?"> Whither Apps? The current version of Mac OS X, "Panther," has been configured to take advantage of the 64-bit capabilities of the PowerPC 970, such as the ability to use as much as 8GB of RAM.Apple recently began shipping G5-optimized versions of its own Final Cut Pro 4, Shake 3 and DVD Studio Pro 2 multimedia applications. If companies are to seek out the Athlon 64, theyll need 64-bit software to prompt them, and support for these applications depends on the operating system. While 32-bit Windows and its applications run well on the Athlon 64, 64-bit versions of Windows and of at least some applications are required to get the full benefit of the Athlon 64. The 64-bit version of Windows XP with support for Athlon 64 is expected in the first half of next year. On the Linux side, the 64-bit support story is further along. Linux distributors Red Hat Inc., SuSE Linux AG and MandrakeSoft S.A. offer support for the Athlon 64 architecture, and were aware of unofficial support for the platform on the Debian, Fedora and Gentoo Linux distributions, as well as on FreeBSD. The biggest stumbling block for users running 64-bit versions of Windows and Linux on new AMD systems will be driver support, something that Apple can more easily manage because it controls both the hardware and software sides of the G5. Linux-based and open-source software is typically more amenable to multiplearchitecture support than is Windows software, and, at this point, there appears to be a broader range of software ported to 64-bit for Linux than for Windows. The G5, with its BSD foundation, enjoys a similar software portability advantage. A great deal of open-source software for Unix-like platforms is available through the Fink project (fink.sourceforge.net) With Fink, we could search for open-source applications, download their code, and compile and install them. This worked particularly well on the G5, which made quick work of code compiling. Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apple has detailed a number of code optimizations that developers can use to compile software so that it leverages the PowerPC 970. The most aggressive optimizations will result in binaries that wont run on G3 and G4 systems, and it remains to be seen how software vendors will choose to balance G5 performance with backward compatibility.