An 'Xtrem' Interview

A few weeks ago very few people had heard of a company from Sweden called Xtrem Inc. Now they are the talk of the Mac community. On August 3, 2000 Xtrem announced on their website the XtremMac™ G4, a machine they claimed to be a 1200 MHz G4 that would ship by the end of the year. This, of course, was quite an astounding announcement since the fastest G4 Apple has shipped for the last year is 500 MHz. The press release gave just enough info to tantalize and raise a number of questions.

In an effort to get some of those questions answered moonrockreptiles Reporters Jason Buck and Shaun Nichols contacted and arranged an e-interview with Co Founder and Executive vice chairman of the Board, Chief Designer of Xtrem, Inc. and CEO of Tech Data Sweden AB since 1990, Mats Wallberg. The first thing he did was send us an FAQ that had not been published on the Xtrem web site. To bring you up to speed before you read the interview here is that FAQ.

4, August 2000 rev2

Is the XtremMac™ ready for shipment today?
No. The XtremMac™ is still under development. There is no finished prototype currently running at 1200 MHz. We don’t anticipate having the first shipping model ready until the end of 2000. We will continue to post news of our progress.

Is the XtremMac™ a Mac clone?
No. The XtremMac™ is built around Apples proprietary hardware. To our knowledge Apple is not licensing their hardware to any company at the present time.

Is the XtremMac™ a "Apple sanctioned" product?
No. Apple Computer Inc. is not involved in this project.

When will the XtremMac™ be released?
The XtremMac™ is presently under intense development. As a developing company we are relying on future funding. If all goes well, we hope to have a product ready for the beginning of 2001.

What will be the exact specifications of the XtremMac™?
In a research and development phase, design parameters undergo constant revision. Preliminary specs for the XtremMac™ are based on present hardware specs and projected technical specs provided by the manufacturers of upcoming hardware. During this development phase we will certainly evaluate any new third party products that may appear to see if we can incorporate them in the XtremMac™.

Is the higher clock speed realized using the same process as KryoTech?
Basically YES. However, our method has been improved upon. It involves the active cooling of other parts in the computer including motherboard, memory and cache. We decline at present time to disclose any precise details for obvious business reasons.

Are the images on the XTREM web site actual photos of the XtremMac™?
No. They have been rendered from design 3D drawings. Their purpose is to give customers an idea what the final product will look like.

Why is the xtrem.com web site so slow?
Simply because of the enormous traffic to the site. We apologize for any inconvenience, but we did not anticipate the tremendous interest in our products. We will increase the capacity. The improvements should be in place by the 18:00 CET (Central European Time), August 4. Delays may accrue due to DNS updates. Thank you for your indulgence.

© 2000 Xtrem Inc.

Without further ado:

moonrockreptiles E-Interview with Mats Wallberg

Mats Wallberg: I would like to begin with an apology to all whom tried to access our site 3-4, August. We were not prepared for the very large number of visitors. Consequently our website was almost impossible to access. This has been attended to and should work fine now. Thank you for your patience.

Note: For obvious business reasons some answers may be a bit vague and lack detail. As soon as further details are released it will be posted at our web site.

moonrockreptiles: Can you give us ANY additional hardware specs on the XtremMac™ 1200 MHz? How many (if any) PCI slots? Internal/external connectors? Ethernet? Etc.

Mats Wallberg: Straightforward: We are using Apple’s motherboard. The external/internal connectors are the same. A preliminary technical specification will be available at our website the 15-16, August 2000. Please note that it is preliminary and will most certainly be changed before release.

moonrockreptiles: What graphics accelerator will you be using to attain the 1.5 Gigatexel Graphic performance? Will it be 2x AGP? 4x AGP?

Mats Wallberg: The information originates from ATI’s specifications for their new RADEON GPU. The motherboard only supports AGP 2x presently. The RADEON AGP graphics card is not due for release until September. We will of course publish real-time benchmarks as soon as possible. The preliminary specs are just theoretical figures based on different manufacture specifications.

moonrockreptiles: You mention nVidia, ATI and 3DFX hardware in your systems. Have you struck any deals with any of these companies? Or are you relying on their somewhat sketchy Mac announcements?

Mats Wallberg: No deals have been finalized yet. As of today the Voodoo 5500 PCI is shipping, the ATI RADEON AGP is due to ship in September, and nVidia announced plans for Mac support later this year. We are continuously looking for better components in respect to higher performance to incorporate in the XtremMac™.

moonrockreptiles: It's not clear from the 3D renderings where removable storage could be put internally. Is there a door obfuscating bays? Or will all removable media need to be connected externally?

Mats Wallberg: The casing opens by sliding the two halves apart. This way all the components becomes accessible. Internally there are five 3.5” bays and three 5.25” bays that can be accessed from the outside. The removable media drive bays are accessed between the horizontal aluminum bars. This is not shown in the renderings due to the early stage of the particular drawing and rendering.

moonrockreptiles: When or will we be seeing white papers on your technology?

Mats Wallberg: If everything goes as planned early 2001.

moonrockreptiles: Can you give us even a vague idea of what price range we should expect your entry level BTO model to sell for? 6-8K? 8-10K? 10-12K? More? Less?

Mats Wallberg: There are so many unknown factors involved here so it would be wrong to give you any figure. It will surely be inaccurate. If you only want to crunch numbers you could go for a raw machine with a single ATA drive and sufficient RAM. That would obviously be less expensive. Roughly our entry-level system should be less than Apple’s high-end system.

moonrockreptiles: Any chance we can convince you to give the moonrockreptiles staff prototype models when they are available if we promise a good review? ;-)

Mats Wallberg: YES, but in all fairness I will have to put you on the list with all the others. We’ve got a lot of inquires, both from magazines and large corporations.
( I assume you meant borrow : -) )

moonrockreptiles: Uhhh, yeah, uhhh, of course that's what we meant. ;-)

You say that your machines use Apple hardware: Does this mean you will be buying a Macintosh from Apple (or a vendor) for every unit you produce? If so what hardware will you be buying, and how will it affect the cost of your product?

Mats Wallberg: Some of the hardware will most certainly come from Apple. There is no other way.
Update 11 Aug –2000 : We have just gotten word that Apple will let us buy parts directly from them. Apple’s CEO for the Nordic countries made a statement in the largest Swedish computer tabloid “Computer Sweden”, an IDG publication.

Köpa standardkomponenter
Vad säger då Apple om Xtrems dator?
– När det gäller tekniken har jag ingen kommentar, men om de vill köpa standardkomponenter från oss och bygga om ser jag inget som hindrar det, säger Ole Anderssen, Norden-vd på Apple.

Buy standard components
What is Apple saying about Xtrem’s computer?
– I have no comment regarding how it’s done technically, but I see no obstacle if they want to buy standard components from us and rebuild, says Ole Andersson, Nordic CEO Apple.

The article can be found at:

moonrockreptiles: You state that your technology is similar to KryoTech's, does this mean that your processors are over-clocked versions of the same hardware Apple puts in their machines?

Mats Wallberg: Not necessary exactly the same. I can say as much as we are not exclusively using Apple ZIF’s during the development phase.

moonrockreptiles: If you are overclocking, do you plan on overclocking the currently available 500 MHz G4 chips to 1.2 GHz, or are you waiting for future G4 product releases?

Mats Wallberg: We are constantly looking for new components. Also, please see previous answer. As we have stated in our FAQ, we are not running any prototype at 1200MHz today. If we change the voltage and lower the temperature to –X° C we will accomplish a certain speed. If we cool it further to –Y° C we will accomplish a higher speed. If we use a higher rated processor we can either do lesser cooling and accomplish the same speed or increase the speed further. Although there are other factors like the bus speed, cache and frequency dividers that will prevent us from going beyond a certain point.

moonrockreptiles: You also speak of a 150 MHz bus. Does this require special memory? Or are you simply over-clocking existing memory?

Mats Wallberg: We are not using the standard PC100 SDRAM and we are overclocking the memory in relation to the standard 100MHz bus.

moonrockreptiles: Can you tell us more about the Active Cooling System (ACS™)?

Mats Wallberg: Our vision is to build an alternative subzero platform instead of today’s air-cooled machines. The fact that silicon can work faster if we turn up the voltage and turn down the temperature is common knowledge and there has been research done in this field for several decades. Our challenge is to combine existing technologies to make a finished product that is attractive and affordable.

The Active Cooling System is the key to the overclocking. Very simply put: We are refining the technique that KryoTech and others use by adding cooling for cache, main memory and certain parts of the motherboard. The amount of temperature reduction needed varies depending on part. Generally the higher temperature we can accept the lesser problem we will have with encapsulation and condensation. All parts are not cooled to subzero levels.

moonrockreptiles: Do you see any likelihood of your encountering legal difficulties with Apple, Motorola, KryoTech or any other related party?

Mats Wallberg: No. We are developing our own system so we don’t expect any legal difficulties from any part.

There have of course been concerns whether Apple would sell us the necessary parts directly. But this question has already been answered above.

In our opinion a 1200MHz Mac will only strengthen Apple’s status as the no.1 graphic workstation. Given that and the fact that we have to buy a certain amount of Apple parts I would say it is a win-win situation. If we succeed the fastest personal computer around, once again, will be a Macintosh.

moonrockreptiles: On your site you comment on how you have worked to make sure the XtremMac 1200 MHz is very quiet. With the immense cooling that must be required for a system of this nature, how are you achieving this?

Mats Wallberg: Hard disks and fans are the parts that cause the most noise. The cooling process is a rather quiet process using the proper equipment and method. High speed CD/DVD’s can also be annoying during read sequence. We are working on vibration reduction and encapsulation of the drive bays. Because hard disks produce a lot of heat (especially 15Krpm disks) we need to cool them down if we are to encapsulate them.

moonrockreptiles: Your press release states that "The new XtremMac™ G4 will initially be offered in a build-to-order customer-selected configuration from Xtrem Inc.'s online store." Does this mean you have future plans to distribute stock machines through other channels?

Mats Wallberg: That depends on the market. We don’t see this as a high volume product. Distribution is a costly business. If distribution would make the machine much more expensive there would be no benefit for the customer and consequently we would not be doing it. Another aspect is that I don’t think that Apple would be a bit concerned if we were to sell too many machines.

moonrockreptiles: Do you plan on bundling your system with MacOS? Any plans to include options for other operating systems?

Mats Wallberg: If we were to ship today the user would have to buy MacOS separately. We don’t have any licensing agreement for the MacOS. Regarding other OS it’s up to our customers. If they want a certain operating system we are definitely going to help them.

moonrockreptiles: Now, about your MacThrust product: Is it an over-clock/cooling product?

Mats Wallberg: YES, it is a low-tech product or the opposite of the XtremMac™ that works on the older G3/G4. It was actually a spin off from early stages of the XtremMac™ development. We realized that this would be an easy and inexpensive way to speed up older G3/G4 macs. After a very positive testing period we decided to bring it to market. By making it easy to install and safe to manage we believe it will be an attractive product to the average “non-hacker” user whom will benefit from more speed.

moonrockreptiles: Why is there no mention of the MacThrust on your page outside of the press release?

Mats Wallberg: Simply because the web pages are not ready yet. We were actually planning to make the release closer to the finishing of the XtremMac™ prototype. But because of information we received concerning someone else working on a similar product we had to rush things. We then found ourselves, as you say, stuck between a rock and a hard place. The release meant a lot of traffic to our server and a lot of extra work for everybody. We actually had to physically move it to our ISP and increase the capacity. It took lot of effort to move the server and at the same time keep the off-line period to minimum. In addition to the shorter time frame for finishing our web site our web designers could not work as planned. During the last week we have received thousands of emails and phone calls from all over the world.

moonrockreptiles: What kind of performance improvements should a user of this product expect to see?

Mats Wallberg: 15-35% depending on what G3/G4 model you have.

moonrockreptiles: Will MacThrust™ support all PowerMac G3's and G4's?

Mats Wallberg: NO. Not the new ones.

moonrockreptiles: Any chance of a similar Powerbook/iBook/iMac product?

Mats Wallberg: As of today -NO. The main problem with making an upgrade for those machines is that it requires too many tools and soldering. Too many things can go wrong.

moonrockreptiles: You appear to be poised to ship some very impressive and innovative products. Do you have other projects in development?

Mats Wallberg: Working together with a lot of creative people always brings up new and innovative ideas. Right now we are focusing on the XtremMac™. We are not a large corporation that has the means for running several projects parallel.

moonrockreptiles: Can you give us any tantalizing hints/tidbits on what these ideas for products might be/offer?

Mats Wallberg: The next step would naturally be to move the chassis to the new twin processor G4 to get 2 x 1200MHz. Theoretically it shouldn’t be any problem, but I haven’t even looked at it yet so we’ll have to see…

moonrockreptiles: Can you give us any kind of timeline as to when we might expect to hear future announcements from Xtrem, Inc.?

Mats Wallberg: The first product released will be MacThrust™. The MacThrust™ has been delayed until the end of this month.

moonrockreptiles: How many people are on your development team(s)?

Mats Wallberg: We don’t have all the competence in-house. We are working with several partners with special competence in the different technologies involved in the project, so it varies from time to time.

moonrockreptiles: Can you offer any of their credentials?

Mats Wallberg: We are at this time not disclosing any information about partners or other companies we are working with on this project.

moonrockreptiles: Many people in the Macintosh community have either dismissed Xtrem as a hoax, or have questioned the possibility of your company ever turning out a finished product. Was this the kind of reaction you expected, and how do you plan on addressing these concerns to potential customers and/or investors?

Mats Wallberg: I feel that the combination of our failure to clearly state that the XtremMac™ is under development and the fact that there has been a lot of speculations and second hand information has created this confused situation.

I would like to point out that this is not a general opinion among the thousands of people that have been in contact with us during the last week. On the contrary, 98% of all approaches has been very positive and several very large corporations have contacted us about cooperation. Our most recent investor, Göran Strandberg has been based in London as a member of Cisco´s European management group.

Göran Strandberg is also an executive director of the following companies:
Novestra AB:
Pallium AB:
PipeBeach AB:
PowerNet AB:
Kentele Digital AB:

(note: AB is the Swedish equivalent for Inc.)

moonrockreptiles: We thank you for taking the time for this interview, and we hope to see some truly incredible products from you soon!

Mats Wallberg: I want to take the opportunity to thank everybody for their inspiration and support during the last week.


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