Apple may soon steal a march in the megahertz wars, following an announcement from IBM.

IBM has revealed that its PowerPC Blade - based on the PowerPC 970 processor - will offer speeds between 1.8GHz to 2.5GHz. Previous announcements had the PowerPC 970 running at 1.8GHz maximum speed.

IBM's eServer BladeCenter is an open source server product designed for computing-intensive applications, such as meteorology, geology or other scientific number-crunching tasks.

The PowerPC 970 processor is widely expected to be used in future Macs. A light version of IBM's Power4 chip (as used in high-end server products), it was unveiled during 2002's Microprocessor Forum in October.

Microprocessor Review senior editor Tom Hafill remarked: "The 970 is such an obvious improvement over today's G4 chips, it is hard to imagine Apple using anything else in its top-of-the-line desktop Macs and servers." Neither Apple nor IBM has made any announcement on the matter.

IBM's Power4 chip features two processor cores, the PowerPC 970 is just one. The PowerPC 970 uses a 64-bit architecture, but is capable of running 32-bit software as well. Manufactured using a 0.13 micron copper silicon on insulator technology, the processor supports AltiVec and symmetrical multiprocessing. It also has an on-chip 512K L2 cache.

The PowerPC 970 processor also offers a bus bandwidth rate of 900MHz, and a system bus capable of up to 6.4GB/s data throughput speeds.

When the new PowerPC chip was revealed, IBM explained its strategy was one of bringing server-level performance to the desktop.

In related news, Computerworld reports IBM's plans to launch its next-generation high-end server processor, the Power5 chip in mid-2004.

Though speed has not been announced, IBM promises its Power5 chip will deliver four times the performance of its current-generation Power4 chip (the base on which PowerPC 970 processors are built). The processors will support simultaneous multithreading for 80 per cent better application-level performance than current technologies permit, IBM says.