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Editors Commentary
by Keith Benicek, Editor 1/14/03

Macworld SF 2003 Commentary, is Apple Hidding Something?

Where are all the Desktops?
“So this will be the year of the notebook for Apple” closed Steve Jobs new G4 PowerBook presentation. But, what does that really mean?

No new or faster iMacs, no faster G4 Mini-towers, no faster X-servers, just repackaged (gladly) PowerBooks. Did Apple with the glitz of a much needed repackaging of the PowerBook snow us all? Because, dear Mac fans, it NEEDED it! The Titanium enclosure hobbled the 802.11b transmission distances to a horribly short 60 to 75-feet, the painted finish scratched, chipped and flaked all too easily; and it was just too over-priced compared to the competition.

With the depression of the Tech Market in general and high tech manufacturing in general, companies like Motorola, who produces Apples G3 and G4 RISC processors, are moving more cautiously. There just aren’t any faster G4 or the future G5 RISC processors to put into Apple desktops, and the “gap” between Macs and Windows PC’s is uncomfortably increasing again.

Lets face it, portable computer users are more accustomed to slower processors that power their notebooks, than you usually find in desktops. In fact, Intel has been sued in Michigan for accused “fantasy” speed numbers for their Pentium 4 processors. In our own online magazine tests for product reviews, we’ve found 1.8 to 2.2GHz Mobile Pentium 4 processors are not appreciably faster than 1GHz and below Intel Pentium 3 processor models.

So, it goes to reason that a safe place to “hide” the lack of new and faster desktop hardware for Apple is in the notebook computer market. Keeping in mind that for right now the notebook, or portable

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computer market is the only healthy and growing computer segment, how long can Apple hide here? Not very long, I’m afraid and certainly not for the “year of the notebook for Apple” as Steve Jobs stated.

While Jobs and some other computer market pundits have proclaimed that the notebook may partially replace the desktop, it’s the desktop that makes the big bucks for companies like Apple, where notebook margins are thinner. Apple needs to do something to get Motorola and their potential alternate RISC processor manufacturer IBM off the dime with greatly faster processors.

IBM has a new and revolutionary 64-bit RISC processor called the PowerPC 970 and it currently runs at 1.8GHz. That would be a nice speed jump for Apple, but is it enough? I say no, because you can now get a Dell Windows based PC packed chock full of a 3.0GHz Intel Pentium, fantasy clock speed or not.

I know the reality of the mechanics of G3 and G4 RISC type processors doing more data processing in fewer “processing cycles” (8) than Intel’s P-4 now extremely short (data crunching per cycle time) 32 cycle processing. But the perception of many computer shoppers, especially the “switch from Windows PC’s to Macs” that Apple is pushing, still looks at the speed numbers when buying a computer.
  
Apple has some tough decisions ahead. Do they stick with Motorola and perhaps IBM, or do they “switch” to x86 architecture with processors from Intel or AMD; increasingly easier with the now prolific Mac OS X, which is based on rock solid UNIX BSD.

Time will tell, but time may also be running out. Apple’s product page.



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