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Thursday, November 20, 2003, 11:10 am PT (02:10 pm ET)

PowerPC 980 based Power Macs not too distant

Apple and IBM have a contract for at least 4 generations of the PowerPC processor over the next 5 years, sources tell AppleInsider. The first of these microprocessors is the current PowerPC 970, which will be followed by the PowerPC 980 in Quarter 3 of next year.

The PowerPC 970 is said to max out at approximately 2.6GHz, shortly after the release of the second generation Power Mac G5s, reported on yesterday. The Power Mac product line will reportedly continue with the 'Power Mac 8,2' in late 2004. These units will sport the 90nm PowerPC 980, which Apple may brand the 'G6' according to a single source.

Ranging between 2.8 and 3.2GHz out the start gate, the PowerPC 980 will deliver the 3GHz speeds promised by Steve Jobs and ultimately top-out at over 5GHz on a 65nm process. In addition, the PowerPC 980 is said to implement hypertransport directly.

The 980 PowerPC enabled 'Power Mac 8,2' is projected to provide speed gains of over 40 percent when compared to a current Power Mac G5 of equivalent clock speed, and will use a crossbar switch to speed communication between processors. Performance gains will be even greater for applications written to take advantage of hyperthreading, sources said. The units will utilize the 'U4' system controller, which will allow front side buses to reach speeds of up to 2Ghz in its first iteration.

The PowerPC 980 will reportedly go through 3 revisions during its 18 month life-cycle, as opposed to the PowerPC 970 which will see only 2 revisions during a 12 month life-cycle in pro desktops.