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Apple on Intel, Who wins? June 6, 2005

Posted by rjdohnert in Software reviews.

A lot of speculation on what Apple will announce tomorrow at their WWDC conference. Here are my thoughts on it, no way in hell will Apple port its Macintosh line to the x86 family. Apple has too much to lose if it does this. What I do expect is Apple will announce that it will port to x64 series of processors. Apple in order to keep its customer base and fanfare have got to keep “Think”ing “Different”. To port to x86 would put Apple on commodity hardware. While it may be a geeks dream come true it will prove to be a bear for Apples ISV’s and Apple itself. Apple could put in a modification that only allows Mac OS X to run on their PC’s but how long would it take for a good hacker to figure out how to bypass it. they could create their own chipset, but that would be very costly to Apple both development wise and keeping such machines affordable. The issue of backwards compatibility also comes into play, no one has had huge success creating a PowerPC emulator for the x86 architecture all, either too slow or not very stable. Apple could go back to doing “fat” binaries like what NeXT did when it was shipping NeXTStep on PC and PPC which allows a binary to run on PC and PPC but that would be a headache for their ISV’s.

Image is everything

As I stated above Apple above all else has to protect its image. Apple will not come out and say, “You know what, after all these years of touting the superiority of PowerPC chip. Guess what folks, we were so wrong.” Never going to happen. Apple would fare much better doing highend workstations and servers. This will be what keeps Apple superior to its fanbase. The dream of Mac OS on a 64 bit laptop may become a reality a lot sooner. If Apple does port to x86, the P4 and Xeon. They will lose customers. They have to keep customers and Mac fans enthused about the product. They have to make their customer and fanbase feel self worth, they cant do that on no stinking P4, the only way to do that is to finally have a pure 64 bit system. this will give their users and fans an imense feeling of self worth and superiority over others and Apple may sell a few stations. If they do port to the P4 their rabid fans will wait until someone does as I say, produce a workaround to get it running on commodity hardware and Mac OS X would pretty much be pirated until no tommorow. Also, we have to look at driver issues. the 32 bit world is pretty much geared to MS and more drivers are produced for Windows so Apple would pretty much be begging hardware manufacturers to produce drivers for their system. Apple would be sitting no prettier than Linux or any of the other x86 versions of UNIX on the market today in regards to Device Drivers. Apple would fare much better on the x64 space where pretty much everyone is on a level playing field for right now.

Advantages to Apple

Apple will get a larger development base. Also, Intel and AMD are pouring more research into 64 bit than IBM is with their POWER processor. The POWER processor shines in, well power. Its a very fast processor and very well designed. The limitationss of the processor are power consumption and the heat the damn thing generates, which limits the ability to manufacture a laptop based on the POWER architecture. I have seen AMD 64 bit laptops and Im pretty sure Intel could deliver one before the ink on the Apple contract dries. Apple will get a larger user base to use its computers but that would also depend on marketing and the WOW factor.

The End of Microsoft

Or should we say the end of Windows? that would depend very much on Microsoft. Microsoft will have to lower its prices and it will have to revamp its licensing model. If Microsoft refuses to do this? They may as well keep Longhorn in the stables and go on with the XBox and their other initiatives. Mac OS X will be a user friendly, possibly superior platform and I think when the 64 bit craze hits, Mac OS X will be the immediate fan favorite among IT admins and major high end computing users. Microsoft will have to adapt, it will have to refine Windows and do something unique that will put Windows on top. With their reputation now, that will be very hard to do.

And the loser is….Linux

The only concievable loser I see in Apple coming to Intel is Linux. People who want a UNIX flavor on the Intel side will have Mac OS X and despite Apples faults, they do produce a far better user experience that no Linux distributor or developer can touch. IT admins will get a system on the PC side thats as powerful as the mighty UNIX and far friendlier than Windows. The only saving grace for the Linux camp will be if SCO sues Apple for contract violations and incorporating SCO technology into Mac OS X. In which case I see the Linux community siding with SCO. The Linux camp will have to deal with Apples popularty and Apples vastly superior user experience and their vastly superior product lineup. Linux developers will be in a world where, “Good enough” will not be good enough.

And the winner is….

The consumer. Conssumers will finally have their world of two competing products that are basically on par with each other, Windows and Mac OS X, and they will finally have a decent choice of alternatives..

Until we hear something for sure, the whole Apple on Intel is speculation. This whole rumor could be a ploy by Apple to get more viewers for their WWDC keynote. We just have to wait now. Im kindda hoping tomorrow they release a version of Safari for Windows, so we can all finally and forever bury IE. Seriously tho folks. I think we stand a better chance of seeing an Intel based G5 tower than we do Safari for Windows.



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