G4 chips beef up Power Macs
SAN FRANCISCO (IDG) -- Apple Computer has beefed up the power of its Power Macs with a new microprocessor called the PowerPC G4, which Steve Jobs, the company's interim chief executive officer, colorfully likened to "a supercomputer that's been miniaturized on a sliver of silicon."
Speaking at the Seybold publishing conference here, Jobs also unveiled a giant 22-inch desktop LCD display, dubbed the Apple Cinema Display, which will ship in October priced at $3,999.
He also detailed new features in the Mac OS 9, which will also ship in October and include a voice-enabled password feature and new search capabilities.
True to recent form, it was Apple's hardware announcements that elicited the most cheers from the horde of excitable Apple fans who gathered here to watch Jobs speak.
The PowerPC G4 processor was designed by Apple, IBM and Motorola, and features a new architecture that lets it process data in large, 128-bit chunks, allowing it to make light work of video, voice and graphics applications, Jobs said.
A 400MHz version of the chip is available in the Power Mac G4, priced from $1,599. Apple will also offer a 450MHz version of the chip in September, and a 500MHz version in October, Jobs said. The Power Mac G4 systems look similar to the aqua-blue G3 systems, but come in silver, gray and clear casings.
While the clock speeds don't match those of Intel's fastest chips, the Apple executive claimed his new processors beat the pants off of a 600MHz Pentium III running most applications -- an assertion that Intel will likely refute.
"Of all the machines we've seen, this is the fastest that runs our applications," said John Warnock, chairman and CEO of Adobe Systems, who joined Jobs on stage to help him hawk the new processors.
The new LCD display also drew a gasp of delight from the Apple followers. Jobs warned that the screen will be available in limited supply only, and the company will start taking orders for it Oct. 1. The screen initially will be available only packaged with 450MHz or faster G4 systems, in bundles priced from $6,498, he said.
The Apple chief also detailed new features in the Mac OS 9, the next version of the Macintosh operating system. The OS is due to ship in October, and will be "a biggie, with more than 50 new features," Jobs said.
Among them are an updated version of the Sherlock search system introduced last year, which allows users to search the Web using multiple search engines simultaneously. The new Sherlock acts as a "personal Web shopper" by allowing users to search the contents of user-selected online stores simultaneously, and return results in a price-comparison table.
The company also has extended the Mac's "file sharing" capabilities from the local area network to the Internet, allowing companies to more easily write workflow applications that run across machines in different locations. "The same thing you can do over a LAN with AppleScript, you can now do securely over the Internet with OS 9," Jobs said.
Another software feature, called "keychain," allows users to enter a single password into their machine, which automatically activates all other passwords stored in the computer. The company has also included a voice-enabled password to access OS9, which uses voice-print recognition.
James Niccolai is a U.S. correspondent for the IDG News Service in San Francisco.
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