Apple renews IBM chip partnership, launches G5 Macs

Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs kicked off Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday with the renewal of a chip partnership with IBM and the launching of an instant messaging system featuring video and audio capability.

Also unveiled were G5-based hardware and an upgraded version of the Panther OS.

The most significant news of the day was the unveiling of a renewed partnership with IBMs microelectronics division that designed and made the 2GHz G5 processor and the 1GHz front side bus included in the Northbridge chip set that supports the processor. Although there is no formal agreement between the two companies for continued development, Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president of hardware engineering for Apple in Cupertino, Calif., said after the keynote that IBM will be designing all of the processors for Apple's high-end systems and manufacturing them in its fabrication plant in Fishkill, N.Y.

Rubinstein also said that Apple will continue to work with Motorola as well on its other systems.

The PowerPC G5 is a 64-bit processor, like Intel's Itanium, but the G5 will run 32-bit applications natively, Jobs said during the keynote. The Itanium runs 32-bit applications in emulation mode. However, Panther is a 32-bit operating system as is almost all of applications developed for the Mac. Jobs said Apple is leaving it up to the developers to create 64-bit applications.

The G5 performs at a much higher level than the G4. For example, while the G4 is able to handle 16 simultaneous instructions, the G5 can perform 215 instructions simultaneously.

The systems built around the G5 will be offered in three models. A dual-processor unit, with 512MB of 400MHz Dual Channel RAM, 160GB Serial ATA hard drive, and 3 PCI slots, will retail for approximately US$2,999.

At the low end a $1,999 unit includes a single processor, 800MHz front side bus, 256MB of 333-MHz Dual Channel RAM, and an 80GB Serial ATA hard drive.

All units come with Bluetooth, IEEE 802.11g, 4X SuperDrive, three Firewire ports, and USB II ports.

Units begin shipping in August.

The audience saved its biggest cheers for the introduction of iChat AV. The iChat AV system will allow users with a video camera attached to the Firewire port and a broadband connection to the Internet to use full-motion video and audio as part of an instant message session.

In a demonstration of the technology, Jobs clicked on the buddy icon of a friend in Paris. First. Jobs' own video came up, and then he was online with full audio and video to a friend sitting in his Paris apartment with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Following the outbound call, Jobs took an inbound call with the same capabilities from Al Gore. When Jobs informed Gore that he was the third person to publicly use iChat AV Gore responded by saying, "well, it's tough to be first."

There was good news for developers as well at the show. Jobs unveiled Xcode, a new set of developer tools that is five times faster than Apple's current compiler, said Jobs.

Xcode also features a "distributed build" capability. It will give independent software developers the ability to use distributed resources in order to speed up compile times.

"If a developer can find one other available system on the Internet, compile time is faster than the gold standard of compilers, CodeWarrior," said Jobs.

Xcode will ship on Sept. 15, 2003, and is part of the Panther OS. Apple unveiled Version 10.3 of Panther at the show.

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Ephraim Schwartz

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