Woodcrest in Mac Pro and Apple OS X Leopard spots emerging

, posted: 8-Aug-2006 16:39

KittyAppleI'm patting myself on the back today, just a little, because in April I wrote this for Computerworld:

Apple customers may be the first to enjoy Intel’s new CPU goodies, with the Woodcrest family of processors making it into Macintosh workstations as early as the third quarter.

It's now Q3, and I'm reading in MacWorld about the new Mac Pro machines announced at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco.

Mac Pros come with the Intel Xeon 5100 CPUs, or Woodcrest as they're code-named. These dual-core 64-bit beasts run at up to 3GHz, have 4MB of shared L2 cache, and fast 1.33GHz front speed buses - independent ones too, and capable of hitting 21GByte/s in bandwidth.

With two Woodcrests in each, you'll do quad-core damage with the new Mac Pros. Woodcrest should be a good deal faster than Conroe which I have tested (review coming soon) and which is very fast by itself.

You can squeeze in some 16GB of 667MHz DDR2 RAM, and the memory bus is 256 bits wide. The other specs are impressive too, like space for four 500GB SATA drives, four PCI Express slots for expansion, and Nvidia Quadro FX4500 and 7300GT video cards plus, surprisingly enough, an ATI X1900 XT option too, despite AMD now owning the Canadian graphics card maker.

Because the new Intel chips run cool, there's no need for exotic liquid cooling in the Mac Pros, as was used in some of the PowerPC models. This should mean the Mac Pros will run quietly as well.

macpro with cinema display

Apple also introduced a Woodcrest-based XServe model with two 3GHz Xeons inside. It's running OS X Server Tiger, which is 64-bit. Five times the performance of the previous model is promised by Apple, and it'll be interesting to see if the new XServe gets the company a foothold in the server market.

Speaking of operating systems, Steve Jobs termed OS X 10.5 or Leopard as "Vista 2.0 ". This is of course a dig at Microsoft which is still trying to get the first Release Candidate of the next version of Windows out of the door.

Jobs is right: Microsoft deserves stick for being so late. He went further though and said he can't reveal all the features in Leopard, for fear that they might be "photocopied". Clearly, Jobs doesn't think Microsoft's imitation is a sincere form of flattery.

I was hoping to hear if OS X has moved to a monolithic kernel like the BSDs and Linux have, to improve performance, especially on the server side. That's not been announced yet, but there is now full support for 64-bit apps. I reckon a 64-bit Photoshop for instance that can take advantage of the vastly increased memory address space would be a hot seller.

The "Time Machine" back-up feature sounds like System Restore in Windows XP. I hope Apple does a better job of it though: System Restore is a useful feature, but you got very little control over it. Sometimes on Windows machines you end storing a virus in the System Restore container. Once it's in there, there's no way of cleaning the System Restore Point. The only thing you can do is to turn off System Restore, run an anti-virus, and delete any infected Restore Points.

If Time Machine can work over a network too, like Windows Synchronized Folders, it'll be truly useful.

Mail.app in Leopard can now put together industry standard HTML messages. I was looking at that, wondering if it really deserves to be called an improvement. HTML in email is an abomination in the vast majority of cases.

Other than that, iChat has got funky stuff that MSN Live Messenger has had for a while, like animated icons. The video recording and Theater slide-show sound quite cool. Apple should consider releasing a Windows version of iChat actually, so that the crowd on the other said of the fence doesn't have to use AIM for chatting.

Overall, it looks like Apple's move to Intel has paid off big time. Microsoft is left way behind now, with nothing to counter an Apple backed up by abundant Intel PC power.

Make mine a Mac Pro with a Leopard onboard is all I can say. Mmm... some of those 30" Cinema screens to go with it too, please.

More information

Other related posts:
Google Chrome OS announced
Bombshell: Microsoft and Novell to interop on... Linux?
Vista slips until February 2007 or later?

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