The Northern Spy: 2001 12 09
This month marks the first anniversary of the all-electronic Northern Spy. To commemorate, I've recycled a title last used as "Prognostics 1985--The Hardware Industry (Computek March 1985)".
As a long-time watcher over the fruit industry, I've every reason to ask what buds the Apple tree is putting out these days. After all, their desktops have been stuck under 1GHz far longer than is comfortable in view of P*nt**m speeds starting to push the 2GHz mark. As the platform wars wage elsewhere, continued quiet at Cupertino becomes deafening.
Now, arguments from silence would make terrible Biblical exegesis, but in this case, it's a given that something's got to happen soon, and that Jobs knows it. It's time for a major move, for otherwise, more market share will slide away.
Something big is in the wind, and big Steve has just been more than usually successful in stifling the usual "informed sources". The Spy's prediction: January (perhaps Expo) will see announcements of new desktop machines in the 1.0GHz to 1.6GHz range, with speeds going over the 2GHz mark by the end of 2002. At the top of the line, look for 1G of faster memory drive space in the 60G range, and a new FireWire bus at double the old speed. Since white seems to make the style statement of the moment, colour (or don't colour) the new machines that way, for the theatre of the mind at least.
Will the new machines have Motorola's new G5 chip? They have to, at least at the top end. There have been too many problems getting G4 chips to perform at the higher speeds, and the architecture appears to have topped out under 1GHZ--a huge disappointment to all concerned. According to Motorola's own roadmap, the new G5 chip is backwards compatible with 32-bit code (presumably including AltiVec), will also come in 64-bit flavours, and will run at 2GHz and up, though initial production runs will surely be slower. (Clock chipping, anyone?)
Putting the new chips into the laptops won't be as high a priority. Perhaps the TiBook will get an interim speed bump into the 867MHz range, with a redesign later in the year. Alternately, the iBook line might be expanded to a big brother. I've been happy with the TiBook form factor, but the old trackpads are problematic, and the DVD issue needs attention if these machines are to be regarded as cutting edge.
Meanwhile Apple may have shot the bolt (and the budget) on gadgets for now with its iPad. I still think a PDA/Bookreader with their logo could do well, but it seems less likely than a year ago. Perhaps a partnership with Sony, or (irony of ironies) with Franklin could serve. One thing is apparent. The old one with IBM has gone by the boards.
--The Northern Spy