MacCentral week in review
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By David Leishman email@example.com
Apple's update and upgrade moves continued to flow this week, and even though none of the offerings are of the "shake the world" iTunes for Windows caliber, there are still some interesting winds of change to notice.
The new dual 1.8GHz G5 Power Macs follow by only three months the introduction of the G5 line of computers, and while that quick a hardware refresh isn't entirely new for Apple, it's not common either. It's easy enough to guess that Mac buyers have grown accustomed to dual processor machines, and while some folks were willing to spring for the top-of-the-line $2,999 dual 2GHz boxes, many were waiting to see what Apple might issue at Macworld Expo before making their buy. And that, with the holiday season fast approaching, the company needed to offer an enhanced mid-level G5 to get the fence-sitters to jump now.
That makes great marketing sense, and it's probably true. But what's certainly true -- and perhaps even more important -- is that Apple has an efficient, motivated partner and chip supplier in IBM. And best of all, these chips are valuable by-products of IBM's commitment to excellence with its own POWER line of processors, which means that as IBM actively pursues its own primary vision -- and the POWER 5 chip is due to be introduced early next year -- Apple shares in the harvest. (And also brings some "chips" of its own -- when Virginia Tech announced that its G5 cluster was recognized as the third-fastest computer in the world, there was certainly some chest-pounding in the Big Blues halls.)
So as IBM rapidly pushes forward, Apple will likely introduce new, more powerful machines at a faster pace. (Think: 3GHx machines by late summer, 2004.) The only Mac lovers who can express discontent are those who bought single processor G5 1.8GHz computers, only to see them superceded in a quarter of a year; the rest of us now have to recognize that, going forward, the Macs we buy won't be "kings-of-the-hill" for very long. But they'll still be wicked fast.
And speaking of speed... Apple claims that on a dual-processor 2.0GHz Power Mac G5, the new "G5-optimized and fine-tuned for Panther" Final Cut Pro (FCP) 4.1 can now simultaneously play back seven fully uncompressed standard definition (SD) video streams with real-time effects.
Which is fine, but that's not the yardstick by which video pros measure. This is: Garrett Lenoir reported on Thursday at Macintouch.com that the speed differences are "amazing" between the same project performed on a Dual 1GHz G4 with FCP 4's Compressor sidekick-app and on a Dual 2GHz G5 with the optimized updates. The respective results are five hours versus one-and-a-half hours, which is significantly faster than just the doubling of chip-speed would account for, and the latter is ""quickly approaching real-time compression."
The speed of Apple's products is finally beginning to mirror that of its ideas, and that's a wind of change we can all appreciate.
Apple on Tuesday announced a new dual-processor Power Mac G5 operating at 1.8GHz. The new system features dual independent 900MHz front-side buses, 512MB of 400MHz 128-bit DDR SDRAM, a 160GB Serial ATA 7200RPM hard disk drive and an AGP 8x Pro graphics slot populated with an Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra video card with 64MB DDR SDRAM. It costs US$2,499 -- only $100 more than the 1.8GHz system it replaces.
Apple on Tuesday also unveiled its latest consumer desktop machine, the 20-inch flat panel iMac with 1680-by-1050 resolution. The new systems feature a 1.25GHz G4 PowerPC processor, 256MB of fast 333 MHz DDR SDRAM, a 7200 rpm 80GB Ultra ATA/100 hard disk drive, NVIDIA's GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics processor with 64MB of DDR video memory, two FireWire 400 and three high-speed USB 2.0 ports, support for 54Mbps AirPort Extreme 802.11g wireless networking, and optional built-in Bluetooth.
IBM has built a 512-node prototype of its Blue Gene L supercomputer that has been ranked as the 73rd most powerful computer in the world. The machine, which is capable of a peak performance of 2 trillion floating-point operations per second (teraflops), is about the size of a 30-inch TV. The key to Blue Gene's ability to extract such performance out of such a small amount of real estate that each PowerPC chip contains dual floating-point processors, 4M bytes of L3 memory, and five network controllers.
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Apple on Tuesday released Final Cut Pro 4.1, Shake 3.0.1 and DVD Studio Pro 2.0.2; these new versions of the applications are all optimized for the Power Mac G5 and fine-tuned for Panther. The new version of Final Cut Pro gets the biggest improvement, and Apple notes it can now simultaneously play back seven fully uncompressed standard definition (SD) video streams with real-time effects on a dual-processor 2.0GHz Power Mac G5.
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Around the Web
An article this week from Forbes.com warned that " Apple Computer Could Run Out Of Steam." It's been so long since we thought of Apple as "beleagured," that we figured it was time to pull out the "101 ways to save Apple" article from 1997 and see how many of those ideas the company has integrated. Two suggestions jump right to the top of the "done, but different" list: "Rent space in a computer store" and "Buy a song."
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