June 7th, 2005
As a long-time Apple zealot (and former Apple employee, but that was a long time ago), my reaction to this is, well, mixed. But a lot of people have asked me what I think about it, so here goes. There are lots of issues to consider,
Why’d Apple do it?
It’s not cost. Apple pays less per unit for PowerPC chips than most vendors do for Intel chips. Issues with G5s in laptops and slow rate of speed increase for the G5 is probably the real culprit. There’s a certain irony here with the xbox moving to the PowerPC…
Can Apple pull it off?
Certainly, if any computer company knows how to manage such a transition, it’s Apple, having done it once on the hardware side before (68000 to PowerPC) and then on the software side (OS 9 to OS X). Based on that, and the fact that they’ve had OS X running on Intel hardware for some time now and the high-profile mentions of emulation and having MS and Adobe on board, I’m not worried about the technical handling of the transition. (Though I’m perturbed at the idea of a BIOS rather than Open Firmware.)
On the other hand, I’d be awfully tempted to sell Apple stock short for a while–how can they really expect to sell many machines for the next year? There’s no way Apple can sugar-coat this part that I will find credible.
The other issue I see is based on the bits I’ve read, Mac OS will still only run on Apple-branded hardware but it appears that Windows will also run on that hardware (and not vice-versa). Interesting, but I think the real potential problem is the issue for developers. This seriously impacts the testing effort (now have to test under 2 hardware architectures), and why develop a Mac version if all the Mac users out there can just run your Windows version? I don’t see this as a compelling argument for developing on the Mac.
The sky is falling!
Of course, the real fun will, of course, be seeing a certain segment of the Mac community give Chicken Little reactions, certain that this is the end. I’m sure the press will be declaring Apple’s death soon, for the umpteenth time. And, as per the past, I expect Apple to survive. Mac OS X is really pretty cool (something which could not be said for OS 9, which was usable enough but definitely not very cool) and Apple has another revenue stream (that whole iPod thing you may have heard of) which will help them get through this.
Still, as an 18-year Mac veteran (my first machine was a Mac Plus in 1987 and I’ve never switched, though I did spend some time in front of unix boxes in grad school), pairing with Intel just seems… wrong. As I said to my brother, it feels dirty. (Those evil wrong-endians! And I hate those stupid “Intel inside” stickers and the insipid Blue Man Group commercials.) More on the technical side, I am a bit perturbed by the abandonment of 64-bit processors and I’m not a little puzzled why Intel got the nod over AMD, but I would guess there’s more at play than we currently know.
The other concern I have is the dominant position this will give Intel. There’s something about a single company having a hold on both major desktop/laptop computing platforms which bothers me. Maybe that’s just my usual big-corporate paranoia but I don’t think so.
And, finally, where’s Beelzebub getting a winter coat? It must be really cold down there…