New PowerPC Challenges Intel's Dominance A New Type of Microprocessor Offers Consumers a Third Line of Computers in Addition to Macintosh and IBM

By Laurent Belsie, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 28, 1993 | Go to article overview

New PowerPC Challenges Intel's Dominance A New Type of Microprocessor Offers Consumers a Third Line of Computers in Addition to Macintosh and IBM


Laurent Belsie, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


UNTIL now, choosing a personal computer was almost always an either-or proposition. Either you bought an Apple Macintosh or an IBM-compatible machine.

Unfortunately, for consumers who like clear-cut choices, this state of affairs will not last much longer. Computer companies are muddying the picture with new products, which should show up on store shelves next year.

The Macintosh will be superseded by a new platform called the PowerPC. To create this new computer, Apple Computer has teamed up with Motorola and its old nemesis, IBM, which is also building PowerPCs. But Apple has not yet announced whether its PowerPC will be compatible with IBM's.

IBM, meanwhile, is using the PowerPCs to diversify beyond the PC architecture it pioneered a decade ago. It wants to challenge the company that now dominates that architecture, its onetime partner Intel Corporation.

Confused? Imagine tomorrow's computer buyer, who may also be considering offerings from Digital Equipment Corporation, Sun Microsystems, and MIPS Technologies.

"It's certainly going to be an interesting year," says Michael Slater, publisher and editorial director of Microprocessor Report in Sebastopol, Calif. Battle over central chip

The battle boils down to microprocessors, the central chip around which personal computers are built. Will consumers continue to buy machines based on Intel's 486 and its new Pentium chips? Or will they switch to a newer alternative, based on RISC (reduced instruction set computing) technology?

Of all the RISC chips coming on-line, the PowerPC has the best chance of challenging Intel, analysts say.

First, it has a built-in base of customers. When Macintosh owners decide to get a more powerful machine, they are likely to buy Apple's PowerPCs. Apple plans to sell 1 million PowerPCs next year. Motorola makes the microprocessors for Macintoshes and PowerPCs.

Second, the PowerPC chip is less expensive to produce than Intel's Pentium but is as powerful. Motorola plans to sell the chip wholesale at no more than $450 a chip. Starting in the second quarter of this year, Intel will price its cheapest Pentium at $675.

"We're standing here ready to go toe to toe {with Intel}. And we will," promises Jim Venable, PowerPC marketing programs manager for Motorola.

Third, the PowerPC chip is speedier than Intel's chips at running multimedia applications that use sound and graphics intensively. …

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