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Thursday, October 13, 2005, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

New PowerBooks, Power Macs due shortly

Long-awaited updates to Apple's PowerBook and Power Mac systems, once scheduled to make their debut last month in Paris, will finally surface later this October, reliable sources have told AppleInsider.

The new PowerBook G4 systems — the last Apple laptop revision to run on PowerPC processors — have been troubled by a series of small issues that have combined to delay their release by several weeks.

With Apple pushing to complete its transition to Intel chips ahead of schedule, the company this summer began dismantling its PowerPC engineering teams in favor of reallocating as many engineers towards its Intel projects as possible.

As a result of the engineering shifts, sources told AppleInsider that Apple's final round of PowerPC projects — including the new PowerBooks — have been met by a shortage of resources. The PowerBooks have also reportedly been plagued by bugs in the Intrepid 2 chipset that were causing systems to underperform when compared to their predecessors.

Although previous reports had indicated that the PowerBooks would see a slight speed bump to 1.7GHz via Freescale's MPC7448 G4 microprocessor, more recent information suggests that Apple may have scrapped these plans. Instead, sources say the PowerBooks may continue to utilize the MPC7447A running at 1.67GHz, which is the same processor used in the existing PowerBook line.

Much of the allure that will surround the new 15-inch and 17-inch PowerBooks will be due to component enhancements such as higher-density displays. Previously published Apple documentation hints that the 17-inch model will sport a native resolution near 1920 x 1200 pixels.

Internally, the new PowerBooks are said to sport DDR2 memory (and the Intrepid 2 chipset), larger hard disk drives, slightly improved battery life and dual-layer DVD burning SuperDrives. There's also a possibility, sources say, that dual-layer SuperDrives included with the systems will be Blu-ray drives. However, this is far from certain (and we wouldn't count on it).

Sources say Apple plans to unveil the new 15-inch and 17-inch PowerBook systems on October 19th through its website, though a number of factors could delay an announcement till the following week. Meanwhile, the fate of the 12-inch PowerBook continues to hang in the balance with sources predicting minor, if any, revisions to the offering.

Around the same time that the new PowerBooks make their debut — and likely on the same day — Apple is also expected unveil its most powerful Power Mac systems ever. Admittedly, the exact specifications of these systems are unknown at this time, though sources say the systems will be based on IBM's dual-core PowerPC 970MP G5 processors.

Each new PowerMac will boast two of the PowerPC 970MP processors for a total of four cores of processing power. Improved PCI-E-based graphics and dual-layer SuperDrives are also a lock, sources added.

Both the new PowerBooks and Power Macs are expected to gain software support from a build of the soon-to-be released Mac OS X 10.4.3 Update. The Mac OS X "Tiger" update is fast approaching gold master status, recently reaching build 8F40 and weighing in just shy of 100MB.

As an added teaser, sources have also recently hinted at a photography-related announcement that will coincide with the release of Apple's new PowerBooks and Power Macs, but as with the Power Macs, details remain scant.

Unless plans change drastically over the next several months, AppleInsider sources expect these new Pro machines to be the last PowerPC-based systems to ever emerge from Apple's Cupertino, Calif.-based design studios.

Apple last updated its PowerBook systems in February and its Power Macs in April.