Macworld Buzz: Will Mac Pros Move To Eight Cores? - InformationWeek

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Macworld Buzz: Will Mac Pros Move To Eight Cores?

Apple is expected to update its line of desktops and laptops, and the speculation is that one will feature an 8-core system.

Some analysts are predicting that Apple Computer may announce a Mac desktop that sports eight processors at the Macworld Expo next week. Industry watchers say Apple is sure to update its line of desktops and laptops. Will the company go quad-core? Some analysts say it might even work in two quad-core processors to give a Mac desktop the power of eight processors.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they start shipping Mac Pros with eight cores," said John Welch, a Unix/open source administrator at Kansas City Life Insurance and a Mac industry analyst who will be speaking at MacWorld Expo 2007. "They could have two quad cores in them. They've got the basic architecture now. They can do this. It would be really cool. You never get in trouble for releasing a faster computer."

Right now, the Mac Pro is running a dual-core Intel Xeon processor. An upgrade could be in the works since Intel is working on quad-core processors.

Bob LeVitus, a tech columnist for the Houston Chronicle and a speaker at MacWorld Expo, also says he wouldn't be surprised if the next generation of the Mac Pro had two quad-core processors.

"It would make sense," says LeVitus, who also is the author of Mac OS X for Dummies. "They've already got the architecture. The chips are designed to go in those sockets. The design is the same." LeVitus, though, says that kind of power most likely would not come cheap. He would expect that kind of horsepower to come with a price tag of $4,000 to $5,000.

He also says there would be a solid market for it. "For the video jockeys and the Photoshop guys and the guys doing big editing jobs, eight processors would be way better than four," he points out.

Richard Shim, a senior research analyst at IDC, expects Apple to enhance its line of notebooks. "The notebooks have been doing very well," he says. "Their notebook shipments hit records in the last quarter. With that kind of momentum, there's an argument to be made to take advantage of it and come up with systems with new screen sizes. There's an appeal for smaller systems, but if I had to make a choice, I'd say bigger is better. I could see them going with a 20-inch notebook."

Welch also thinks there will be additions to Apple's notebook lineup, but he's betting on the company coming up with a smaller machine

LeVitus thinks the MacBook lineup will get speed enhancements, upgraded memory configurations, and possibly a new body design. He also says there's a good chance that Apple will come out with a small notebook, maybe something even in the 10-inch display range and weighing in around 3 pounds.

Shim says these expected upgrades or new machine rollouts could give Apple enough of a boost to push it onto the list of the top three computer manufacturers.

According to Shim and IDC numbers, when it comes to U.S. computer shipments, Apple is right behind Gateway, which sits in the number three spot. Dell is in the lead, with 30.9% of the market. Hewlett-Packard is in the second spot with 21.9%, and Gateway has 5.9%. Apple is nipping at Gateway's heels, though, taking in 5.7% of the market.

"The momentum in their system business is picking up," says Shim. "They have the potential for picking up the No. 3 three spot, and that would be pretty huge for a manufacturer that doesn't have a Windows-based system. This would certainly help them capitalize on the momentum that they have. If they came out with some new notebooks, that would certainly help."

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