Motorola Rolls Out New PowerPC G4 with Power-Saving Feature

While Motorola's new PowerPC G4 processor looks a likely candidate for future Apple notebooks, Genesi, a European startup, on Wednesday chose the chip for its forthcoming Pegasos computer platform.

Motorola Inc.s Semiconductor Products Sector on Tuesday released the latest member of the PowerPC G4 series of processors. This new chip, the MPC7447A, offers both higher performance than previous versions as well as a new dynamic-frequency power-saving feature.

Motorolas PowerPC G4 chips are used in Apple Computer Inc.s portable and entry-level desktop computers as well as in a variety of embedded applications. A European startup company on Wednesday said it would use the chip in its forthcoming Linux-based hardware platform.

Though initial samples have been clocked at 1.42 GHz, Motorola officials said the processor will reach 1.5GHz.

In addition, the MPC7447A can change its clock frequency dynamically, enabling the chip to draw less power and produce less heat under light processing loads. This feature, coupled with a rating of 20W at 1.42GHz, led some Mac-market insiders to speculate on the processors placement in new Apple laptop products.

The 7447A, which is based on Motorolas own silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology, also features 512 KB of on-chip L2 cache, a 64-bit bus interface and full support for the AltiVec floating-point execution units (called Velocity Engine by Apple).

The Austin, Texas-based Motorola recently has seen its industry profile lessened with Apples recent usage of IBM Corp.s PowerPC 970 and 970FC processors, called PowerPC G5, in the companys Power Macintosh G5 and Xserve product lines. Some industry wags suggested that the sun was setting on Motorolas processor business and its relationship with Apple.

However, "Apple still buys more Motorola G4 chips than IBM G5 chips, so theres a lot of business for the new chip to pursue at Apple," said Peter Glaskowsky, editor-in-chief and chief analyst for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Instat/MDRs Microprocessor Report.

According to Apples last quarterly 10-Q filing, unit sales for G5-based Power Mac and server models reached 206,000 units, while the combined total of G4-based PowerBooks, iBooks and iMacs totaled 623,000 units. Even though many of the Power Mac and Xserve models carried dual processors, Motorolas G4 still provided the bulk of the processor sales to Apple.

Glaskowsky added that the "PowerPC has become the most popular high-performance RISC architecture for embedded systems, and Motorolas 7400 series has a lot of that business too."

According to Greg Joswiak, Apples vice president of hardware product marketing, rumors of Motorolas wane as a processor manufacturer have been greatly exaggerated.

"We have an alliance with Motorola that goes back a long, long time" to the days of the 68000 CPU, he said. This relationship became the foundation for the AIM (Apple, IBM, Motorola) alliance in the early 1990s that created the PowerPC chip design.

"A majority of Apple products are powered by Motorola," Joswiak said. He said that the G4 processor offers good performance while requiring a low power investment. "This is good for both portables and small designs," Joswiak said.

"We certainly see that continuing," he added. He said Apple was glad Motorola continues to invest in the G4 family: "We knew they would," he said.

Speaking in general terms about the MPC7447A (and stressing that Apple representatives would not comment on unannounced products), Joswiak noted that the new chips on-the-fly frequency adjustments could be well put to use in an Apple computer. He noted that as a vertical vendor with control of both the hardware and the operating system, Apple can better integrate such features.

Other computing devices will use the MPC7447A. On Wednesday, Luxembourg-based Genesi Sarl said its forthcoming Pegasos computer will be based on Motorolas new G4 processor. The hardware platform will use a version of Linux called MorphOS and will be able to run Macintosh software in emulation, according to the companys Web site.


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