G4s Go Back to the Future

SAN FRANCISCO (03/28/2000) - Take a stab at this riddle: When is a new product upgrade not really all that new? Answer: When it was first announced several months before its release. Apple Computer Inc. (800/795-1000, http://www.apple.com) has boosted the processor speeds on its Power Mac G4 product line, with the fastest G4 now clocking in at 500MHz. The G4 systems also come in 400MHz and 450MHz versions.

Don't be alarmed if that news feels like deja vu. Apple first announced these souped-up desktops in fall 1999.

Why the delay? Chip supplier Motorola couldn't deliver enough 500MHz G4 processors. A chagrined Apple had to reconfigure its G4 line with lower-speed chips but sold the slower machines at the same prices it had set for the faster models. Adding to Apple's public-relations woes, the company gave conflicting information on which G4 orders would be honored.

With IBM soon joining Motorola in supplying processors, Apple has enough of them on hand to release the 500MHz G4s. Apple will sell the faster machines at the prices it announced last fall: $3,499 for the 500MHz G4, $2,499 for the 450MHz model, and $1,599 for the 400MHz version.

The G4 comes with a subprocessor, dubbed Velocity Engine, that processes data with an expanded instruction set. As a result, a G4 processor can render graphics, encode sound, and perform calculations faster than a G3 can.

The catch? Developers have to modify their applications to take advantage of Velocity Engine features. Adobe has released Velocity Engine plug-ins for Photoshop 5.5 and After Effects 4.1, and other Macintosh developers have followed suit with new versions of software. Velocity EngineÐfriendly products include Casady & Greene's SoundJam MP, Terran Interactive's Media Cleaner Pro, Linker's Animation Stand 4.1, Heuris's MPEG Power Professional, Play's Amor-phium, and Sonic Solutions' DVD Fusion.

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