Apple and Intel

Intel-Apple-2Apple announced at the WWDC conference on Monday 6 June that it would be using Intel CPUs in forthcoming Macintosh computers from 2006. How might this affect the future of the Mac and OSX?

At about 6.30pm GMT, Steve Jobs announced on stage at WWDC that the rumours were true. Apple were moving the Mac platform to Intel CPUs, beginning now. A brave move.

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When I first heard the news, I wasn’t sure what to think. My first thought was “Oh that’s a shame” since I felt that the PowerPC was a fantastic CPU, and Intel is so ubiquitous in the PC world it’s nice to use something completely different. But then, it’s not the CPU that makes the Mac, it’s the GUI – Mac OSX. I think at the moment, no matter how many benchmarks I look at, that the processors are just as good as each other. I’ve heard some bad things about the Intel Macs that are shortly shipping to Apple developers, in that benchmarks show them to be much slower than the current top-end Macs. Whilst I admit initial disappointment, there’s a whole year to go before they start shipping Intel Macs, and I’m sure they’ll get some monster of a machine designed by then. Get some working systems out to developers, so they can get recompiling ‘fat binaries’ i.e. versions of their software that will run on both PowerPC and Intel-based CPUs.

What a minefield though. What will it do to Apple’s sales? Nobody, unless they need a new Mac now is going to buy anything new that has PowerPC architecture. It’ll be out of date in a year’s time. There will never be a G5 PowerBook (not that I’m moaning since I use a G4 PowerBook and it’s fine for everything I throw at it). New versions of software come 2006 will come in a variety of flavours. Some will be fat-binaries, some will be Intel-only, others PowerPC only. At least Xcode 2.1 on Tiger will allow software developers to compile for both, but if you don’t own both systems, how will you test your software? Steve Jobs says there are some ‘great’ PowerPC products yet to be announced, but who will buy them..?

Lots of questions. It’s going to be an interesting one to watch…

[UPDATE]

John Siracusa of ars technica has written a great article about the ‘switch’ to Intel…

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