Apple RoadMap Past and Future
What happened to Motorola's G5?
Apple had fully working prototype machines over a year ago, and Motorola was set to go into volume production early in 2002. On December 10, Chris Galvin phoned Steve Jobs announcing that the G5 will be delayed for at least 3 months due to glitches in its 0.13 micron process, which resulted in very low yields, and chips malfunctioning after a very short period of time. On December 17, Motorola announced to Apple that the G5 was delayed for at least 6 months, and then on February 25th Steve Jobs received a bombshell announcement that Motorola was ceasing development on the G5 indefinitely because it was making drastic cuts on R&D, and its main market is not desktop processors, but rather embedded processors. Days later, Apple reclaimed all its test boxes from key developers. Motorola instead has chosen to eke out as much performance as it can out of its G4 processors.
Where does this leave Apple?
During the G4 fiasco, Apple began looking to IBM for its next generation processor. In the fall of 2000, IBM assembled its 970 development team at the request of Apple. The objective was to have the performance of the Power 4, at a much lower cost. IBM also saw potential in this chip for its linux solutions. IBM began delivering Apple engineering samples of the 970 in May of this year, about the time the 970 was taped out. Apple has numerous working prototypes, and will begin to send them to key developers later this month.
How does this fit in to Apple's desktop and server roadmap?
Apple is in for another G4 drought in early 2003, whereby Motorola may not be able to push the G4 above 1.3 Ghz, which would be a paltry 50 Mhz speed bump with the upcoming 7457 G4. Right now, 7457 G4 yields above 1.3 Ghz are poor, as Motorola still has problems with their 0.13 Micron process IBM expects to be shipping the 970 in quantity early in Q3 of next year, in which time Apple will unveil the new pro desktops. The most likely introduction date is a Macworld NY keynote announcement, and if that does not materialize, Seybold will be the venture. Both the pro desktops and Xserve will not go much beyond 1.3 Ghz, though 1.5 Ghz may materialize should Motorola be able to come through, even though they might be a prototype version like the current 1.25Ghz version that is now shipping. The new Xserves will also have ATA 133, and will come with drive sizes up to 320GB (Maxtor), giving a total of 1.2 Terabytes.
How will these machines be branded?
Many people were expecting that Apple would be branding the 970 as the G5. This is quite a point of contention at Apple right now among the marketing people. The 970 is truly not a 5th generation processor, because the Power 4 is IBM's 4th generation processor, or if you would call it, a second generation 64-bit processor. No decision is expected until around WWDC.
What processors will Apple use in future generations of Macs?
Apple will stay with PowerPC for at least two more generations. Currently in development is the 980 processor, which is a single core variant of the upcoming power 5, which has VMX, which is due at the same time as the Power 5 in Q3 2004. It will feature fast path technology, which is similar to Intel's rapid execution unit to take over tasks that software currently handles more slowly. It will have simultaneous multi threading, which allows one chip to function as two. All future Power series processors beginning with the Power 5 will also have VMX. The 990 successor will appear in Q1 2006, and will be built on a 65nm process.
Consumer macs will remain with Motorola for 2003. In 2004, it is uncertain whether Motorola will produce the 7457RM G4, which will top 2Ghz, and feature new bus topology, and Rapid IO. It is essentially what the G5 was intended on being, except being scaled back in some respects.
What about rumors of OS X on Intel?
Marklar is even more of a going concern than ever. Contrary to circulating rumors, it is not meant to be a Power PC exit strategy. Rather, it is intended to be offered to X86 users when Apple sees market conditions being fit for it. What it means by this is regarding Intel's Lagrande technology, and Microsoft's Palladium technology. Apple intends on releasing OS X on Intel, when consumer dissatisfaction falls to an all time low for Microsoft when users become restricted to what they can do on their PC's due to Lagrande and Palladium. Likely it will be released in the event that Microsoft chooses to stop developing for the Mac platform altogether.
What new products can we expect?
An eight way 2U Xserve is currently in the works, and will be based on the 970, and will switch over to the Power 5. It will be Apple's high end server, and the name Xserve enterprise edition has been proposed. A high end multiprocessor workstation class pro model is also in the works. The name XStation has been proposed for it, and it could debut a year from now. It will feature Nvidia's highest end Quadro or equivalent graphics card, and it will feature the upcoming Power 5 chip from IBM.