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Mac Retailers’ Reactions to Intel Move Are Mixed June 9, 2005

Posted by rjdohnert in Software reviews.
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eWeak is running an article about retailers reactions about Apples switch. Myself, I like to learn how Apple plans to help with the transition phase. So far I think Apples plans are very well thought through, possibly more thought through than when Steve Jobs switched to Intel with nastiest. People who are going on with the purity Apple can shut the hell up. This transition is not going to be bad. One Apple purist in a Open Letter to Steve Jobs on OSNews stated:

” You’re claiming that recompiling PPC binaries on the fly for x86 processors is fast enough. My personal experience with such recompilations prevents me from believing such a thing. It’s going to be awfully slow, probably just as much as Java, or any software that runs in a virtual machine. Apart from that, loading time will be atrociously slow. Caching recompiled code might be an option, but then it will break any applications that internally generate code (like most emulators) or modify their own code segment (many useful anti-debugger tricks are based on that principle), while requiring even more disk space.

The use of fat binaries is an inelegant bloat. That means twice the required disk space and twice the download time (at the very least). As for developers, that also means twice the assembly code (as mentioned above; for many applications, that means almost twice the development time), twice the compiler glitches (as a programmer, I can attest there will be quite many), severe endianness issues (data on file must be read by platforms with different byte ordering, meaning many patches), and more frustrating surprises.”

First of all what Apple is proposing is not Fat binaries, they are called universal binaries. If I understand everything correctly, and I believe I do, Universal binaries only contain the bits that are necessary to run on the specific platforms. The download size will not double, it will only go up by a few bytes to kilobytes. Of course the larger your program the more that will need to be added but in any case it will be miniscule at most. Secondly, the only Apps people will have trouble porting are carbon and processor specific bits as Carbon still uses some assembly from the old Mac versions of software. Thirdly, be thankful. Apple in Xcode 2.1 gives you a compile for Intel box. With NeXTStep when I had to work with that I had to code it all by hand, I had no box. Now that was a bitch.

The same author writes:

” Aren’t you awfully worried that Wine will be ported for the Mac? And then that switchers will keep using Windows applications on their new machines? Far from being good news as a transitional help, that means a far less reliable platform overall. Gone will be the days of the secure operating system with solid applications — a Mac will just be another PC, with the same awful reputation than Wintel machines (actually, it will even run Windows — even if not officially supported). Give a warm welcome to mail worms (or do you seriously think people will abandon Outlook, even those switching to Mac OS X?), Internet Explorer security issues, and more. “

Why should Apple care about Wine?, more Mac users than you know already run VPC on their Mac and using Windows programs. Even if you get a worm in outlook it will not affect the rest of your system. If people create worms or viruses do appear for the Mac on intel than that shows the creativity and pervasiveness of hackers and more than likely those same worms or viruses will show up for Linux as it only takes a few tweaks to code and you can run the malware on Linux and FreeBSD. As for IE, I am willing to bet that most people will run the Mac version under Rosetta and most Mac users who continue to use IE only use it to test for compatibility, most Mac users that I know use Camino and Safari for web surfing and with the new exchange functionality in iCal and Mail I doubt most will have to use Outlook under wine. Also, the ability to run Windows will be a definite plus because now instead of having to deal with ball busting slow emulation we have a native platform.

As for some of the points I have read about device drivers and cutting driver support for PowerPC Macs. I don’t think that will be much of a problem for at least 3 to 4 years, at which time cutting driver support for a legacy system should be expected. This is not Windows 2000 and Windows XP where not porting necessary software is the result of laziness and forced upgrades, we are talking 2 different CPU architectures here and you cant support both forever.

Some of the Apple purists will be pissed and drop the platform in hopes of finding something better, that they wont find if you are used to using an OS with the Macs approach. In the long run I do believe Apple will definitely attract more users and their developer base will grow. Developers especially, because now Apple is running on standard chips and we don’t have to worry about supporting 2 different processor platforms.

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