School shipments delay 64-bit G5 orders

It’s a quieter, faster Power Mac and Apple is hoping to gain a larger share of the scientific research market with the G5, featuring a 64-bit processor. But if you want one, you may be waiting a while — shipments have been delayed as

the company fills orders for its education market.

First released in June, conservative numbers put sales of the G5 at about 100,000 in North America. (Apple Canada did not have numbers for shipments in this country.) However, Wednesday, Apple confirmed it might be the end of September before the machines are shipped as the company tries to fulfill orders to schools and universities.

Not traditionally a big player in the scientific community, Apple says it is bringing forward the G5 because customers it serves in the video and graphic as well as education and research market were asking for a faster machine.

Developed in partnership with IBM, the 64-bit processor is based on the IBM 64-bit Power4 processor that has been used in IBM’s ebusiness servers for some time now.

“”Watching our professional customers, what they were saying was they wanted things to happen faster. They wanted to get the computing out of the way and let the researchers do the research,”” said Bruce Hough, consulting engineer with Apple Canada in Markham.

The G5 has also been given a new look in the form of an aluminum shell and redesigned chassis that is supposed to cool components more efficiently. It features up to 8GB of addressable memory for use in high-resolution media files and large data sets. It claims to be the world’s first 64-bit desktop processor and is priced in three categories depending on the configuration (1.6GHz, 1.8GHz and 2GHz): $2,799, $3,399 and $4,199.

“”It’s not just a faster engine in a Volkswagen Beetle. We’ve redesigned the machine from the ground up,”” said Hough. “”The 64-bit architecture means it can address a huge amount of memory and more memory equals more performance and the more you can keep in RAM the faster the whole process will be.””

Hough compared the difference between 32-bit architecture and 64-bit to the difference between a 4-by-6 inch postcard and 4.3 billion postcards, or 29.4 square miles.

“”If memory requirements doubled each year, this processor could last 32 years,”” he said.

IDC research analyst for mobile and personal computing Eddie Chan said Q2 results for PC sales were released after the G5 shipped, so sales figures in Canada were not available. Chan did say Apple will be going after some specific markets first — those with applications created specifically to make use of 64-bit computing, such as Adobe PhotoShop 7.0.1.

The G5s are also shipping with an enhanced version of Mac OS X version 10.2.7 to leverage the 64-bit processor.

Gaming enthusiasts and those employed in the graphics and video editing fields will also be on the list of interested buyers. But until other applications catch up to 64-bit computing, Chan said, it will be the hard-core enthusiasts who will be buying the upgrade from the G4.

“”For general office applications and productivity suites you are not going to see a major boost in performance. It’s really a question of multi-tasking, whether the apps are actually developed with that in mind — for example, PhotoShop that is coded to utilize 64-bit computing.

“”They are going to get those markets on board, but as it stands on that progression, it’s still early. You will have some early adopters who are thinking down that path but until the software community is really behind that — obviously Microsoft has indicated support for 64-bit code in their next OS — it will be still some time before everyone is migrating down that path,”” said Chan.

In Canada, Macintosh G4s are currently being used at Calgary Foothills Hospital in its medical imaging department, said Hough.

However, Hough said while the G5 presents many opportunities for resellers to tap new customers, selling to the research market is being done directly by Apple, with service provided by the institutions themselves or a third party.

“”This is a huge growth area, but we’re not expecting the general reseller to walk into hospitals to sell this,”” he said.

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