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Hot off the Press Story
Tech-Edge staff report Saturday10/12/02

Apple Apple may use new desktop 1.8GHz 64bit IBM Server Chip
Armonk, N.Y.

International Business Machines Corp. Monday announced a 64-bit microchip for personal computers that will crunch through data in chunks twice as big as the current standard. It is expected by industry watchers to be used first by Apple Computer in its Macs.

Sources at Apple were not available to comment, and IBM has declined to comment on which computer makers* would use the chip. Adoption of this 64-bit chip would mark a change for the industry, which has emphasized the importance of the speed of a chip rather than its ability to handle heavy data workloads. IBM said that this new PowerPC chip would go into production late next year at 1.8 Gigahertz, or 1.8 billion cycles per second and process 64 bits of data at a time.

VP of IBM microprocessor development Chekib Akrout, said "This is the time to introduce a 64-bit machine capable of being used on a desktop," he said in a telephone interview. The microchip in all personal computers now come only in 32-bit flavors, which are tuned to do light workloads fast, however they cannot handle heavy duty server chores.

California-based Apple would plan to use the chip in its Macintosh computers, said an industry source that asked to remain nameless. “That could catapult Apple, long dogged by the belief its chips are slower than those produced by Intel Corp., to the technological head of the class and put to rest speculation it was considering moving soon to the Intel platform.”

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IBM said the new PowerPC 970 microchip is “lite” versions of its Power4 chip, code-named “Regatta,” which it launched last fall in its market leading sophisticated computer server line. The PowerPC will run 32-bit applications as well as 64-bit applications; and is tuned for graphics like some Intel chips, IBM said. However, * it is not designed to run programs written for Intel chips. The PowerPC has the same energy-saving attributes as the Power4 but uses only one central processing unit, not two.

Available in the second half of 2003 and built in IBM's East Fishkill, New York, chip plant; the new facility is currently doing test-runs aimed to ramp up into production on other chips later this year.

An IBM market analyst said the PowerPC 970 attributes means that it would work well in the professional publishing sector, for high-end graphics and other media-intense tasks. "This processor would be a great processor for a Macintosh," said Tom Halfhill, an analyst with San Jose, California-based In-Stat/MDR.

IBM, the world's largest computer company, has suffered a sharp downturn in demand in the semiconductor sector and has restructured the unit, selling off some assets. IBM announced earlier more details on its new microelectronics design unit, where it will design chips and other electronics for customers, including Sony Corp.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc., the main competitor to Intel, is also developing a 64-bit chip code-named Hammer that is expected early next year, although it is planned primarily for servers rather than personal computers.



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