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Mac clones not forgotten

While Windows CE devices may have grabbed most of the attention at Comdex, several important developments in the Mac clone market surfaced.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada--While Microsoft Windows CE devices may have grabbed most of the attention this week here at Comdex, several important developments in the Mac clone market surfaced, including new PowerPC reference design platforms from Motorola and IBM and the debut of a 533-MHz PowerPC prototype system using an Exponential processor.

Motorola (MOT) this week revealed its Yellowknife PowerPC Platform Reference Design (formerly referred to as the Common Hardware Reference Platform, or CHRP) motherboard that supports the PCI bus and 603e, 604, and 604e PowerPC microprocessors at clock speeds of up to 240 MHz. Systems based on this motherboard specification can boot up either the Mac OS, Windows NT 4.0, or other operating systems such as Unix.

Already, Mac clone maker Umax announced it would use the motherboard in their lineup and were demonstrating a product at Comdex.

A new player in the Mac clone market, Taiwan-based Tatung was also exhibiting a new system based on the Yellowknife motherboard. The TPC-6600 will be offered with a 603e processor running at up to 180 MHz or a 604e running at up to 233 MHz. Both will have 256K pipelined burst cache standard that is socket upgradeable to 512K.

IBM was also showcasing its PPRD motherboard called Long Trail. Systems based on this board will run the Mac OS, Windows NT, and IBM's AIX operating system.

Comdex was also the coming-out party for Exponential's 533-MHz X704 processor based on the PowerPC architecture. The chip was being demonstrated in a Motorola box running Windows NT 4.0 doing 3D animation. Other prototype Exponential-based systems were also shown at other booths running the Mac OS. These systems have appeared less than one year after the company announced plans to build the chip.

The X704 chips will start shipping in the early part of the second quarter of 1997, according to Joe Barta, Exponential's marketing manager. Exponential is focusing mostly on the Mac OS platform now but will support Windows NT as well.