Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    Apple advances 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.

    And unlike previous-generation G4 towers, the new models have been carefully engineered to run quietly in the background.

    The G5s 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 to offer.

    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 switched.

    "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.

    This year, 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.

    "The OS-X 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 rebooting.

    "So, after six years, I came back. And it feels great."

    Apple's 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.

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan