January 29, 2005
Powerbook G5: Tantalizing and yet Dubious Signs
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Apple is now overdue for an update to their laptop Powerbook line: usually new versions of the line come out every seven or eight months at most, and this is month nine since the last release. Usually a new release is just a speed bump, that is, the computers feature a slightly faster processor and little else that has changed. Once every few years the computer changes more significantly, changing in form or basic design, or adding new features. And every three or four years there is a huge jump, one to a completely new processor, like the jump from the G3 to the G4 in 2001, when they changed from the rounded black encasing to the slimmer, square-but-sleek titanium enclosure--and, of course, got the much better G4 chip.
The G5 chip has been out there for some time, but like the G4 chip, it did not go into the Powerbook line quite some time (and may not yet). It took a year and four months for the G4 to appear in a Powerbook after first appearing in a PowerMac (desktop) model. Well, the G5 was introduced about a year and four months ago, so isn't it time for a G5 Powerbook? Whatever the case, a new Powerbook release is imminent: reports starting in France and now spreading indicate that the current Powerbook line has been EOL'd, or end-of-life'd--in other words, Apple is no longer restocking the current models, a proven sign that a new model release is imminent. But what model? A G5?
Not so, say many: the G5 is a blazing chip, and not just in speed: it also introduces significant heat radiation--something the Powerbook G4 was infamous for, but for the G5 to an even greater degree. Apple has been developing a liquid-cooling system to handle the heat in smaller case designs, but the word on the street is that Apple is not ready to release such a laptop--unless the beast weighs 8 pounds and is three inches thick, so they say. Instead, rumor sites are reporting that the next model will be a speed-bumped G4, at speeds of 1.5 and 1.67 GHz, maybe with a bigger hard drive, better video memory and new Bluetooth built-in. Some whisper about the Powerbook going dual-processor, or that the chip will be dual-core. But few indeed expect the new Powerbook to be a G5.
Nevertheless, there are tantalizing bits and pieces of news floating around out there that Apple may shock everyone. The first report came about two weeks ago in a journal called DigiTimes, which featured a report from Taiwan that certain factories there had received orders to produce Powerbook G5s and, strangely enough, iBook G5s as well. Some thought it to be a typo, but the iBook information noted that they would be producing the "iBook/iBook G5," noting a clear difference between the G4 and G5 iBook. According to the report, both iBook and Powerbook G5 models would start shipping in "2Q 2005." Many doubted the story, however, not just because of the heat problems in the G5 and common reports that the G5 Powerbook is way off still, but also from the idea that a Powerbook and iBook G5 would start shipping at about the same time--it took almost three years for the G4 to make it to the iBook after the Powerbook got the chip.
So the collective community settled back and more or less disregarded the article as a non-starter. But then, just a day or two ago, The Register reported that one of their readers pointed them to a literally tiny clue that the Powerbook G5 might be real and imminent: on Apple's own web site, on the page for the Powerbook, the source code for the page revealed a miniscule, single-pixel blank image used to count how many people access the page. These one-pixel-images are often employed and are named after the devices featured on the page. The filename for this image: apple_g5_powerbook.gif. Within an hour after the image was sighted and reported, Apple yanked it off the page, replacing it with a "g4" pixel, but the damage was done: rumors started flaring that this was yet another infamous Apple accidental leak, like when images of the then-new Power Mac G5 release were featured on Apple's pages the night before the product was officially announced--only the images, the text still reflected the older models.
This kind of thing happens fairly often, in fact; when preparing for a new model release, a great number of changes have to be made in advance for the web sites, and sometimes things slip through--images are accidentally renamed and replace others, bits of advance work are mistakenly published.
Or, of course, it might have been an honest typo--the difference was just between a "4" and a "5" in the code, after all.
But then, another strange clue appeared: someone found that on the French-Canadian Apple web site, on a page for--oddly enough--a discontinued model of an Apple monitor (the 17-inch Apple Studio Display, replaced almost three years ago), there appeared a mention of the Powerbook G5--look near the bootom of the page, under the last paragraph, titled "Configuration requise": "L’Apple Studio Display nécessite un Power Mac G5 avec un connecteur ADC ou un PowerBook G5 avec un port DVI vers ADC Apple...." Translated, it means, "The Apple Studio Display requires a Power Mac G5 with an ADC or a PowerBook G5 with a DVI port and an Apple DVI to ADC Adapter."
The English version of the Canadian page has no such mention of the Powerbook G5. Some say that this new page also represents a typo--but the page previously said "G4," and was probably not completely rewritten--which means that someone actively changed "G4" to "G5." In addition this is now the second "typo" for a "Powerbook G5" on Apple's own web pages in as many days, and such typos have not been happening before now. It is beginning to look more and more like the usual leaking of bits of info as a flood of Powerbook G5 web page code changes well up behind the corporate secrecy dam. And Apple has completely surprised everyone before.
So when will we know? Barring the release of even more evidence before an official announcement, we are likely to be informed by Apple of what's cooking in their famous Tuesday announcement, when they often reveal new stuff coming out. And of course, an announcement is not the same as an actual release--even if a Powerbook G5 is announced in four days, it might not actually ship until March, April, or even May (which would fall into the second-quarter range mentioned by DigiTimes).
For me, that would mean a new computer on my desk maybe a month after units first ship. The delay would be to let others be guinea pigs, as new processor releases often have first-generation bugs, and if I read that the bugs are significant enough, I will be able to hang in there long enough for the first revisions to come out, likely by next January.
Posted by: Andrew at January 29, 2005 06:32 PM
Posted by: Luis at January 29, 2005 07:09 PM
Posted by: Morgan at January 29, 2005 10:53 PM
Posted by: Luis at January 30, 2005 12:01 AM
Posted by: Morgan at January 30, 2005 12:30 AM
Posted by: Luis at January 30, 2005 12:36 AM
Posted by: Morgan at January 30, 2005 02:10 AM
Posted by: Morgan at January 30, 2005 02:12 AM