Macworld Expo: Even More Words
Continued from 'Macworld Expo: More Words'….
Jobs devoted the rest of his keynote to Mac hardware and software. After a 'plug' of the company's latest Aperture application (likely intended to counteract the public beta of Lightroom that Adobe had unveiled one day earlier), Jobs announced that the OS 10.4.4 upgrade was now available for download. Among other things, it includes more Apple-developed widgets (a 'plug' likely intended to counteract Yahoo's plug of its Widget Engine the prior week at CES), bringing the total number of widgets available for 'Tiger' (OS 10.4) to more than 1,500.
Next, Jobs unveiled iLife '06, the latest yearly upgrade of its $79 multimedia application suite. iPhoto and iVideo now include RSS publishing capability (if you've also invested in a $100-per-year .Mac account, that is). Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), the RSS feeds seem to be compatible with Apple's RSS-viewer-inclusive Safari browser but little else. Sigh…. iDVD now supports third-party DVD drives, including those with dual-layer capabilities; PatchBurn is no longer required (at least for these particular apps). GarageBand's features have been beefed up for, among others, podcasters, and the another member of the company's Jam Pack suite (this time showcasing World Music loops) has also been released. Notably, there was no mention of an iTunes update (although there was a minor one, complete with multi-speaker streaming and controversy, along with minor upgrades to QuickTime and Safari). And Apple added a sixth application, iWeb, for website content publishing.
Although Jobs ran his keynote on Keynote, the iWork '06 upgrade coverage got comparatively short shrift. Like iLife, it comes in $79 and family-five-pack $99 variants. The Keynote presentation and Pages word processing programs have received minor upgrades, but there's still no 'Excel-killer' spreadsheet. Then again, with OpenOffice recently upgraded to v2, compatible with OS X now via the X11 emulation layer and with a native v2 port under development by the NeoOffice team, Apple might figure the market for Microsoft Office alternatives is getting too crowded. Speaking of Office, Microsoft committed to a minimum of five more years of Mac OS X development, although Microsoft appears to be putting its Windows Media Player in hibernation (Scoble is confirming) and handing over the reins to Telestream, who has ported Microsoft's Windows Media encoding and decoding algorithm source code. Telestream's Windows Media playback extensions, which expand the capabilities of the QuickTime Player, are now free.
Software isn't my primary motivation for this blog post series, though. It's hardware. My last post provided the new Intel-based system specs. I'd like to first provide some additional impressions of the Intel-vs-PowerPC benchmark comparisons that Jobs showcased in the keynote. In my prior post, I was somewhat critical of Apple's use of the 'rate' variants of SPECint and SPECfp. Granted, these are the logical SPEC flavours to employ with a dual-core and/or dual-CPU architecture, and I also realize that there's little time or tolerance for detailed technical background explanations in rapid-fire keynotes delivered to a predominantly non-technical audience. My opinion is strongly influenced, I guess, by this being the latest in a long series of 'creative' benchmarking comparisons done by Apple over the years, ironically in the past with the Intel x86 as a competitor to Apple's 68k- and (later) PowerPC-based systems.
Even factoring out the ~2x SPECint_rate and SPECfp_rate inflation of a dual-core CPU versus a single-core counterpart, I think it's important to point out that Intel's Core Duo still stacks up quite well to its PowerPC predecessors. Looking first at the comparison against the PowerPC G5 (tables are also here), realize that each Core Duo core is roughly 50% faster than its G5 equivalent on integer tasks, and roughly comparable to the G5 on floating point tasks. This is the case even though the Core Duo runs at a slower clock speed, is 32-bit versus the 64-bit G5, and has a lower power consumption and thermal profile reflective of the fact that it's also in Apple's latest laptops (the G5 never was able to get there).
Compare Core Duo to the 32-bit PowerPC G4 and Intel's CPU achievement becomes even more pronounced. Each Core Duo core is over twice as fast as the G4 in integer tasks, and over 2.5x faster in floating point functions. Part of the improvement in this case does come from a clock speed boost, however. Presumably Apple employed the 1.83 GHz Core Duo variant found in the $2499 MacBook Pro version for its benchmark comparison; the fastest PowerPC G4 found in the 15" PowerBook is a 1.67 GHz variant.
Continued with 'Macworld Expo: Final Words'….