When Apple yesterday revealed details about its new and improved PowerBook G4, it noted that the revised laptop is now the first in the industry to ship standard with Gigabit Ethernet. Today,
Marvell, the company that makes the controller which Apple now uses provided a bit more detail.
Marvell developed the Ethernet interface — called the Alaska Ultra Gigabit Ethernet Transceiver — that Apple has installed on the PowerBook G4. Marvell explained that the Alaska is a single-channel Ethernet interface, and according to its maker, the Alaska is the first such transceiver in the industry to provide advanced power management modes — technology critical in portable computing environments, where such management can prolong battery life.
Gigabit Ethernet is a fairly new implementation of the familiar networking technology — it supports data transfer rates of up to 1,000 megabits per second. The first Gigabit Ethernet standard was ratified by the IEEE 802.3 committee back in 1998. The standard was developed ostensibly for environments where huge amounts of data needed to be transferred around the network quickly. As desktop machines have increased in their computational power and storage capacity, so has the need to transfer huge amounts of data. Although Gigabit Ethernet is supported over multiple different carriers, the Alaska transceiver has been specifically developed to support Gigabit Ethernet over copper.
Marvell Vice President of Marketing Gary Smerdon said that Apple’s use of Gigabit Ethernet on the PowerBook G4 is a “strong testimony” to Gigabit Ethernet’s more widespread adoption as a desktop networking standard. While 10/100baseT network interfaces are now standard on many desktop and laptop systems, it’s only been within the last year that computer companies — including Apple — have been using Gigabit (10/100/1000baseT) Ethernet on their systems. Apple, for example, has made the interface standard issue on its Power Mac G4s since January — although its consumer-oriented iMac and iBook still retain a 10/100baseT Ethernet interface.
Marvell’s Alaska line is comprised of sixteen different devices. The company manufactures single, dual and quad-port Gigabit Ethernet transceivers.