PowerBooks on Easy Street

New PowerBooks are on the drawing board. Gotta luv 'em.

New PowerBooks are on the drawing board. Gotta luv 'em.

As described in this week's issue, the next series of PowerBooks will drive the powerful G3 processor deeper into Apple's notebook line (http://www.zdnet.com/macweek/mw_1147/nw_laptops.html). Code-named Wall Street and Main Street, the models are due in the second quarter of 1998.

With PowerPC 750 (G3) speeds heading toward 300 MHz, the street-wise, top-of-the-line Wall Street should renew Apple's crowing rights as the provider of the fastest notebook on the market.

The competition, however, will be tougher by then, fueled by new low-power, high-performance flavors of Intel Pentium processors. But Apple will reportedly counter by taking the now high-end G3 chip downward into its lower-priced laptop line, called Main Street.

In addition to faster G3 processors, some of the new PowerBooks will keep pace with high-end Wintel competition and offer 13- and 14-inch displays. These machines will be just the ticket for power presentations and Web maestros on the road.

While number-crunching performance and screen size are the features that capture the imagination of the most users, I was pleased about reports that Wall Street and Main Street will feature support for the CardBus standard and faster wireless networking. I saw demos of these technologies at Comdex/Fall '97 in Las Vegas, and they will be useful to digital-imaging aficionados.

Only recently finalized as a standard, CardBus is a faster flavor of the PCMCIA, or PC Card, interface. Vendors in the PC market now offer cards for the slot, especially Fast Ethernet cards. But the slot can also be used to connect a notebook to a wide variety of devices, such as high-performance hard drives or digital cameras with FireWire ports.

CardBus interface-converter cards will give users an easy way to download images on the go and even edit them in the field. It's not just a technofantasy, either.

At Comdex last month, Adaptec Inc. of Milpitas, Calif., showed an IEEE 1394 version of its SlimSCSI 1480 SCSI-to-CardBus card for notebooks. Recognizing the Mac's lead in digital video content creation, Barbara Murphy, marketing manager for Adaptec's portable products group, said the FireWire product "would be perfect for the Mac platform." She added that the company, like Mac users, is waiting for Apple to implement the CardBus standard.

Sources said that in addition to CardBus, the forthcoming PowerBooks will also provide much faster IrDA data transfer rates, perhaps up to 4 Mbps. I admit that I have never used the existing wireless port on my PowerBook, but a demo at Comdex convinced me to get with the plan.

ReUDO Corp., a small Japanese developer, showed a set of wireless utilities for data transfers from digital cameras, Windows PCs and various flavors of PDAs (http://www.zdnet.com/macweek/mw_1145/nw_reudo.html). When a camera was held in front of a PowerBook, the application received and translated the file - zero fuss and, even better, no cables. The company said the software will ship in January at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco.

Besides the nuisance of constantly plugging and unplugging cables, I hate carrying the things around - or even worse, forgetting them at home. Cables bad. Wireless good.

There's an old Jewish saying that applies to the new notebooks: "Out of snow, you can't make cheesecake." It's good to hear that the next-generation PowerBooks have plenty of substantial technologies, some that are obvious and others waiting under the hood.

David Morgenstern, executive editor/news, welcomes feedback at david_morgenstern@macweek.com.


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