Tech Industry

Fastest Macs still not here

Almost a month after the launch of new Power Macintosh G3 systems Apple Computer's fastest of the bunch remains missing in action.

Almost a month after the launch of Power Macintosh G3 computers, Apple's fastest of the bunch remains missing in action.

The phantom computer in question is the Power Mac G3 with 366-MHz Power PC 750 processor. The absence of this system has the potential to cause problems for Apple in its advertising battle with Windows-Intel PC vendors, which are flooding the market with 400- and 450-MHz systems.

Advertisements often focus on the "clock" speed of the chip in the system, particularly for high end models with the fastest chips.

Resellers were fully prepared to start selling the systems and even placed ads for the systems on their Web sites and in mail-order catalogs. The problem is Apple did not officially announce the system with other models that were updated on August 13, as previously reported.

Currently, Apple's fastest available system uses a 333-MHz Power PC 750 processor.

The mystery surrounding the 366-MHz systems stems from manufacturing issues, said sources close to Apple. Apple was ready to release the 366-MHz systems but has not been able to make enough systems to meet prospective demand. The company has not yet told retailers when or if they can expect to see the systems.

"It's less a matter of supply in terms of processor yields than internal engineering issues," said one person involved in Apple's engineering efforts.

Often in chip manufacturing, there is a limited supply of chips at the highest potential speeds. Nevertheless, enough chips can be made available for volume shipments if a vendor modifies its systems, another source said. Apple has not been attempting to modify its systems, resulting in a noticeable lag between the introduction of faster PowerPC chips and Apple systems with those chips.

Motorola declined to comment. IBM and Apple could not be reached for comment.

"We're not too concerned...333-MHz is plenty fast enough," said one executive with an East cost-based retailer. With four desktop models to offer already, another one isn't necessary, he added.

Still, the delay in releasing top-speed desktops isn't the only manufacturing issue to hit Apple of late. Customers have had trouble finding PowerBooks with the fastest processors, although in a recent speech, acting CEO Steve Jobs promised that backlogs on orders for notebooks would be cleared by the end of September.

Analysts on Wall Street don't expect the notebook shortage to have a measurable impact on Apple's financial results, however. In fact, the company is expected to post another profitable quarter to close out its fiscal year when results are announced in October. The profits will largely stem from sales of the iMac, an item which most resellers have been able to ship to customers in spite of high demand.