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Motorola slammed with PPC G4 supply limitation allegations

Preventing IBM from shipping faster chips than it can, claim sources

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Motorola is acting like a spoiled brat by using contractual obligations to prevent IBM selling fast PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) to Apple just because it can't produce enough of them itself. That's the claim made by "contacts throughout the Apple-IBM-Motorola PowerPC alliance", according to MacOS Rumors - though by the sounds of it 'alliance' isn't the right word at all. The allegations centre on problems Motorola has had getting the G4 beyond 500MHz. Last year, a bug in the chip prevented it running at that clock speed, forcing Apple to withdraw its 500MHz Power Mac G4. By the end of 1999, a revision to the G4 allowed the chip to operate at 500MHz, and Motorola has been trickling processors into Apple ever since. The key word here is 'trickling'. According to sources from within IBM and Motorola, the latter is having major problems producing sufficient numbers of the CPUs. Apple signed up IBM late last year to second-source G4s because the likelihood of that very problem. IBM staffers claim to have identified problems with the G4 production process, but have figured out ways around them, and the company is now able to churn out not only 500MHZ G4s, but 600 and 650MHz parts in decent volumes too. And since IBM's yields are higher than Motorola's, it can charge less per chip than its rival. Fine, but according to the sources, Motorola is severely pissed off about IBM's success and its own failure here, and is allegedly using certain clauses in its AltiVec licensing deal with IBM to limit Big Blue's ability to sell to Apple. The irony here is that IBM's support for AltiVec is relatively recent, having been largely driven by its need to develop of a high-performance PowerPC processor for Nintendo's next-generation Dolphin games console. Certainly IBM wasn't too keen on AltiVec before last year, having decided that the technology has little value in servers and embedded applications, which are IBM's chief markets for PowerPC chips. IBM's decision not to back AltiVec when the technology was launched almost split the IBM-Motorola alliance apart, and as it was led to a breach that took over a year to heal. Or so we thought. Perhaps Motorola's latest actions - if the rumours are to be believed; and it's important to stress these are only rumours - show a long-held bitterness against its former busom-buddy. ®

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