IBM is said to be ready to deliver a new version of the PowerPC processor to Apple by the end of this year, suggesting that Power Mac G5 revisions might be seen at Macworld San Francisco, and that G5 PowerBooks could be imminent.

The report in Forbes claims that the main improvement to the PowerPC chip – known internally at IBM as the PowerPC 970fx – will be a reduction of size of the features on the chip, from 130 nanometers to 90 nanometers. A smaller chip will consume less power – making it easier to keep cool.

In light of this Forbes suggests that the future for the high end of the Mac platform looks "fast".

Instat/MDR analyst Peter Glaskowsk told Forbes: "A mid-step between the current systems, which top out with two chips running at 2GHz, and systems with chips as fast as 2.6GHz would be consistent with exactly where I would expect them to be right now."

And according to Glaskowsky, an IBM compiler – the tool that converts programming languages into the language of the chip – that is tailored to the PowerPC chips is in the beta-testing phase. He claims that once the compiler is released, software written to the Mac running on PowerMac G5 machines could speed up as much as 50 per cent.

Glaskowsky also suggests that faster chips will soon migrate to the Powerbook notebook line. He said: "There are no technical hurdles to producing a Powerbook G5. It could easily appear in January."

Glaskowsky is quoted by Forbes as having said that although Apple machines can see all the memory, they can't yet do 64-bit calculations: "Present it with a 64-bit calculation, and a Mac with a G5 chip still breaks it into two 32-bit pieces."

Glaskowsky told Macworld that he was missquoted by Forbes: "I actually said the Mac can do this calculation in one step. It is the AMD Athlon 64 system running a 32-bit OS that can't do 64-bit calculations unless it breaks them up into two 32-bit operations."

But Glaskowsky predicts that Apple is unlikely to make any real noise about the 64-bit operating system for the G5 soon: "It's two years away at least," he says.