Apple Boosts Power Mac High-End Desktop Line

Apple said three new Power Mac G5 models are slated to become available this week. On Friday evening, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company also plans to ship client and server versions of Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger," a major upgrade of its Unix-based operating system.

The new Power Macs, which all have dual 64-bit PowerPC G5 processors, bring higher-performance graphics capabilities with more memory, according to Apple. The new models also have larger hard drives, a faster SuperDrive optical drive with double-layer support and 512 Mbytes of memory included.

At the top of the line is a dual 2.7GHz model, priced at $2,999, that has 512 Mbytes of 400MHz DDR SDRAM (expandable to 8 Gbytes), a 250-Gbyte Serial ATA 7200 rpm hard drive, an AGP 8X Pro graphics slot, an ATI Radeon 9650 graphics card with 256 Mbytes DDR SDRAM and built-in support for one 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Display, three PCI-X slots (one 64-bit 133MHz, two 64-bit 100MHz), and a 16X SuperDrive multiformat DVD/CD burner.

A dual 2.3GHz model, priced at $2,499, includes the same features but sports an ATI Radeon 9600 graphics card with 128 Mbytes of DDR SDRAM and doesn't come with built-in 30-inch Cinema HD Display support.

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The other new Power Mac model, a dual 2GHz unit priced at $1,999, has the same features as the dual 2.3GHz model but features a 160-Gbyte hard drive, a maximum of 4 Gbytes of 400MHz DDR SDRAM and three PCI slots (all 64-bit 33MHz).

Apple said the new Power Macs, all of which will ship with the Tiger OS, complement its existing 1.8GHz single-processor Power Mac G5, priced at $1,499. An NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL high-performance graphics card that can drive up to two 30-inch Cinema HD Displays is available as a build-to-order option, as are other graphics cards and extra hard drive capacity, an AirPort Extreme 802.11g wireless card, a Bluetooth module, an Apple Fibre Channel PCI-X Card, an Apple PCI-X Gigabit Ethernet card and Tiger Server software.

Though Apple has seen boom times with consumer-focused hardware products such as its iPod music player, compact Mac mini desktop and sleek iMac G5 desktop, its higher-end Power Mac computer lineup, which is geared toward professional users, has lagged. Its Xserve rack-mount server, which also comes in a cluster model, and Xsan storage system also haven't caught on as much as some industry analysts and Apple VARs have expected, despite strong reviews.

For Apple's fiscal 2005 second quarter ended March 26, the Power Mac product group, including the Xserve product family, saw a 19 percent year-over-year decrease in unit sales. Meanwhile, unit sales of the iMac line, which includes the eMac and Mac mini, rose 115 percent. Apple's iBook and PowerBook laptops saw unit-sales gains of 25 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

The upcoming release of the Tiger OS could provide a lift to the Power Mac products in the pro customer segment. Apple came out with a Tiger preview at its Worldwide Developer Conference last June, a move that has fueled anticipation for the new OS among consumers, pro users and Mac developers, according to Apple solution providers.

"[With Tiger] Apple has rewritten a lot of the graphics and motion-graphics capabilities to run straight to the graphics processing unit on the video cards. So you'll get that much faster processing and can do realtime video editing and graphical effects," said Gary Dailey, president of Daystar Technology, an Atlanta-based Apple VAR that does a lot of business with video professionals. "So there's excitement on that side, especially for people running the high-end G5s."

Also on Wednesday, Apple said it cut prices on two of its widescreen Cinema Display flat-panel monitors. The 20-inch model now lists for $799, and the 23-inch HD model now goes for $1,499. The 30-inch model carries a list price of $2,999.