Motorola says PowerPC G4 Apollo to ship early 2002

On schedule

Motorola has confirmed that the next generation of the PowerPC G4 family, codenamed Apollo, will ship early next year - if the company sticks to its current release schedule.

The admission, made by a Motorola spokesman cited by Web site MacCentral, makes the launch of faster Power Mac desktops at Macworld Expo in San Francisco early next month more likely. That said, it doesn't answer the question of whether Apple will brand the boxes G5 or G4.

The Motorola spokesman doesn't appear to have said anything else about Apollo beyond reiterating what the company said when it announced the chip in October 2000 at the Microprocessor Forum. Then, the company pitched Apollo as a 0.18 micron chip built using a silicon-on-insulator process. That and other architectural enhancements will allow Apollo to reach and hopefully exceed 1GHz.

In common with the current top-end PowerPC, the 7451, Apollo will contain 256KB of on-die L2 cache, support up to 2MB of external L3 cache and provide 36-bit addressing through the MaxBus system bus. Unlike the 7451, Apollo's internal bus is 256 bits wide

One other point the spokesman made was to stress Motorola's commitment to the G4 family. That follows comments made by the company's European marketing chief, Paul Clark, that the company believes there's plenty of mileage left in the G4 family.

This is an interesting point, because it mirrors PowerPC partner IBM's belief that the G4's predecessor, the G3 family, is good for a few more years yet. Indeed, IBM's announcement last October of a 1GHz G3-class PowerPC, the 750FX, threatened to beat Motorola to the 'gigahertz barrier'.

Motorola's keenness on the G4 may suggest that it's less keen on the architecture's successor, the G5. Yes, Motorola has announced two G5 processors, but both are aimed squarely at embedded applications and are unsuitable for desktop Macs - or portables, for that matter. What Motorola has said about the G5 to date suggests that it sees the platform as a very broad successor to the G4, and that the company is pursuing a two-strand strategy: G5 becomes the company's high-end embedded family, while an evolving G4 continues to be targeted at desktop customers.

If this is an accurate analysis of the company's position - something it itself is unwilling to comment on - then it opens the prospect of a number of different processors all called G5: an embedded line from Motorola and, if those who claim to be Apple and Motorola insiders are correct, a desktop processor designed primarily by Apple but fabbed by IBM and/or Motorola. Both would likely be based on the same core, but offer very different functionality for their target markets.

Of course, that picture depends on the accuracy of the leaks, which do appear to come from multiple sources. But while Apple and Motorola refuse to comment, Mac users have little else to go on. ®

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Related Link

MacCentral: Apollo G4 on schedule to ship early 2002