Jobs unveils new Power Macs

Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs rolls out a new crop of Power Macs that he says can outperform any Windows-based PC on the market.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
4 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs rolled out on Monday a new crop of Power Macs that he says can outperform any Windows-based PC on the market.

Speaking at the company's annual developer conference here, Jobs announced that the Power Macs will be built around IBM's new PowerPC 970 chip and come in three flavors--a 1.6GHz model, a 1.8GHz model and a dual processor 2GHz model. The machines, which will become available in August, are priced at $1,999, $2,399 and $2,999, respectively.

Dubbed the G5, the new chip is the successor to the G4 that's now used in the Power Mac lineup. Aside from the new chip, the new Power Macs will feature other architectural changes, including the addition of 1GHz front-side buses, USB 2.0 ports and serial ATA drives.

The new clock speeds and other changes mean that Apple will be offering "the world's fastest personal computer," Jobs said. Jobs showed both benchmarks and Photoshop tests that illustrate the new dual 2GHz PowerMac outperforming a dual 3GHz Xeon machine.

The specifications of the new machines matched specifications that were accidentally posted Thursday to Apple's online store.

"I am here today to tell you it (the posting) was a mistake--and it's true," Jobs told a crowd of more than 3,000 developers gathered at the Moscone West convention center.

The entry-level model comes with a 1.6GHz processor, 256MB of memory, an 80GB hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce FX5200 graphics card. It will sell for $1,999. The midrange system sells for $2,399 and comes with a 1.8GHz G5 processor, 512MB of memory, a 160GB hard drive and the GeForce FX5200 graphics card. The high-end model sells for $2,999 and has two 2GHz G5 chips, 512MB of memory, a 160GB hard drive and an ATI Radeon 9600 graphics card. All three machines sport a new aluminum case and come with a SuperDrive that can read and burn both DVDs and CDs.

The machines all run processors designed and built by IBM as well as an Apple-designed controller chip that uses HyperTransport technology to route data throughout the various components on the motherboard.

Jobs said the systems will soon get faster. "Within 12 months, we will be at 3GHz," Jobs said. "Believe me, this architecture has legs."

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Apple unleashes new Power Mac G5
Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Computer
Peter Glaskowsky, editor in chief of Microprocessor Report, said Apple's benchmarks appear to put it ahead of PC manufacturers for now.

"By August, there won't be anything on PC platforms that will be faster," Glaskowsky said, adding that he was particularly impressed with Apple's benchmarks for floating point performance, which measures how quickly a computer can calculate numbers with decimals.

The competition heats up
PC makers, however, will be revving their models soon. Advanced Micro Devices will release Athlon64, a version of its Opteron chip for desktops, in August. Hewlett-Packard has already said it will use the chip. Chip giant Intel plans to release Prescott, an enhanced version of the Pentium 4 with new instructions for multimedia processing, sometime in the second half of this year. Typically, Intel rolls out major revamps in October or November.

Benchmark comparisons can be tricky, and competitors will no doubt be combing through the details.

The new Apple desktops will also be capable of running 32-bit software--the kind found on desktops today--and 64-bit software, which is used by high-end workstations. 64-bit software can take advantage of more memory, which improves performance, but developers have to recompile their operating systems and applications for that to happen. Adobe said it would recompile its software to take advantage of the capability and release products with this feature at about the same time that the new Macs emerge. It is unclear when Apple will perform a similar task.

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To cool the new hardware, the new Apple machines have nine fans, but Jobs said that, because they are individually controlled and placed right where they are needed, the machines make only half as much noise as the Power Mac G4 systems that they replace.

As promised, Jobs also showed off Panther, the next version of the Mac OS X operating system, which he said will go on sale by the end of the year for $129. Jobs said the new operating system boasts more than 100 new features, including an improved finder and a new way of managing multiple open windows.

One of the more significant features that Jobs previewed was a new version of iChat that allows for audio and video conferencing. The software, which will also run on Jaguar, uses any FireWire camera for sending video and any USB microphone for sending audio to another similarly equipped Mac.

The software is being made available Monday in beta, or test, mode. Apple will bundle it with Panther and sell it to Jaguar users who don't want to upgrade to the new OS. Apple is also selling a $149 video camera, dubbed iSight.

The developer conference, always a popular event in the Mac universe, has taken on added importance this year with July's Macworld Expo being replaced with a scaled-back event with no Jobs keynote.

Jobs also announced that version 1.0 of Apple's Safari browser will be available later Monday as a free download. Apple is also making available a development kit that will let programmers add Safari functions to their programs. And Jobs said that more than 5 million songs have been purchased from the iTunes Music Store in its first eight weeks of operation. Also, later Monday, Apple expects to ship its 1 millionth iPod.