A Downgrade for the G4

Apple Computer, which seemed to be leading a charmed life in recent months, found itself with egg on its face in October when the company announced it was reconfiguring its Power Mac G4 product line with lower-speed versions of the chips. Instead of offering systems with 400MHz, 450MHz, and 500MHz processors, as Apple had originally planned, the company will sell the systems with 350MHz, 400MHz, and 450MHz G4 processors at the same respective price points of $1,599, $2,499, and $3,499.

Mea Culpa

Apple blamed the bad news on Motorola's inability to deliver sufficient quantities of 500MHz G4 processors, and said it was signing on IBM as an alternative supplier of the chips (see " Motorola and IBM Reveal PowerPC Plans " in this section). A chastened Motorola issued a mea culpa.

The new configurations are as follows:

The 350MHz system, selling for $1,599, includes 64MB of RAM, a 10GB Ultra ATA hard drive, and a 24 x CD-ROM drive. Based on the same architecture as the blue-and-white G3 systems, this configuration was supposed to include a 400MHz G4 chip.

The 400MHz system, priced at $2,499, includes 128MB of RAM, a 20GB Ultra ATA hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive, and an Iomega Zip drive. This configuration uses a new architecture that includes a faster memory bus, support for up to 1.5GB of RAM, an internal FireWire connection, a high-speed AGP port for the display adapter, and connections for Apple's AirPort wireless-networking cards. Apple previously announced that it would offer this configuration with a 450MHz G4 chip.

The 450MHz system, selling for $3,499, includes 256MB of RAM, a 27GB Ultra ATA hard drive, and a DVD-RAM drive. Like the 400MHz system, it uses Apple's new system architecture. Apple had planned to offer this configuration with a 500MHz G4.

Systems featuring the new 500MHz G4 processor won't appear until early 2000, Apple says.

Mixed Signals

As Apple announced the downgrade, it also sent notices to inform customers who had preordered systems that it would cancel their orders. The following day, October 14, the same customers received an apologetic follow-up notice saying that their orders would be fulfilled. However, Apple PR reps confused the matter by making contradictory statements about which, if any, orders would be honored.

Finally, on October 18, Apple issued a definitive statement: if you ordered a 400MHz or 450MHz Power Mac G4 before October 13, Apple will deliver the system at the original quoted price. If you ordered a 500MHz Power Mac G4, the company will provide a 450MHz system at the latter's original price.

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