing and design excuses? Thats something only Steve Jobs can answer. A dual-core version of the PowerPC G5, the PowerPC 970MP, looks to be on its way. But the mobile G5 still looks like a difficult fit into the kind of machine that Apple wants to offer: sleek, tony and power-consumption-savvy, yet full of performance. Here are a few hard facts about the PowerPC vs. Intel case to consider:
  • Apple pays less for its PowerPC processors than the cost of comparable Intel chips, and analysts say the cost is less than half as much for some models. Moving to Intel would hit Apples bottom line.
  • The PowerPC G5 is a smaller, more efficient chip than the competition. The G5 has performance comparable to any current x86 chip, which is really all thats necessary to persuade Mac fans to stay with the platform. Mac OS X trumps Windows any time, and all thats needed is a machine that can hold its own against Wintel machines, not necessarily beat them. According to Peter Glaskowsky, analyst for The Envisioneering Group, in Seaford, N.Y., the G5s "superior system architecture allows its performance to grow faster, as we see with each new G5 release. The Pentium 4 isnt showing that kind of headroom. IBM also has far more experience with dual-core design than any x86 vendor." Intel is more than a processor company. The rumors of a partnership could extend to other initiatives important to Apple, such as WiMax networking or PCI Express. Of all the predictions on Apples mobile chip dilemma Ive seen, I like the one from Kevin Krewell, editor-in-chief of the Microprocessor Report, in San Jose, Calif. Its the path of least resistance. To arrive at the right mix of frequency and performance, he suggests that IBM and Apple should build a new G4-G5 hybrid instead of waiting for a low-power G5. This chip could be used in future versions of the Mac Mini, as well. What is my prediction? All of the above. And Mac OS X Tiger. Gotta love it. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on Apple in the enterprise.

    David Morgenstern is Executive Editor/Special Projects of eWEEK. Previously, he served as the news editor of Ziff Davis Internet and editor for Ziff Davis' Storage Supersite.

    In 'the days,' he was an award-winning editor with the heralded MacWEEK newsweekly as well as eMediaweekly, a trade publication for managers of professional digital content creation.

    David has also worked on the vendor side of the industry, including companies offering professional displays and color-calibration technology, and Internet video.

    He can be reached here.


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