Editorial: Can a PowerBook G5 be far off?
By Peter Cohen,
Apple made a few adjustments to its product line this week, including the introduction of
faster, better equipped iBooks. With iBooks now overlapping PowerBooks in clock speed, can a major revision to the PowerBook be far behind?
The iBook itself is now better-equipped than it’s ever been, and at a more affordable price, too. The low-end 12-inch model sports a 1.2GHz processor, a 30GB hard drive and a DVD-ROM/CD-RW “Combo” drive for US$999 — $100 less than its predecessor, and still the most affordable laptop in Apple’s product line. Two 14-inch models double the hard drive space, increase processor speed to 1.33GHz and offer either a combo drive or a DVD-R/CD-RW “SuperDrive” instead. AirPort Extreme, Apple’s terminology for 802.11g-compliant wireless networking, is now offered standard across the iBook product line, a feature that shows Apple is serious about keeping its iBook competitive with its PC counterparts.
Prices for the two 14-inch models run $1,299 and $1,499 respectively, though it’s likely that anyone who’s buying any new laptop will get RAM right away, since a scant 256MB is provided from the factory — the same amount Apple includes with the iMac G5. Apple’s skimply RAM is generally perceived by industry insiders as an upsell opportunity to help resellers (increasingly, it seems, Apple Stores) make a few extra bucks as the machine goes out the door.
With iBooks clocked up to 1.33GHz, the line has become blurred between the iBook and the PowerBook. Apple offers the same clock speed on its 12-inch and low-end 15-inch PowerBook G4 models, and it’s unlikely that all but the most discriminating buyer will view esoterica like the memory speed of the machine or which graphics chip each system uses as deciding factors.
No, in this case, the biggest differences between Apple’s consumer and professional laptop line are price and, in the case of the 15-inch PowerBook, form factor. The 12-inch PowerBook G4, an aluminum-clad doppleganger of the white polycarbonate low-end iBook, costs $600 more than its consumer counterpart. And a 15-inch PowerBook — wider and considerably higher-resolution than the 14-inch iBook, costs $500 more than the high-end iBook system.
Apple’s David Moody told MacCentral that a new PowerBook won’t be introduced before the end of the year, which has set the tongues of rumor-mongers wagging that Apple will unveil a PowerBook G5 at January’s Macworld Conference & Expo. It seems as plausible a guess as any, but no one outside of Apple knows anything for sure. It seems equally possible that Apple will milk the G4 processor line a while longer and drop in a faster chip from Motorola spinoff Freescale Semiconductor to help distance its pro line from the consumer laptop model for a while longer. When asked, Apple’s vice president of hardware product marketing Greg Joswiak has been quick to note that just because Apple has scaled the G5 to work in an iMac,
it hasn’t necessarily ironed out
all the kinks to get that same hardware to work portably.
Whatever the case, it’s cheaper than ever to buy a full-featured laptop from Apple. This is good news for consumers and educators alike as Apple continues to face competition for dollars spent in educational institutions, for one-to-one computing initiatives and portable computer lab installations. What more, it seems that recent PowerBook buyers have managed to stave off any potential buyer’s remorse or envy for a few months longer.
In related news, Apple this week unveiled a $1,499 Power Mac G5 that offers a single processor running at 1.8GHz and a front side bus clocked the same as the iMac — 600MHz (as opposed to 900MHz for its dual-processor cousin). It’s $500 cheaper than the next rung up the Power Mac ladder and offers the same expansion capabilities, storage and optical drive, and it’s a darned good value if you’re running applications that don’t benefit dramatically from dual-processor configurations. And this is why I expect this machine will hold some appeal for gamers with thin wallets — games are exactly that type of application. It’s an equally good value for other buyers who are looking for a more expandable system than the iMac G5.
The new single-processor 1.8GHz Power Mac G5 is not the $500 “headless iMac” that Mac pundits are fond of talking about in online forums and other gabfests, but it’s a step in the right direction. And it’s become my instant recommendation for folks who have misgivings about buying an all-in-one box.
Apple upgrades iBooks
Apple Computer Inc. on Tuesday updated the company’s iBook consumer notebook, adding built-in AirPort Extreme across the line. The new machines feature a 1.33GHz processor at the high-end, and a low-end model that sells for under US$1,000.
Special Apple music event planned for Oct. 26
Select members of the press on Monday received an invitation to to a special Apple event taking place at the California Theatre in San Jose, Calif. The theme of the event would appear to be musically-related and is capitalizing on Apple’s recently unveiled iPod and iTunes Music Store promotion with legendary rock band U2, judging from the invitation received by MacCentral. “Steve Jobs, Bono and The Edge invite you to attend a special event,” reads the top of the invitation. The invitation-only event is scheduled to take place at 10AM Pacific Time on October 26, 2004.
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