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Sawtooth Delayed; Power Macintosh G4s May Still Debut

Sawtooth, as some are already familiar with, is the code-name for Apple's "next-generation" Power Macintosh logicboard, rumored to ship with the G4 processor. The board, like the one inside Apple's iBook Consumer Portable, is based on Apple's new Single Common Unified Architecture. These boards can often be distinguished by the presence of AGP (an Advanced Graphics Port), among other things. The iBook and next-generation iMac (code-named Kihei) will ship with support for 2x AGP, while the Sawtooth hardware, aimed at professionals, will feature a 4x AGP slot.

As we mentioned in our Power Macintosh G4 Special Report, Sawtooth is a very pressed project at Apple. The original goal set by desktop engineering department heads was to have the board finalized sometime this summer so it could ship inside units during the fall. This would have been a minor miracle, as major logicboard revisions take an average of 12 months or more to complete, rather than the mere 7 or 8 allocated to Sawtooth.

To date, sources claim that Apple has not seeded a single unit of these Sawtooth logicboards externally, as the logicboard revision has been delayed. Instead, Apple has been providing developers G4-equipped Gossamer (Beige G3) and Yosemite (Blue & White G3) -based boxes. The Sawtooth logicboard, at the time of Macworld New York, was still unstable, as were the required software enablers. By contrast, the G4 silicon revs used in the units were performing fine, with no known stability issues. The original delay is said to have taken place back in June, with test units being rescheduled to appear sometime this fall, and retail units available in January 2000.

In the meantime, a project by the name of "Yikes" has been underway in the air-conditioned corridors of Apple's Cupertino, California, headquarters. Apparently, there came a point in Sawtooth's development cycle when management was faced with the fact that the Sawtooth units would not be ready for their too-optimistic target release; hence, Apple would have to do something fast in order to put G4-based systems in the hands of users by the Holiday season.

According to sources, Yikes is a project that can be summed up as popping a G4 processor in a Yosemite logicboard and putting the box on the market. In reality, these systems are both more complex and more exciting than that. The Yosemite logicboard that would ship with these units is said to be slightly altered. ADB is no longer on board; as far as Apple is concerned, the technology is a dinosaur. Additionally, sources claim that the new units will feature more power going through the FireWire bus... and so forth. Since these units are based on the Yosemite logicboard, Apple documentation currently refers to them as "G4 PCI Graphics" systems. Sawtooth models are apparently referred to as "G4 AGP Graphics."

G4 Mockup

The systems have a 100MHz system bus. Both 400MHz and 450MHz G4 configurations are known, and 500MHz configurations have been mentioned, but in a slightly different context. To date, Motorola has not announced the availability of G4 (7400) processors; rumor has it that Apple has asked the chip maker to hold off the announcement until the day that the G4-based systems are actually introduced. The remainder of the new system's internals are identical to those in the current Yosemite Power Macintosh G3 models.

The reports filed by AppleInsider sources suggest that Apple may really be listening to some of the customer feedback on the current line of Power Macintosh models, when it comes to cosmetics and look-and-feel. The new systems, which will officially go by the name "Power Macintosh G4," are rumored to be the first units to feature a new full-sized Apple USB Keyboard (including extended keys) and a full-sized Apple USB Mouse! Apparently, graphics professionals didn't take too kindly to the current keyboard and mouse. Large firms have actually replaced all the standard Apple USB keyboards and mice on their current G3 Pro models with more versatile third-party versions.

Surprisingly, sources claim that Apple has been producing some of these Power Macintosh G4 units since July. However, the most interesting part is that these production units were not in Blueberry. Multiple sources have noted that this initial release of the Power Macintosh G4 will ship in casings identical to the current G3s but will NOT sport a "G4" on the sides of the machine —just an Apple logo. Sources who've had an opportunity to see the units claim that the Apple logo and highlight plastics are definitely a smoke grey color. These units are said to be final production units, not prototypes or test models.

To add to these rumors, sources close to Apple's advertising agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, claim that the firm has been actively editing commercials for the Power Macintosh G4. One such spot is said to show the grey and white Power Macintosh G4 described above surrounded by Army tanks —the significance is manifold. The commercials are said to compare the new units to Pentium III-based systems, with dialog such as "Up to ::fill in the blank:: times faster than the Pentium III."

The "Yikes" project appears to serve a single purpose: giving "the street" what they want, when they want it. The introduction of these rumored units is said to be some time soon. Obviously, if Apple were to ship these units in the grey and white color scheme, it would involve altering the display offerings... but more on that a little later.