CNET G5 Powerbook Article

3 minute read

I thought I’d link the CNET article on G5 Powerbooks as David Becker was kind enough to email me and ask my opinions. Unfortunately, it seems that they couldn’t use any of my ramblings, but I thought it might be of interest to publish what I wrote, considering my rather short, lackluster writeup on the new Powerbooks.

David sent me the below email with questions.

Hi–my name is Dave Becker, and I’m a reporter for CNET Saw your bloggings on matters Mac and hoped you might be willing to offer your comments on possible/planned G5 PowerBooks.

— How hungry is the Mac community for these? Do want one yourself?

— What if it meant having to design somethiong that departed from Apple’s slim and quiet aesthetic?

— What would be the advatages of a G5 PowerBook over a G4 running at similar speed?

Thanks for your help, David Becker, staff writer CNET

I responded with:

I’d be more than willing. Thanks for asking. I’ll answer the questions in turn.

Large portions of the Mac community are very interested. In particular, the more vocal parts that participate in forums. However, I’m not sure if that’s entirely representative of the Mac community at large. I’m inclined to think that even some of the newer users recognize the general emphasis placed upon the generation number of the processor. A G5 inherently sounds more powerful than a G4, and it is.

However, whether the same users that cry out for G5 speed need or can even really utilize is a question I’ve yet to be seen answered definitively. I’ll speak more to that later. As for myself, it’s tempting. I know I don’t need one, but having a Powerbook G5 is just so damn cool. It’s bragging rights and a status symbol. However, I just got a new 12″ Powerbook last summer (though outdated by today’s announcement) which more than satisfies my needs. I’ve also got a Powermac G4 sitting upstairs that also has plenty of life in it. I can’t justify spending the money just yet. Then again, if you guys at CNet feel like sending me one, I won’t refuse it. 😉

The question of aesthetics is astute. Apple (at least under Steve Jobs) makes looks and feel a top priority. Would the original iMac or the iMac G4 have been such hot sellers without looking so good? I doubt it. The drastic difference in sales and the state of Apple pre and post iMac is proof positive. However, I don’t doubt that Apple will find a way to integrate both the beautiful and powerful. I think the real question is whether the whole Powerbook line will go G5 all at once. The extra space afforded by a 17″ or 15″ case facilitates better thermal management than could be possible in a 12″ case. We may see a period where just the 17″ or the 17″ and 15″ are G5s while the Powerbook 12″ is marketed as an ultra-portable with extended battery life as it will inevitably consume far less energy than even a low power G5.

The first and foremost advantage of a G5 Powerbook is marketability. One can imagine the commercials already. “The power of supercomputer in your bag.” The supercomputer reference would naturally be to the Virginia Tech G5 cluster System X. The actual technical advantages would primarily be growth potential and bus speed. A half speed or even third speed bus would be easily three times as fast as the current bus. However, the utility of this is unclear in the context of a portable. The real advantage of having such a powerful bus is being able to manipulate many high speed devices. In order to force that situation with a Powerbook, it would essentially need to be chained to a desk negating portability. This might be of real interest of those that don’t do the majority of their work on the road, but only occasionally do so and primarily use their laptop as a desktop replacement. If that’s the market segment they go after, then they may be able to get away with a less aesthetic, larger, more utilitarian portable. It could be a whole new line, named something like the Xbook or similar. I’m not sure about any other advantages as the main limiting factor for Powerbooks as I see it are the video cards. The just don’t measure up to desktop video cards and that will prevent the Powerbooks from being as powerful as many Powerbook G5 proponents want.

I hope some of what I’ve said is useful. Please write back if need any clarification. I look forward to anything you might write using any of this. Please send me the link if you do. Thanks for the opportunity.