SAN FRANCISCO—Apple ushered in the world of 64-bit computing to its Macintosh line on Monday morning, introducing a new line of G5 Macintoshes to an enthusiastic audience at its Worldwide Developer Conference here. Although Apple also introduced its latest version of Mac OS X, dubbed “Panther,” Apples new hardware crowned Apple as the manufacturer of the worlds fastest personal computer, according to selected real-world and synthetic benchmarks.
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs confirmed what sharp-eyed Internet watchers noticed last week on Apples Web site: the new G5 systems, based on a 64-bit processor from IBM. Within Apple, the marketing glitch now goes by a new term: “premature specification.”
“It was a mistake and its true,” Jobs said of the Internet glitch. “But it doesnt even begin to tell you the story that were going to tell you right now. We are delivering today the worlds fastest personal computer.”
Three new 64-bit Apple G5 systems will ship in August, ranging in price from $1,999 to $2,999. The lowest-end system will include a 1.6-GHz G5 processor, 256 Mbytes of DDR400 memory, a 80-Gbyte hard drive, a GeForceFX 5200 card from Nvidia, and a 4X SuperDrive. The midrange model will be identically configured, save for an increase in memory to 512 Mbytes and a larger 160-Gbyte hard drive. Apples fastest G5 tower will include a pair of 2.0-GHz G5s, 512 Mbytes of DDR400 memory, a 160-Gbyte hard drive, a Radeon 9600 graphics card, and the 4X SuperDrive. In all, the highest-end system is about $1,000 less than a dual-Xeon Dell workstation, Jobs said.
“From now on, anybody who tells you that a Macintosh is more expensive than a high-end PC—you can tell em where to look,” Jobs said.
Although the 64-bit PowerPC processor was designed by IBM, Apple itself designed the system controller. In a surprising advancement for the Apple platform, the front-side processor bus runs at a full gigahertz, a significant increase over the 800-MHz front-side bus used by Intel processors.
All of the new G5 systems are equipped with AGP 8X and Serial ATA storage connections, and use HyperTransport for internal chip connections. Each system uses PCI-X, rather than PCI, for its add-in card infrastructure. The new systems also include Apples 802.11g AirPort Extreme wireless LAN interface, Bluetooth, USB 2.0 ports, gigabit Ethernet, and both FireWire 800 and 400 ports.
Each new G5 system includes four “cooling” zones which are automatically ventilated by nine computer-controlled fans. By placing the fans exactly where theyre needed, Jobs said, the audible noise produced by the towers dropped to 35 dBA, twice as quiet as the G4 systems, he said.
Demonstrating the “legs” of the architecture, Jobs also promised that the G5 will run at 3-GHz twelve months from now. The G5, believed to be the PowerPC 970, uses 58 million transistors and is fabricated on IBMs 130-nm 8-layer process using copper interconnects on 300-mm wafers, according to John Kelly, senior vice president of IBMs technology groups.
“Weve been waiting for this day a long time,” Kelly said.
Unlike past system introductions, where Apple had demonstrated the G4s alleged superiority through optimized Photoshop filters, this time Jobs demonstrated the G5s capabilities in several real-world applications, comparing them both against a desktop Pentium 4 as well as a pair of Intel Xeon processors. The G5 systems outperformed Intel processors in Photoshop, a 3D rendering application by startup Luxology, and Wolfram Researchs Mathematica application.
Using synthetic SPEC benchmarks, the G5 shines. Using a GCC compiler test administered by Veritest, the G5 scored 836 on the SPECint benchmark but 840 on the SPECfp benchmark, which measures floating-point performance—10 percent slower than the Pentium 4 in integer performance, but 21 percent faster in the floating-point benchmark. But when using a dual-processor configuration, two G5s edged out two 3.06-GHz Xeon DP processors by 3 percent running SPECint, and 41 percent faster under SPECfp, tallying a 15.7 score.
iSight and iChat
: videoconferencing made easy”> iSight and iChat: videoconferencing made easy
“In real world tests and in SPEC tests we can clearly say we have caught up with the PC and passed them with the fastest computer in the world,” Jobs said.
Apples hardware innovations didnt stop there. Since the G5 systems are optimized for multimedia, it made sense to spice up some basic applications with multimedia functionality. Enter iSpice: Apples first Webcam., married to a new multimedia version of Apples iChat IM service.
Apple found that the conventional Webcams perched on the desk next to a user, robbing them of the emotional connection that one receives when eye contact is made. iSight, an A/V camera “companion” capable of displaying 640×480 resolution images at 30 frames a second, can be mounted on the back of Apples flat-panel monitors and notebooks. iSight contains a dual-element microphone, and is powered by a single FireWire jack.
“Its one of the coolest things weve ever done,” Jobs said. “Its video conferencing for the rest of us.” Holding a VOIP video- or audio-conference is as easy as double-clicking on an AIM or iChat user, Jobs said; the control panel also monitors “presence,” or who is online.
In a demonstration Jobs received a “videophone” iChat call from Al Gore while talking to Apple marketing executives at the back of the room as well as overseas, in Paris. The iSight, available now, is priced at $149, and the multimedia version of iChat will cost $29.99 for the “Panther” release of OS X. iChat will be free in Panther, so theres an incentive to upgrade, Jobs said.
Jobs, in his dual role as chief executive of Apple and of CGI film studio Pixar, also announced that Apple had developed “Pixlet”, a “breakthrough” QuickTime codec that allows film-grade digital video to be compressed and sent electronically from workstation to workstation. The codec saves data in a 48-bit-per-pixel format, and can accomdate up to 5.1 surround sound. Jobs smoothly scrolled a “half-DV” (960×540) trailer of Finding Nemo, and said the video could be worked with on a 1-GHz G4.
Panther begins to snarl
Panther begins to snarl
The new release of Mac OS X, version 10.3 or the “Panther” release, will ship before the end of the year, for $129.99, Jobs said. “And it will be one kick-ass release,” Jobs added.
Panther will boast over 100 new features, Jobs said, including a fast unified file system and support for IPv6 protocols.
Panther also boasts an improved Finder application, mimicking the way in which Windows XP organizes its files from its “start” menu.
“Wait a minute, what was wrong with the old Finder?” Jobs asked rhetorically. “The old Finder, it was computer-centric. We did the best we could, but the old Finder was computer centric. The new Finder is user-centric.”
Apples new Finder searches out resources available to a user on other machines, not just the local computer. An integrated search function, at least on Jobs demonstration, proved blisteringly fast, reporting results before he had finished typing.
The new Finder architecture will interact with iDisk,s Apples virtual storage for .mac customers. Files stored on an iDisk will be designed to synchronize immediately as soon as the client computer is in range of a network. Changes to an iDisk can also be propagated out to other clients when they connect as well, Jobs said. The Finders utility is also preserved in FontBook, a font management tool.
The “Panther” release will also include “FileVault”, a technology requested by corporations that encrypts and decrypts files on the fly to protect company electronic documents. Jobs did not provide further details. Apples Mail application will include built-in Safari HTML rendering, and an improved “Preview” application will render Adobe Acrobat PDF files faster than Adobes Acrobat 6 reader software. Users will be able to “print” documents directly to PDF files, Jobs said.
Possibly the biggest cheers were reserved for two deceptively simple innovations: “Expose”, and fast user switching. When multiple applications are running, their windows have a tendency to clutter the desktop. With a click of a key or a mouse movement, those windows can either be minimized or thrust to the background, highlighting the windows that the user wants to see, Jobs said.
Panther will also support fast user switching, preserving the desktop configuration preferences of individual users. While Jobs admitted that Windows XP had beaten Apple to the punch, Jobs demonstration of Apples fast user switching brought deafening cheers: the entire screen “rotated” like a cube, swinging the new desktop into view.
To speed development, Apple will ship a new set of developer tools, called Xcode, which can begin precompiling as a user codes, Jobs said. The GCC 3.3-compliant toolset is still beaten by CodeWarrion in compiling time, but Apple “rewrote the rules of the game,” Jobs said.
Xcode can also use processing power elsewhere on the network, almost matching CodeWarriors compile time when a second host CPU is added, Jobs said.
Jobs also said that later today Apple expects to sell its millionth iPod, and sold 5 million songs via its ITunes store last Saturday. Meanwhile, new Apple stores are expected in San Francisco, Chicago and Tokyo by next year.