Apple And Intel, Sittin’ In A Tree

No sooner was I back home when I heard the momentous news that Apple will be using Intel processors starting in 2006. It’s been an open secret that Apple has had a secret project called “Marklar” that has involved porting every single release of OS X to the Intel platform. If IBM/Freescale couldn’t deliver, all Apple had to do was come up with a way of moving over between platforms.

From what I can gather, the Apple team has beaten the biggest threat to this project — software compatibility. Amazingly enough, Apple developed a tool called “Rosetta” which runs OS X/PowerPC applications under Intel at native speeds. How in the world they do this (the PowerPC is very different from Intel’s x86 chips) is beyond me, but it appears to work just fine. That, and future software products can use “universal binaries” which automatically run on both platforms (probably at the expense of file size, but that’s not a major concern with the massive capacity of modern hard drives). If that’s true, PowerPC Mac users won’t have to worry about getting locked out until at least 2006-2007 when Mac OS 10.5 “Leopard” arrives – if even then.

This is a major announcment, but Apple’s had 5 years to prepare for it, and it should result in cheaper Macs. You won’t be able to buy a Dell and ditch Windows for OS X, you’ll still have to buy Apple hardware, but that hardware should be cheaper. Part of the appeal of Apple products is that because Apple controls both the software and hardware the quality of hardware is almost always light-years ahead of Dell, Gateway, Compaq, or the other white-box PC manufacturers. That isn’t going to change.

If this means that Apple can keep creating machines like the Mac mini on lower-cost hardware and keep innovating as they have, Apple’s potential for growth is exceptionally high. Apple’s already switched from Motorola 68k chips to PowerPC, and did so successfully. If they can do the same with Intel without shutting out existing customers, this will have been an excellent strategic move for Apple. However, Apple can’t afford to spook its old customers, and they’ve just ensured that sales of their newer machines will be slow until the Intel-based systems come out next year. That’s why the iPod is so important to Apple’s future, along with the iTunes Music Store and the forthcoming HD Video Store. Apple has the advantage of both tons of cash on hand and one line of products that’s selling like hotcakes. Once the first Apple/Intel machines hit the street, I’d expect Mac sales to rebound, especially if that means continuing Apple’s tradition of small and fast notebooks and excellent integration of software and hardware.

4 thoughts on “Apple And Intel, Sittin’ In A Tree

  1. This is great news. As you know, I recently flirted with the idea of switching from the PC to the Mac, but one of the most difficult things to get comfortable with was the vastly different clock speeds – the short hand with which we judge speed. Sure, I understand that the Freescale/IBM chips peformed better than their clock speed indicated (just as AMD chips do), but to pay the same price for a 2 GHz Mac and a 3.4 GHz PC, well, I couldn’t do it.

    Now, since most users now use PCs for word processing, pictures and internet, and since Microsoft Office is and will continue to be available on the Mac, I’m absolutely sure that Apple will increase its market share significantly and may very well be over 10% by 2007. They will be able to offer a competitively priced machine at comparable processor speeds ot Dell, Compaq, HP, Alienware, etc. And if Apple maintains their quality and innovation, their share will go even higher.

    My advice, by AAPL. Either now, or in 2006 when their sales have dropped because of the transition.

  2. In related news, I’ve fallen to the Dark Side- I am now the proud owner of a 15″ G4 Powerbook…

    Now, what to get for software? I already picked up Microsoft Office Student Edition (I’m just too comfortable with Word, it’s one of the few Microsoft programs I actually like), but what else is essential?

  3. Pingback: JRB Technology
  4. Sweet!

    I’ve become a big fan of iWork, but Office is still probably essential.

    The thing about the Mac is that most of the software you need comes with it. Safari is a fine browser, although I also keep a copy of Firefox installed. Mail isn’t bad, but Mozilla Thunderbird is probably better in some regards. iTunes, iPhoto, and iDVD are all more than good enough.

    Other than assorted Dashboard widgets, I really don’t use much else. (Well, Photoshop and Dreamweaver, but those are a bit on the pricey side… :))

    I have heard that TextWrangler is worth having, and people rave about Delicious Library, although I’ve never used it.

    Version Tracker has quite a bit of Mac software, so if there’s something you’re looking for, chances are they have it.

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