return shine to former also-ran
by Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver
Issue #725 September 16-22, 2003 High Tech Office column
Way back before
the turn of the century, fans of Apple's computers could boast
that their G3 and G4-powered Macs outpaced their Windows competition,
citing ads claiming that, like a shark, Powerbook notebooks "ate
Pentiums for lunch." But fierce competition between chipmakers Intel
and AMD pushed PC speeds way up. Macs remained stylish and easy to
use, but victims of the "gigahertz gap."
No more. With
the release of a new series of PowerMac towers powered by the new, IBM-built
G5 processor, Apple's back as a contender in this high-tech equivalent
of a drag race. As the first 64-bit computer processor designed for a
personal computer, the G5 gulps data in larger, more efficient chunks
than the competition. And knowing that a powerful processor is just one
factor in building fast computers, Apple redesigned its new towers from
the ground up, using state-of-the-art technologies to speed data in
and out of the drives and to the screen.
previous-generation G4 towers, the new models have been carefully
engineered to run quietly in the background.
currently top out with speeds of up to two GHz, compared to three GHz
or so for top-of-the-line PC processors. But the efficient design lets
Apple claim that they now have "the world's fastest personal
computer," both measured on abstract benchmark tests and on more
real-world comparisons using photo editing, music creation and
scientific analysis software.
Few of us ever
buy a top-of-the-line computer, but having Apple back in the game will
push high-performance technologies into the broad middle-market,
benefiting the rest of us. But fast computers aren't all that Apple has
Back in 1997,
when the adjective most applied to Apple was "beleaguered," this
column looked at Barry Shell, of SFU's Centre for
Systems Science. Though a long-time Mac user, he had recently
"I was into
Mac, because it was the bleeding edge. Best graphics, best video, best
sound, amazing voice stuff, etc. Today, this is simply not true. All
the newest and coolest stuff comes out in Windows months and even
years before Mac... The Internet is a much nicer experience on the PC.
More new, clever Internet applications are coming out on the PC every
week. I wish I could say the same thing for the Mac," he said, to
justify the move.
Shell switched back, replacing the latest of a series of IBM Thinkpad
notebooks with Apple's new light-weight 12-inch G4 Powerbook, and
replacing Windows with Apple's OS X operating system.
operating system is now arguably superior to Windows. Apple has
brought Unix to the desktop. An incredible feat," he suggested. "Price
has come down significantly to the point that a nicely appointed Mac
is just about the same price as the equivalent PC, or only a few
hundred dollars more, not thousands. With my Mac, life is easier.
Setting up the Internet, switching locations, and downloading stuff
works either easier or more elegantly on the Mac. Everything just
works, and sensibly, too. I can go for weeks and even months without
"So, after six
years, I came back. And it feels great."
continued innovation in hardware and software has provided the company
with a product line that retains the affection of creative
professionals. Its Unix and standards-based software and its server,
desktop and notebook computers are getting increased attention from
corporate IT departments, finally gaining the company business
credibility beyond its stronghold on the graphics department.