After killing off its clones and fighting a losing battle to maintain market share, Apple Computer will next week announce its fastest desktop lines to date, based on the Power PC 750, or G3, processor.
This will mark the first G3-based Macintosh systems to hit the market since Apple acquired Power Computing, which was prevented from shipping its faster, 275-MHz G3-based system until its Mac OS 8 licensing agreement was resolved. Apart from the speed of the new processors, they are also notable for the use of backside cache, PowerPC's equivalent technology to the Dual Independent Bus architecture in the Intel Pentium II processor.
Apple sources say the three computers are branded as Apple Power Mac G3 systems, and feature 32MB of RAM and 24-speed CD-ROMs. The lower-end, 233-MHz G3 Desktop, will have a 4Gb hard drive; the 266-MHz G3 Desktop will have 4GB of disk capacity plus an internal Zip drive, and the 266-MHz G3 Minitower will include a 6Gb hard drive, an internal Zip drive, and audio/visual features.
The machines will retail for a price ranging from $2,050, $2,500 and $3,000 respectively, say sources close to Apple. Apple officials were unable to comment on unannounced products.
One analyst says Apple needs to make significant price cuts to remain competitive and to dispel fears that prices will remain high after Apple killed off its competitive clone market.
"They're trying to use this to dispel the rumors, and show that despite getting rid of the clone-makers they're still going to be offering units at aggressive prices," says Rob Enderle, a senior analyst at Giga Information Group in Santa Clara, Calif.
"It's a nice performance jump for people tied to the Mac platform," Enderle said about the new systems. "Any time you get a performance jump as significant as this, it's important to an installed base."
Timing its announcement one week before Comdex begins shows good planning on Apple's part, Enderle adds.
Developers have reacted favorably to the new desktop systems.
"Apple's really pushing the envelope by putting a really fast processor in their Macintosh," said Ben Waldman, general manager of the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft, which plans to ship Office 98 for Macintosh this winter. "As a long-time Mac user myself, I'm happy to see Macs getting faster and faster and faster."