TV-PGSeptember 2, 2003: Apple admits to shipping G5s to schools first, and may even kick you a discount if your order went to some college in Vermont or something. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech plans to glue 1100 G5s together into one of the world's five fastest supercomputers, and an Australian home theater magazine scoops the planet with incontrovertible evidence of Apple's switch to Intel in just four months' time...
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Coming Clean Re: G5 Delays (9/2/03)

Gee, and here we figured Apple would just keep really quiet and hope no one noticed! Following last week's sudden extension of G5 "on or before" ship dates by an extra four weeks, several AtAT viewers report having received email from the company citing "overwhelming demand" as the reason for the additional delay and providing an "update" on when antsy-pants customers might finally get their grubby little mitts on a hunk of nitro-burnin' funny Mac. Whereas most folks got word that their systems would ship in "10-15 business days" (as in the excerpt at Accelerate Your Macintosh!), a couple of viewers forwarded messages quoting "3-4 weeks." (Note: names of viewers have been withheld to prevent Apple from "coincidentally" pushing certain delivery dates forward still further into February. Of 2007.)

For the optimists among you, however, there's all sorts of stuff that can be interpreted as good news. The first is that all existing G5 orders should be fulfilled by the end of this month at the very latest-- barring another sudden delay, of course, and since that would surely incite riots and beheadings until the streets of Cupertino ran red with the blood of anyone dragged screaming from Apple headquarters, we consider that an unlikely development-- and waiting another month for a new Mac never killed anyone. Well, except that one guy in Duluth back in '96, but we consider that an anomaly, and Apple's culpability was tenuous at best. The moral, of course, is that you shouldn't pass the time until your new G5 arrives by playing Russian Roulette with a nail gun.

Then there's the fact that irate customers calling to complain about the delays have been able to weasel some pretty sweet concessions, the exact nature of which depends largely on how loudly any given customer whines and how accommodating the particular Apple customer service rep happens to be feeling. By most accounts, wrangling free overnight shipping is a cakewalk, and provides no real challenge to a seasoned complainer. Mac OS Rumors, on the other hand, includes a note from a reader who, by blithely tossing about the phrase "cancel my order," apparently managed to gripe his way into a $75 discount. AtAT sources even mention one particularly indignant customer who, by the time he hung up the phone, had succeeded in wrangling a $200 discount, a free iSight camera, a year's supply of Steak-umms, and use of Steve's Gulfstream jet on alternate weekends.

And of course the best news is that Apple's biggest problem right now is "overwhelming demand," and not something like "overwhelming lack of demand," "mutant flesh-eating gerbil infestation," or "mysterious burning sensation." All told, people wanting to buy your product faster than you can crank them out ranks pretty high on the list of Could Be Worse-ousness. Here's hoping that Apple doesn't flush a ton of goodwill (and a fair amount of cash-- overnighting something as gargantuan as a G5 can't be cheap) before the G5 drought is over, but overall, we have a tough time not seeing the demand as a really good thing. Then again, we haven't been waiting for a G5 for over two months and we're not looking at another four weeks in limbo, so maybe we're not the best ones to judge...

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It's A Bird... It's A Plane... (9/2/03)

Incidentally, you might be interested to know that last week's rumors were true; in those email messages to G5 customers, Apple admitted that it had back-burnered regular customer orders (known within Cupertino's halls as "peon orders") so that it could get as many G5s as possible to education purchasers "to meet key back to school deadlines." But that's no big deal, right? After all, it's pretty important for Apple to cling to whatever education orders it can scrape together these days, and really, how many schools could actually be ordering G5s anyway? Four? Five?

We don't know, but we can say this: if those four or five schools are all ordering as many G5s as Virginia Tech, no wonder the peons are going to be waiting for another few weeks. Faithful viewer Daniel Blanken sent us scurrying over to Think Secret to soak up some details about the school's new supercomputer project, which allegedly plans to tie 1100 Power Mac G5s-- dual-processor ones, natch, with either "4 GB or 8 GB" of RAM apiece-- together into one scary, scary cluster capable of squeezing out "over 10 Teraflops of performance" to become "one of the top five fastest [supercomputers] in the world."

Eleven hundred Power Macs. Just think about that for a second. Stack 'em one on top of another and you're talking about a real tower of power-- over a quarter of a mile high. Suppose Virginia Tech thought this one through? By our calculations, even if you ignore space required for airflow, 1100 Power Macs will chew up roughly 2000 cubic feet, which is a sizeable wad of real estate-- it's not something you can just wedge underneath the desk (unless it's one of the top five largest desks in the world). And boy, aren't they going to feel a little sheepish when the G5 Xserve comes out three days after they get all those Power Macs stapled together?

Actually, it'd be silly to think they didn't consider that likelihood, but reportedly time is of the essence; the whole cluster has to be up and running ASAP in order to qualify for Linpack's list of the Top 500 Supercomputers (ahhh, so that's the "key back to school deadline"; and here we thought it was going to be something academic), so evidently Virginia Tech didn't want to wait for the rack-mountable version. Or maybe they know something we don't; we have a feeling that if you go to Apple with $3.3 million and say you want to buy 1100 dual-G5 nodes to build one of the world's five fastest supercomputers, they'd be willing to let you in on the fact that the Xserve won't go G5 until, say, next summer. Just a thought.

There's no word at Think Secret on just what sort of massively computationally complex problem Virginia Tech needs an 1100-node Power Mac supercomputer to calculate in the first place (42!), but AtAT sources at the school who managed to smuggle out copies of the original specification and proposal report that its primary task will be to "impress the living crap out of everyone." Indeed, the project has reportedly already met its first milestone, which is to have made a professor at another school gasp at the project's description, slap his forehead, and exclaim, "why, that must be one of the top five fastest supercomputers I've ever heard described!" So the project's off to a solid start.

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G5? Who Cares About THAT? (9/2/03)

Well, it's official, everybody: the G5 is all just a big hoax. Oh, don't get us wrong-- it exists and everything, and it is indeed one mighty fast chip. But now it turns out that Apple collaborated with IBM for years on the G5's design and sunk untold fortunes into its development just so it can announce four months after the G5 first ships that it's actually switching to Intel processors anyway.

Yup, despite copious amounts of Stevespeak just a couple of months ago about how the G5 is so much better than what Intel is offering today, apparently it's utter trash compared to what Intel will have out in January, because Smart House magazine is reporting that "Apple is set to announce an Intel based PC that will run on an Apple operating system" and that "the first system is expected to shown [sic] at Macworld San Francisco in January 2004." And this is coming to you straight from "an Apple US source" by way of an Australian magazine that focuses primarily on "Home Cinema, Home Theater, Plasma screens, stereo and DVD reviews," so you know it's true. Boy, are you G5 owners going to feel silly come January! (Many thanks to Mac Rumors, incidentally, for unearthing this gem.)

Wait, it gets better: reportedly "software companies like Adobe... have already been briefed on the proposed move," so word of this amazing platform shift has moved beyond the walls of Apple headquarters, and yet instead of hearing this from Adobe employees or any of the myriad sites with internal Apple sources, we're finding out about it from an Aussie home electronics mag. Life sure is funny that way, ain't it?

Meanwhile, guess which Intel chip Apple is allegedly drooling for as it tramples all over the lowly G5 in its mad dash to switch? The Itanium-- the processor that was about five years late and universally panned for its poor performance when running 32-bit code. And oh yeah, it tops out at 800 MHz. (We suppose they might mean the Itanium 2, which goes all the way up to 1.5 GHz, but the supposed "Apple source" is quoted as saying "Itanium chip" twice, so we're guessing that Steve is just going old-school on us all and sticking with the classic Itanium.) So while Apple claims that a dual 2.0 GHz Power Mac G5 is competitive with a dual 3 GHz Xeon system, apparently the dirty little secret is that both of 'em get completely annihilated by an 800 MHz Itanium. Who knew?

In the words of the "Apple source," "this initiative is will happen [sic], but when depends on how quickly the software issues are resolved." Gol-ly! While you're chewing on that, make sure you tune in tomorrow-- we've got a lead on a hot new article being prepped for the next issue of the Guatemalan edition of CatFancy about Apple's new Palm OS-based PDA and the company's imminent merger with Disney!

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