Described by Macworld magazine as "The most important technical evolution of the Macintosh since the Mac II debuted in 1987," the Power Macintosh was Apple's first computer to use a PowerPC RISC processor. Existing software written for 68k processors that were used in earlier Macintoshes would not run on the PowerPC natively, so a Mac 68k emulator was included, starting with System 7.1.2. While the emulator provided good compatibility with existing Macintosh software, initial performance was about one-third slower than comparable Macintosh Quadra systems. The Power Macintosh replaced the Quadra at the high end of Apple's lineup, and were initially sold in similar enclosures, but with 4-digit model numbers. As PowerPC-native software began to appear, significant performance improvements were realized.
Evolution and discontinuation
Over the next twelve years, the Power Macintosh evolved through a succession of enclosure designs, a rename to "Power Mac", five major generations of PowerPC chips, and a great deal of press coverage, design accolades, and controversy about performance claims. The Power Mac was discontinued in 2006, following Apple's transition to Intel processors, and making way for its replacement, the Mac Pro.
- Four years later: Why did Apple drop PowerPC? by Brooke Crothers, CNET. 2009-06-15.