Posted by: Cliff Edwards on June 6, 2005
Call it “Hell Froze Over—The Sequel” Apple just announced the not-so-secret fact that it is dropping IBM’s PowerPC chip architecture and going with Intel beginning next year. First, Steve Jobs decided to make the iPod compatible with Windows computers. Now, he decides to use Intel chips. What gives?
It’s easy to see why Jobs is making the switch. First, he wasn’t getting a lot of lovin’ from the IBM folks, just as he didn’t get much with the folks at Motorola when they had the lion’s share of Apple business. Tied up with much of the game console business, IBM didn’t see producing a low-power laptop chip for Apple as one of their priorities.
But after the success of the iPod, it makes it hard for Apple to strike when the iron is hot if there’s nothing to juice sales of its other Mac devices. With much of the developed world now opting for notebooks pcs over desktops, and Intel owning that market with its low-power Pentium-M line, Apple had no choice but to switch.
When this was just a rumor, a few of you software experts said it would be not much of a problem to port to Intel’s x86 from PowerPC given that the OS (and much of Apple’s software created internally) has Unix roots. So there doesn’t seem to be much downside here, eh? Clearly Jobs has decided to join them, then beat them. Over time, Apple fans will gain access to a lot of new programs and games they didn’t get before, particularly if Apple chooses to use Intel’s virtualization technology being baked into its chips. With virtualization, one Mac could run multiple operating systems—say OS X for cool digital editing and video software and Windows for games and e-mail.
And if Intel gets out of line? Hey, there’s another x86 guy with cool (some say better performing) chips, too—Advanced Micro Devices. Betcha Jobs already is thinking about this. It helps to have a second-source in the chip business to keep things kosher, a lesson learned hard from the 10-year fiasco of the PowerPC architecture.