Apple renews IBM chip partnership and launches G5 Macs

Apple Computer chief executive officer Steve Jobs kicked off Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco with the...

Apple Computer chief executive officer Steve Jobs kicked off Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco with the renewal of a chip partnership with IBM and the launch of an instant messaging system featuring video and audio capability.

G5-based hardware and version 10.3 of the Panther operating system were also unveiled.

IBM's microelectronics division designed and made the 2GHz G5 processor and the 1GHz front side bus included in the Northbridge chip set that supports the processor. Although there is no formal agreement between the two companies for continued development, Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president of hardware engineering for Apple, said that IBM will design and manufacture all of the processors for Apple's high-end systems.

Rubinstein added that Apple will continue to work with Motorola on its other systems.

The PowerPC G5 is a 64-bit processor, like Intel's Itanium, but the G5 will run 32-bit applications natively, Jobs said. The Itanium runs 32-bit applications in emulation mode. However, Panther is a 32-bit operating system, as are almost all of applications developed for the Mac. Jobs said Apple is leaving it up to the developers to create 64-bit applications.

The G5 can perform 215 instructions simultaneously, compared with 16 simultaneous instructions for the G4.

The systems built around the G5 will be offered in three models. A dual-processor unit, with 512MB of 400MHz dual channel RAM, 160GB Serial ATA hard drive, and  three PCI slots, will retail for approximately $2,999 (£1,800).

At the low end ,a $1,999 unit includes a single processor, 800MHz front side bus, 256MB of 333-MHz Dual Channel RAM, and an 80GB Serial ATA hard drive.

All units come with Bluetooth, IEEE 802.11g, 4X SuperDrive, three Firewire ports, and USB II ports.

Units begin shipping in August.

However, the audience saved its biggest cheers for the introduction of iChat AV, a system which will allow users with a video camera attached to the Firewire port and a broadband connection to the internet to use full-motion video and audio as part of an instant message session.

Jobs also unveiled Xcode, a set of developer tools claimed to be five times faster than Apple's existing compiler, said.

Xcode also features a "distributed build" capability. It will give independent software developers the ability to use distributed resources to speed up compile times.

"If a developer can find one other available system on the internet, compile time is faster than the gold standard of compilers, CodeWarrior," said Jobs.

Xcode will ship on 15 September, and is part of the Panther OS.

Ephraim Schwartz writes for InfoWorld

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