Apple dropping the PPC platform and embracing Intel chips shocked a great number of people, and for several, quite different reasons.
Some people expected it all along. The Marklar project was one of the most talked about rumours for years, and although when you thought it through it did make sense, (Apple would have been very foolish not to have had this as a back-up plan), it still surprised numerous respected Apple commentators.
Next, (which is the OS that Mac OS X was based upon), was originally coded for Intel. Xcode is built from the ground up to be platform independent, (a simple tick box compiles you code for PPC or Intel) and Apple have been encouraging developers to embrace Xcode for years.
With these points in mind, in my opinion, Steve Jobs has been planning this ever since he came back to Apple. I think though that the failure of the PPC platform surprised even him. Failure? Yes that is a harsh word, but in terms of what matters, (i.e. consumer perception of your product), the PPC platform has been holding Apple back for years.
Yes, there are great things coming from IBM (apparently), but if the latest dual core chips are anything to go by, then all the old problems remain. We now have a dual core chip that is actually slower (in GHz terms) than the previous version. Yes I know it is faster in real terms, but try telling that to Joe Public. The portable version of this chip is non existent. Freescale just cannot deliver. Look at the latest offering for the Powerbook’s. For the very first time in the Powerbook’s history, there is NO speed increase in the latest refresh.
Freescale may have upped the speed a little if Apple had not announced the move to Intel, but I doubt it would have been by much.
No, what matters is speed & production volumes. IBM & Freescale do not have this and never will. Your only option is Intel and their roadmap looks very exciting indeed. Their speed increases look very impressive (especially for the laptops), and Apple will never have to worry about production volumes ever again.
One aspect of Apple that has astounded me, is that they cannot get their products produced quickly enough, there is always a holdup in getting chips from IBM, and they just cannot ramp up production quickly enough. Imagine how many sales have been lost due to this one annoying bottleneck. Imagine the lost sales and subsequent lost market share increase.
So, you can argue forever the finer points of IBM chips versus Intel chips, but it will happen anyway, we are all moving to Intel, and it looks like the transition will be swift and relatively painless now that Apple have decent emulation for the legacy PPC chip.
But the ramifications of this transition have not really been realised yet. Broadly speaking, is this positive or negative news for the Mac? Well I think it’s positive, very positive.
When Apple’s transition is complete and the whole product line has moved over to Intel and all major applications have been converted you will effectively have Apple branded hardware that comes installed with Mac OSX, all wrapped up in some sort of DRM that will make it difficult to transfer this OS to a standard Intel box.
You can purchase it as a normal Mac and not even realise that the chip inside is different.
You could if you wanted install either Linux or Windows on this Apple hardware and simply run it as you old Windows PC if you want, Apple will not prevent you (but they won’t support you either).
This isn’t as bad as it sounds because remember, it makes no difference what OS your running on this Mactel, the market share numbers will regsiter a Mac sale. I guarantee that a great number of Windows users will do this straight away (as I bet that the hardware will be very competitively priced) and Apple’s market share will skyrocket, even though a significant number of users will install Windows on it.
This will continue for a while until you have a situation where a large number of Windows users have hardware that is capable of running Mac OS X. All you then need to do to make these Windows users switch to the Mac, is convince them to move to the Mac partition – for free. This is much easier than it was before because there is no need to purchase new hardware or software.
But what will be the carrot to lure them to move to the Mac partition for good? One word – software.
This is why Apple has been beefing up its Applications Division since Steve Jobs took over. Apple make the best set of applications – bar none. the iLife suite, and their collection of Pro Apps are best of breed and will never be released for Windows.
This will encourage Windows users to come over, but the thing that will totally convince them is Office. Apple will either bundle Office with the Mactel’s or they will adapt Appleworks, cross it with the open source version of Office and bundle that for free.
And where is Microsoft in all this? Well they’ll be happy because they still get the OS sale and the Office sale (less happy if Apple release an Office competitor), but I’d worry more about Dell, HP & other hardware manufacturer’s. They are not in a very good position for future growth. Why would anyone buy their products when you can get similar priced hardware from Apple that runs more OS’s, more best of breed applications, looks better and is more reliable?
I look forward to the transition being complete and 5 years from now, the tech industry will look totally different. This really does change everything.