A first attempt at punditry: Apple switches to Intel CPUs

    I figured now was a good time to give my first attempt at industry punditry a go. If you're impressed with what you read below, then you really should interview me for your paper, send me a brown paper bag full of money, or make me a director of your company. It's how people say thank you in the corporate world, and as such is only polite.

    "I felt something, a disturbance in the network, as if a million mac zealots cried out in horror and were suddenly silenced."

    First off, I imagine that there are some fairly sad engineers at IBM today, and I feel for them. It must be horrid to have your baby taken by a guy in a turtle neck sweater and thrown into a garbage compactor. I know it wont help much, but I happen to have a lot of beer at home, and if any of you would like to drop in to help me drink it, then I'm sure we can sort something out. I'll even call a taxi to get you home afterwards.

    We all need to remember that Apple is a very smart company, even if they don't have the Power PC engineering team at IBM's best interests in mind. Steve Jobs wont have done anything he thinks will put Apple at risk, and he knows what he's doing. Remember, Apple has done this once before...

    Why didn't they switch to Sun hardware?

    Jonathan Schwartz proposed that Apple move to Sun processors, but tieing your platform to a hardware manufacturer with historical difficulties making a profit doesn't seem like a particularly brilliant idea to anyone apparently. Including Steve. Additionally, Apple is probably jumping away from IBM for one of two reasons -- they didn't like being beholden to someone who was their only option for the processor (does Motorola still make Power PC chips?), and price. Sun is unlikely to have a price advantage over Intel, given that Sun itself uses x86 chips for it's low end machines.

    Oh my God, we all have to re buy our applications!

    Yes, yes you are. Then again, this has always been the way that Apple plays the game. They sell you a machine, support you for a couple of years, and then sell you a new machine. Running OX 9 on your imac from 5 years ago? I feel your pain. Basically, Apple just wants you to go out and buy a new machine. So, get on with it. That new machine will ship with new applications compiled for the new architecture, so for the 99% case things will just work, which is what Apple wants.

    The sky is falling!


    Now they have to compete on a platform controlled by Microsoft!

    I was initially startled that Apple would move from a platform that they control and which is tightly defined by them to one which is basically controlled by Microsoft (as shown by the pain that other people have implementing things like ACPI, when most BIOSes are coded to work around bugs in Windows 95 or 98 which mean that the Linux folk end up having to try to be bug for bug compatible with old Windowses or have some other workaround). Thinking about this some more this morning, this simply isn't the case.

    IBM supplies the CPUs in current Macintosh machines, but that doesn't mean that they exert a lot of control over the architecture. Apple still makes the mother board, controls what is in the chip set, and can make reasonable assumptions about what else is in the machine. This is still the case when they jump to an Intel CPU -- I imagine that they'll still make their own mother boards and tightly control the chip sets that they use so that they only have to code for the well controlled case. Apple is also big enough that if they find a bug in a chip, they can have the manufacturer fix it, which makes their job easier than the Linux people.

    This view is confirmed by Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller who says that Apple has no plans on supporting other manufacturers' hardware.

    They want to sell a beige box like we all have in the corner?

    Raible Designs suggests that Apple should stay in the hardware game, and he is right. Apple has always had it's biggest strength in it's excellent industrial design, and I can't see that changing any time soon. The beige box in the corner simply isn't an interesting machine to the people who buy Apples -- because they want a well integrated machine which looks good and makes other people jealous. They'll get that in their new Intel based Apples, and wont even notice the change.

    Tags for this post: mac pundit intel cpu powerpc switch
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posted at: 17:19 | path: /mac/pundit | permanent link to this entry