The Soul of the New Macs

Motorola's chips may not be rising fast enough to suit Mac users, but there's plenty to like in Apple's latest pro desktops.

Ive said it before, but its worth saying again: Apple Computers perennial efforts to block all "rumor and speculation" (to quote a well-worn Cupertino mantra) about future Mac directions are futile—and frequently counterproductive.

Lets say Apple could plug each of the myriad trickles of unauthorized information about its forthcoming products: a perpetual, tidal flow I see as a positive indicator of the Mac communitys unquenchable enthusiasm and support. Even without the "rumors" part of the formulation, though, "speculation" would inevitably continue among any interested Mac user willing to take even a cursory look at the cyclical rhythms of Apples product schedule.

Consider this weeks announcement of new Power Mac G4 towers for the professional desktop. While I derived plenty of entertainment value from the images and product specs that made their way onto the Web last month (as well as by Apples strenuous attempts to stop them), they offered only a fragmentary picture of the new boxes.

A more compelling argument for a mid-August Power Mac refresh was simply the weight of precedent: It had been more than a half-year since the company nudged up its top of the line to 1GHz, and supplies of the current pro desktops were drying up in the retail channel (historically, a sure sign that new Macs are on the way). Given those time-tested circumstances, can Apple really pin expectations for hot new Power Macs on the "rumor sites"?

So whats counterproductive about Apples policy? In this case, Im afraid Apples anxiety not to reveal any hints about processor performance set these systems up for a bit of a fall. The fact that the Motorola chips at the top of the line (due in September) will clock in at only 1.25GHz thwarts common wisdom about optimum speed gains from upgrade to upgrade—and threatens to take a bit of the luster off machines that are otherwise admirable for their enhancements.