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IBM to unveil faster G3 CPU next week

Upgraded iMacs on the way, as well as iBooks?

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Updated IBM will next week unveil the latest member of its G3-class PowerPC 750 family, the chips that currently power Apple's consumer computers, the iBook and iMac.

Apple uses the 500, 600 and 700MHz PowerPC 750CXe in its current iMacs; the iBook uses the 500MHz part.

Little is known about the next member of the 750 family - the name is believed to be the 750FX - but it's likely to extend the part's clock speed above 700MHz and dangerously close to the 800MHz Motorola's G4-class PowerPC 7450 operates at. IBM's roadmap lists its next 7xx-family CPU running at 1GHz or more.

That will give Apple something of a marketing problem - consumer machines clocked the same or higher than its much more expensive professional computers - and highlights the trouble companies like Apple and AMD have with a consumer base that continues to see clock frequencies as the be all and end all of PC performance.

So don't expect faster iMacs to ship until Apple can up the clock speed of the Power Mac line, either with the upcoming G5 processor or the company's stop-gap option, the PowerPC 7460, aka Apollo. If all goes to plan, Power Mac G5s should be launched next January at Macworld Expo San Francisco.

The event could also see the arrival of faster iMacs, possibly in a new enclosure equipped with an LCD screen. The development of an iMac 2 design to replace the computer's current look has been expected for some time - many observers expected it to appear last summer.

If that was the plan, Apple undoubtedly delayed the launch until such a time as the economy and consumer confidence is better able to support it. Apple may well be planning to unveil a new - or at least upgraded - iMac before the Christmas sales period, though much will depend on how the effects on the economy of 11 September pan out.

That won't stop IBM's chip announcement, however, which is still scheduled to take place on 17 October. IBM describes the upcoming chip as one that will offer "both high-performance and low-power features as well as improved bus utilisation, memory management, and reliability".

IBM sources cited by eWeek say the part, codenamed Sahara, is likely to sport a SIMD system (as, we note, will IBM's other launch next week, the PowerPC 704LP), not unlike the G4's AltiVec engine. ®

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