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Apple panic preps Power Mac G4 proxy

'Yikes!' to temporarily replace much-delayed troublesome 'Sawtooth'

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Reports on The Register back in July that Apple may not ship Power Macs based on the upcoming PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) appear to have been confirmed by sources within the Mac maker. Previously, we reported that attendees at an Apple publishing roadshow in Toronto had been told by company people that the Power Mac G4, also known by its codename, Sawtooth, would not be shipping until May 2000. That information came hard on the heels of claims from Motorola insiders that the chip company was having real problems getting its final silicon done on the PPC 7400. Motorola immediately contacted The Register to deny the rumours -- head of semiconductor marketing Will Swearingen promised the chip would get a major launch during calendar Q3 1999. We're already half-way through that period... Swearingen would not (understandably) comment on Apple's PPC7400 support, but his promise suggested the problem with the Power Mac G4 was not the CPU but the machines new motherboard design. And, according to Mac-monitoring Web site AppleInsider, it's now emerging that that is indeed the case. Reports there reckon that Apple is having a tough time getting Sawtooth up to production standard quality, and has fallen back on a safety measure to ship a version of the current Power Mac G3 with a PPC 7400 installed. The project's codename, Yikes!, tells you all you need to know about its urgency. Having to wait until sometime next year to ship a PPC 7400-based Mac won't do Apple any favours at all given the momentum building behind Intel's Pentium III and, more specifically, that chip's Streaming SIMD Extension (SSE) technology. SSE is geared towards accelerating multimedia and communications applications, as is the 7400's AltiVec technology. By all accounts, AltiVec is far better than SSE, and Mac developers are already building AltiVec support into their applications. Both facts will count for nothing if Apple can't ship a box that contains AltiVec until the middle of next year. According to AppleInsider, Yikes! will look like the current Power Mac G3, but coloured metallic grey rather than the G3's vivid turquoise. Well, it's better then beige, but it still sounds like a step back to us -- unless Apple's research suggests professional buyers don't like colourful computers because it makes them seem insufficiently 'serious'. The machines will also debut with new professional-oriented full-size keyboard and a decent, non-circular mouse. The Yikes! Power Mac G4 will be offered with 400, 450 and 500MHz PPC7400s. With Intel pushing up to 600MHz, Apple will probably have to go for the higher clock speeds simply so it doesn't appear to be lagging in performance, even though the chips are up to 30 per cent faster than the current PowerPC 750 and way faster than equivalently-clocked PIIIs. Of course, how much performance Mac users will get give the limitations of the current G3 motherboard remain to be seen. Certainly, the Yikes! boxes lack Sawtooth's support for Intel's AGP (Advanced Graphics Port), relying instead on PCI. AGP accelerates graphics performance by giving graphics data its own, dedicated channel between the processor and the graphics card. Yikes! may also ship with DVD-ROM as standard. ®

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