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Hell Froze Over--Again

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on June 06, 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.

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Reader Comments


June 6, 2005 02:42 PM

Hi Cliff,

AFAIK, there are no Linux roots for Mac OS, but rather BSD roots.


June 6, 2005 02:54 PM

Dave Winer just posted that OSX will not be running on garden variety Dells but there is nothing preventing you from also installing your copy of Windows...OSX for security and cool apps, PC for gaming and compatibility...sounds like a good switchers machine :-)


June 6, 2005 03:01 PM

>Apple fans will gain access to a lot of new >programs and games they didn't get before.

Why do people blog about stuff they don't
understand? Intel Processor does not equal


June 6, 2005 03:03 PM

Just because it runs on the same hardware, software doesn't automatically run. Meaning, current windows application will NOT run on the Mac OS even though they share the same hardware. - I.E., Linux also runs on intel....but windows apps do not - well - at least not natively.

To say anything different is misleading to your readers.


June 6, 2005 03:04 PM

The thing no one is talking about is that Mac os X is now a contender to the OS hill again. Why use Windows when Mac OS X is so much better ? I know I know legacies... But i believe having a OS X on intel is far more dangerous for Microsoft than linux.

Varun Kaushik

June 6, 2005 03:33 PM

Seems like the day has finally arrived when one system will be able to house windows, mac OS, and linux. If what Jobs says is correct, then I would definitely switch over to an apple machine that can run windows. This way, I feel, I will get the best of both worlds.


June 6, 2005 03:42 PM

The cynic in me wonders whether having an Intel processor inside will reduce the resistance of a non-Mac user to switch. For the end-user - and for the IT purchasing people who make these decisions - it's ultimately about the OS more than it is about the underlying processor.

Good for Apple if it can capitalize on this deal to drive its mobile business further into the heart of the market. I hope they're right.

Dave Taylor

June 6, 2005 04:44 PM

I can't get too excited about this announcement either. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised at all the hullabaloo, all things told:

I just can't see that the Mac experience is going to be any different, better or worse, with a different CPU inside my computer.

John George

June 7, 2005 12:21 AM

This is the best news since french fries. Imagine the options open to both Mac and Intel users. I cant wait to see the new machine from Mac, cool and able:-)

Chris Latta

June 7, 2005 11:48 AM

All I can say is: SWEETNESS (underline, bold, italic)!!

(and I can say that with full understanding of the hardware and software implications of the switch).


June 8, 2005 07:30 AM

As for dual-boot systems: first, Apple isn't likely to support Win XP on a "Mac". Second MOST users will not go to this effort -- its much too complex. But the oddest comment in the post is that people would use "OS X for cool digital editing and video software and Windows for games and e-mail."

Why would XP be better for email? That's absurd. XP has no clear advantage in this case, rather the opposite. XP is much in danger from email viruses and mal-ware.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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