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Insiders, channel point to PowerBook updates

Sometime this week, apparently

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Apple is on the verge of releasing updates across its PowerBook line - possibly as early as later today - including the long-awaited aluminium-cased 15in models.

Reliable sources cited by O'Grady's PowerPage effectively confirm an earlier Think Secret story that Apple wrapped up development of new aluminium 15in PowerBooks - internally dubbed 'Q16', apparently - earlier this month.

PowerPage claims the new model sports a 1.25GHz G4 processor and support for 800Mbps 1394, aka FireWire 800. The new 15in PowerBook presents all its ports on the right-hand side of the machine. In looks, says PowerPage's source, the new model looks like a scaled-down 17in model - it even features the latter's illuminated keyboard.

Comments made by Apple notebook manufacturer Compal suggest the new model will boast a 15.4in display. Back in June, a Compal staffer claimed the company would be shipping a 15.4in PowerBook to Apple during the second half of the year. Now would be an ideal time, in order to catch the traditionally lucrative 'back to school' market.

PowerBook model codes allegedly embedded in a Mac OS X 10.3 Panther application have also suggested the arrival of new 12in and 17in notebooks.

The 17in model has been revised, Think Secret notes, and both sites forecast that Apple will update the 12in model too. Details of what Apple has done to update either machine are scarce, but faster processors top users' wish lists.

With HP and Toshiba now both offering 17in Windows notebooks, Apple needs an update to highlight its innovation leadership in the mobile market.

US channel sources cited by a variety of Apple-watching web sites point to low inventory levels of all three machines, particularly the 15in model. Our own sources tell us that Apple has long since ceased offering resellers new 15in demo machines, suggesting that it no longer sees the Titanium PowerBook as a model to be promoted.

That's been the case for some time, and speculation has centred on Motorola's timescale for the release of the PowerPC 7457 processor, the 130nm die-shrink of the current G4, the 180nm 7455. That is officially expected to clock at 1.3GHz, but Motorola has long offered above-spec. 7455s to Apple, and may do so with the 7457. Either way, the chip wasn't originally due to ship until Q4, though evidence unearthed by The Register suggests that the part may appear sooner.

Produced using a smaller fabrication process than the 7455, the 7457 is expected to be able to clock as high as the 7455 but consume sufficiently less power and generate less heat to enable it to be used in a notebook. ®

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