Steve Jobs says that Apple controls “the whole widget,” but it gets by with a little help from its friends when developing wicked-fast machines. Two announcements this week indicate the company chooses those friends wisely.
More than twenty years ago, Apple welcomed IBM’s entry into the arena of personal computer manufacturing. These days, it can boast that it’s got “IBM Inside,” because the latter’s new PowerPC 970FX was just named “the best desktop processor of 2003” by the Sat/MDR analyst choice awards and Microprocessor Report. (See “Around the Web” below.)
This chip, the newest version of what Apple refers to as the G5, is already employed in Apple’s Xserves and will almost certainly be used in the next generation of desktop PowerMacs. Its 90 nanometer size and low heat dissipation also make it a viable candidate for the first G5-laden PowerBook, and on Mac bulletin boards, the cries of desire for this machine are deafening.
So, while Apple still uses Motorola CPUs in its consumer-oriented machines, its friendship with IBM has enabled it to keep Mac power-users cheering and calling for more as it regains parity with the improvements and speed boosts in PC CPUs.
But computer speed isn’t just a factor of faster CPUs — the speed with which instructions travel to and from the CPU also needs to keep pace. Apple addressed this need in 2001 when it joined the AMD-led
(HTC), which is charged with developing high-bandwidth bus interconnects between CPU and I/O technologies. (David K. Every’s articles
from 2001 provide an in-depth look at the capabilities of the original specification.)
The HTC this week announced Release 2.0 of its specification, which nearly doubles the bandwidth for moving data by jumping from 12.8 Gigabytes per second to 22.4 Gigabytes per second. HyperTransport 2.0 also adds the ability to map to PCI Express connects, which Apple moved to with the G5 machines, and which Cnet reports
will replace AGP
as the path between the CPU and the graphics chip, and also to the USB ports. (Nvidia is a member of the HTC and has already developed a HyperTransport-enabled graphics architecture.)
Apple presently uses HyperTransport in the PowerMac G5s to connect its Serial ATA, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, USB 2.0, and audio subsystems to the system controller at a rate of 3.2GB per second. Which helps make these the fastest Macs ever, but also means there’s still plenty of headroom before they start to crowd the HyperTransport bus.
So while Apple doesn’t need to integrate the HyperTransport 2.0 spec this year, it might make a fine complement for the next-generation Power PC chips and machines expected next year. And after all, a year is a pretty short time in a good friendship.
Apple’s 10-Q notes iPod battery legal entanglements
Apple’s most recent 10-Q filing with the SEC, published on Tuesday, includes the company’s acknowledgement that it’s involved in five separate class action suits that allege “misrepresentations by the Company relative to iPod battery life.” Some users have noted that the system’s battery charge capacity seems to degrade dramatically over time, and Apple says it is “beginning its investigation of these claims.”
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Olympus unveils seven new digital cameras
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Around the Web
New G5 is 2003’s ‘best desktop processor’
The In-Sat/MDR analyst choice awards, granted in conjunction with Microprocessor Report, declared IBM’s PowerPC 970FX “the best desktop processor of 2003.” The 90 nanometer CPU is used by Apple in its new Xserves and is expected to appear in the next revision of the PowerMac G5 desktops.
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