Massive Mac PowerPC Hardware Upgrades
There are rumors circulating, as if they ever stopped, that everyone is expecting new Mac hardware in September. People are talking about a 2 GHz G4 PowerBook, an approximately 3 GHz dual-core dual-cpu PowerMac G5, and a G5 based Mac Mini. Of these systems, only the quad-processor PowerMac looks interesting to a developer like myself. The only question left is how long will Apple and it's software partners continue to support the IBM PowerPC architecture?
The answer to that question is that they will continue to support the platform as long as there are users to buy new software. Knowing the Mac crowd, that will mean at least another 5 years of fat-binary support. In high-performance applications like Final Cut Pro and other applications with hefty hardware requirements the question arises, will these software manufacturers go out of their way to optimize their code to take advantage of AltiVec? I am not so sure. After working with the Objective-C frameworks, the automatic AltiVec optimization seems to be pretty effective. So, the most basic levels of optmization will probably continue to be used, however the hand-tuned optimization that users are currently enjoying will probably stop around August 2006, or right before the PowerMac G6 next generation systems come out. The reason for this is that with the next software upgrades, software manufacturers will want to spend most of their development time working with SSE3, and since their optimizations will work for both the Windows and Mac versions, largely, there will be less incentive to go the hard route with AltiVec.
I really like the performance of my PowerPC based G5 and I intend, if I have the money, to get the first quad-processor G5s, and probably the last IBM based PowerMacintoshes. Since I use primarily the Macromedia Suite, I have little need to upgrade to newer versions in the near future. When that PowerMac is too old to do what I want it to, we'll be using Adobe Studio 11. So to all those who are holding on for Intel Macs, I say go ahead and get the quad-proc G5. In all honesty, it will probably be faster than the debuting G6 running most of your software in Rosetta.