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Megahertz Manipulation

How fast is your computer? By John Virata
Apple Computer released faster PowerMac G4s this week at Macworld New York, with processor speeds up to 867MHz. These speeds are close to those achieved by Intel and AMD at their entry level, but not at the high end, at least in terms of megahertz. While Apple last year made an effort to deflect the so-called "megahertz gap," the company does realize that most people will continue to ask the number one question people ask each other about their computers: "How fast is your computer?" This question is asked every day at stores that sell computers, and consumers are probably not going to change their computer buying habits any time soon. Fast cars, fast food, fast computers. . .you get the picture.

It seems like Apple is offering faster systems almost every three or four months, so Apple is trying to play the megahertz game as best as Motorola can dole out faster G4 processors. But, comparing an IBM 1.7GHz NetVista to the latest PowerMac G4s (on the Apple website as of July 17, 2001) does not further Apple's goals of educating the consumer. That tactic plays on the same ignorance that Apple is trying to debunk. IBM targets the IBM NetVista at home/home office users and small business/enterprise customers. The IBM IntelliStation line of creative workstations are probably more on par with the PowerMac G4 systems.

But then again, those in the creative media field who use the Macintosh know that processor speed isn't the only factor in determining how fast a computer is. RAM speed, bus speed, and hard drive spindle speeds also contribute to the overall performance of a system, as are stability and the way an application is written for specific operating systems. So what's it going to take for Apple to bridge the "megahertz gap?" AMD processors running Mac OS X doesn't seem like such a bad idea, but will Apple even consider running AMD processors in its Macs? Or redesign the PowerMac motherboard to take advantage of DDR SDRAM that runs at twice the speed of 133MHz SDRAM? Or does speed in this case not matter? In the interim, I think the company is making the right decisions in an effort to get their systems "up to speed." Offering systems with full complements of expandability options such as what is currently being offered in the latest G4 systems (four PCI slots, IDE and SCSI hard drive capabilities, USB and FireWire, etc.) is also an added plus in the creative workstation field. The latest PowerMac G4s are very attractive. But the company should investigate and embrace alternatives to Motorola. OS X should run on virtually any processor given its Unix roots.

Which brings me to software. Apple first acquires Astarte, then it goes and buys Spruce Technologies. In the profesional creative application space, Apple offers Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro. Now the company has Spruce Technologies. A compelling digital video editing and output platform can be had, all from one company. Is this a bad thing? Are software vendors going to take it against Apple for offering competing products? Is Apple a hardware or a software application company? or both? What is Apple going to buy next? A 3D animation system to close the loop?

John Virata is senior producer at Digital Media Net. He still hasn't upgraded his dual G4 to OS X.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at [email protected]
Related Keywords:CPU, speed, mhz, ghz, computer, Apple, Intel


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