By not using the PowerPC G5 chips in iMacs and laptops just yet, Apple is “wisely awaiting” the improvements that will “make a good thing even better,” Alex Salkever writes in the latest Byte of the Apple column at Business Week Online. (Authorship of the column now alternates between him and long-time Byte writer, Charles Haddad.)
In the column, Salkever does (eventually) mention the fact that the current incarnation of G5 is too big and too hot for consumer systems and laptops. Still, he writes that “critics have warned Apple chief Steve Jobs that it’s a mistake to fragment the launch of a new chip architecture — a big deal in Apple land — by only selling G5 desktops and leaving the laptops and iMacs out in the cold with their aging G4 chips.”
Salkever says he has no doubt that design specs for a G5 that would work well in laptop and iMacs are “already sitting on the hard drives of Big Blue’s chip designers.” However, he admits that they would have to be slower versions of the processor due to the current physical limitations of the new chips. Two of those limitations are the power consumed and the heat generated. (That’s why the G5 has nine different fans.) Salkever writes that, in order to use the G5 in a laptop, they will “probably have to combine thermal tricks with a larger design to accommodate ventilation mechanisms.”
To use the G5 in a laptop or a slim-design consumer system Apple will either wait until IBM comes out with a more efficient version of the G5 or use slower versions of the G5 chips that consume less power and produce less heat, Salkever opines. A G5 running at 1.2 gigahertz will consume less than half the power of a top-speed chip in the lineup, while most users wouldn’t notice the speed difference, he adds.
“So stay cool, Macheads, and be patient,” Salkever concludes. “Steve is doing the right thing on this one by waiting for the technology and the software library to catch up before going mass market with the G5. “