Apple steps into the future with Panther and G5

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Apple on Monday passed its Intel-based competition in processor power with the release of the much-anticipated Power Mac G5 desktop computer. The company also used the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) to show the advanced features of Panther, the next major revision to Mac OS X Apple will release later this year.

Apple's new G5-based personal computer not only gets a new chip, but also gets a complete overhaul of the architecture of the machine. Billed as "the world's fastest personal computer," the G5 features a 64-bit processor and 1GHz front-side bus, can address up to 8GB of memory and features processor speeds of up to 2GHz.

The mid-range and high-end systems incorporate 400MHz 128-bit DDR SDRAM with throughput of up to 6.4GB/sec, one 133MHz and two 100MHz 64-bit PCI-X expansion slots and AGP 8x Pro graphics slots. The processors and their 1GHz front side bus can handle 16GB/sec of bandwidth, according to Apple.

"From the very beginning we said that when we come out with the next generation processor we want to upgrade the whole architecture," Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, told MacCentral.

"This has been in the works for years and we knew what we couldn't do was just take that chip and drop it into what we have today," added Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of Hardware Product Marketing.

Apple's renewed relationship with IBM doesn't mean that Motorola will be going away anytime soon. In fact, Apple will keep one G4-based configuration around for as long as the market demands. The G4 model will sell for $1299 directly from Apple.

"Motorola is huge for us," said Joswiak. "Our partnership with Motorola is not going away, G4s are in every other part of our product line. As you can see, [the G5] is not going in a PowerBook anytime soon. Motorola remains very important to us, but IBM is the one that can take us to the next level."

Apple's pro customers have been screaming for a fast machine for a long time. Graphics and audio pros lament the power that Intel-based machines are able to deliver to its customers running the same applications found on the Macintosh. Demos at WWDC by Steve Jobs during his keynote suggest the G5 can outperform even the fastest Xeon processors, possibly making the G5 the target machine for pro customers in the future.

"The fact that it's the fastest personal computer in the world, we think is going to work [bringing in new customers]," said Joswiak. "This thing runs circles around the dual Xeon."

Developers get Xcode

The releases weren't just about cool features in Panther or hardware like the G5 and iSight; developers were looked after today, as well. During his keynote Jobs introduced Xcode developer tools. Xcode combines a Unix-based development environment, a simplified user interface, and performance technologies including Fix and Continue, Zero Link and Distributed Build.

Xcode delivers performance improvements that are five times faster than Apple's previous generation developer tools, delivering significantly faster turn around times for developers creating applications for Mac OS X. With the Fix and Continue feature, developers can make live code changes to a running application and see their effect immediately without the need to restart the application.

"The entire keynote was quite impressive," said Rich Siegel, founder, president and CEO of Bare Bones Software. "Yet again, Apple innovates on machine speed, video cameras, iChat and such, which was a lot of consumer news given this is a developer conference. Developers were well fed though, since the new frameworks and APIs definitely open up a wealth of opportunities for us to also innovate."

Mac OS X Panther packs in new features

Mac OS X Panther has added over 100 new features ranging from a new Finder to video conferencing software with iChat AV. Jobs described the new Finder as "user-centric," putting users at the center of the computing experience.

"The Finder has a new approach where people and the things that they do all the time, whether it's drives that they use, networks they visit or folders they often open, is all in one place," said Ken Bereskin, director of Mac OS Product Marketing, in an interview Tuesday with MacCentral.

Other new features include faster search, colored labels, and better integration with Windows network environments. Panther supports ActiveDirectory and SMB-based home directories on Windows servers and enhanced Windows integration that allows for printing to shared printers.

One feature that created a buzz from show attendees was Exposé, which allows users to view all open windows and choose any one of them to be on top; Exposé also unshuffles overlapping windows into an organized view.

"There are a lot of big deals in Panther: The Finder, iChat AV and Exposé are just a few," said Bereskin. "Exposé could be the most innovative advance in the graphical interface since the Mac was created."

Apple also added FileVault, which secures the home directory content with 128-bit AES encryption; Mail has been updated with several new features; Pixlet, which is billed as a "studio-grade codec" for QuickTime designed for filmmakers; Font Book -- a system-level font management system; and preview and iDisk among other things were also improved.

"Most of these ideas are things that have come up since Puma and many of them since Jaguar," said Schiller. "We came up with Exposé and the other features in the last year of working on the operating system. We're not in a space where we are still finishing things we wanted to do with Mac OS X; Jaguar was that and we are beyond that now."

This story, "Apple steps into the future with Panther and G5" was originally published by PCWorld.

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