Thoughts On Intel

I never really expected Apple to make the jump to Intel x86 processors. Even after the rumor mill was ablaze over the weekend, it wasn’t like we all haven’t heard the stories before.

I’ve talked to a number of Mac users who expressed concern about spyware and viruses coming to the Mac starting with the introduction of Intel-based machines. I’m positive this won’t happen. Why? The x86 architecture has little to do with viruses. The fault lies in the operating system, and this is the Mac’s strongest area. As I put it to those people, Linux doesn’t have virus problems and it runs on a vast array of processor architectures, including x86. Mac OS X is designed similarly, and I am confident that the Mac experience we all know and love will be just the same, if not better, than it is today.

On the subject of moving operating systems around, Apple has already stated that Mac OS X won’t run on off the shelf PC hardware. While this may be true, I’m sure there are many who are willing to attempt the Mac OS X to PC transplant. Personally, I would love to be able to install OS X on standard hardware and build some cheap Macs, but this option would certainly impact Apple’s hardware sales. Right now, it’s just too early to tell how hard this feat will be. Like it or not, though, there will be people trying their best to make it happen. If this upsets you, be aware that Apple knows what they’re getting into. The decision to switch to x86 hardware wasn’t a bright idea Steve had one day — they’ve likely been planning this since, well, NextStep days. As for dual-booting Windows on an Intel Mac machine, Phil Schiller has stated that Apple will not support it, however, they won’t be doing anything to prohibit you from doing so. Again, it’s too early to tell. The Developer Transition Kits announced yesterday will be shipping in two weeks, and people will by trying everything they can think up.

Apple has clearly made a tough choice which may significantly impact hardware sales over the course of the next few months, but the overall goal is to provide customers with cooler, faster, and (hopefully) more affordable hardware. If this is true, I’m all for it — my 1.25 GHz PowerBook gets mighty hot. I wholeheartedly agree with Steve, though, that “the soul of the Mac is it’s operating system.”

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Thoughts On Intel

9 thoughts on “Thoughts On Intel

  1. If “hackers” were to succeed in hacking a normal PC to run OSX, Apple Computer will fall. Apple is a hardware company, no matter how you look at it. Crippling the hardware sales would crush it.

    I think this is a good and bad thing though. Sales will be driven down, but like i said in my post over at my site, Jobs is playing a bit of a numbers game, but it’ll come with a price.

    -Mike

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  2. das7282 says:

    Actually, I have to disagree with Mike (some what). I think if Apple released OS X for PCs (any PC) they could make a killing of just OS X sales. Why not? Microsoft has. How many PCs does Microsoft sell? None.

    OS X is an amazing OS and I think if Apple focused on their software instead of their (hugely proprietary} hardware, they could actually gain huge market share (at the expense of Microsoft).

    I’ve worked on a Mac for a few years now at work and I loved OS X immensely. But at home I was still using WinPCs simple because I could not afford a Mac. Then Apple came out with the Mac Mini (that was actually affordable) and I couldn’t order it fast enough! But god knows I didn’t buy it for its performance but rather I bought it because it was something that could run OS X.

    So now I use my Mac Mini as my main PC (I’m writing this on it now) and my 2GHz/1GB RAM/GeForce 6800 PC is sitting next to me only being used when I want to game. That my friend is how much I like OS X. I’d buy OS X for every PC I own in a heart-beat if I could.

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  3. The biggest issue here is, neither the customers nor developers wanna go through another big switch again, not this soon anyway. Sure us geeks loved switching to OS X, but the common folk did not. It was nothing but hassle, having to work out supported and unsupported hardware. And the big thing was having to buy all your software all over again. Apples customer do not want to go through this again. And the developers are probably even worse off. Apple has been pushing things like altivec for so long, now suddenly not only is it going to not exist anymore, but if your app requires it, your app won’t even run under rosetta. This is going to be a huge pain in the ass transition that is going to cost apple users a ton of money, and going to cost apple a lot of customers and developers. They are saying this might hurt apple in the short term, but in the long run it will work out. I see the short term as being 5-10 years, and the long term being beyond that.

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  4. I agree with das7282 — I’d like to see Mac OS X take on Windows head-to-head, but I’m sure it won’t happen (at least not officially, in the form of Apple opening OS X to any PC hardware).

    Sure us geeks loved switching to OS X, but the common folk did not.

    I happen to know a group of people who made the OS X transition (some faster than others, for various reasons) and are enjoying the benefits of their newfound OS.

    Apple has been pushing things like altivec for so long, now suddenly not only is it going to not exist anymore, but if your app requires it, your app won’t even run under rosetta.

    I don’t know of any applications which are AltiVec only. John Gruber notes, “[I]n most cases, apps that are capable of taking advantage of AltiVec, fall back to non-AltiVec code branches when running on G3 processors. Exhibit A: Photoshop; if you have a machine with AltiVec, it uses it, if you don’t it continues to work just fine.”

    This is going to be a huge pain in the ass transition that is going to cost apple users a ton of money, and going to cost apple a lot of customers and developers.

    It’s not as if your current machine suddenly doesn’t do what you bought it for, or that a future non-Intel Mac won’t be “as good” as the Intel models for your needs. You buy the machines for your purposes, and they will be outdated in the same time period anyway, regardless of the Intel transition. And if developers know what’s good for them, they should make free software upgrades for a situation such as this. While some effort will be put into porting current apps, it would be an annoyance to users to have to pay for an upgrade because they just bought a new Intel-based Mac.

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  5. Thoughts On The Move To Intel

    (This is my first trackback, I hope it works alright)
    My main question when this all started was: “will I be able to run OS X on my Dell at work?” Unfortunately, Apple has stated that they will not be supporting just any x86 hardware, but…

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  6. I like most reading this am a hardcore apple fan, but this transition to intel really does not ruffle my feathers in the slightest. As an end user, the transition should be somewhat transparent.

    I think of it in this way, a year and a half ago I went out and got a dual G5 1.8, in a few years when this beast of a machine is too outdated then i’ll get a new one, prolly by then a MacIntel. To me, it woulf be the equivalent of getting a G6 if they ever existed…
    as for teh software ports, if mathematica can be up and running in about 2 hours as was stated in the keynote, i dont think that most apps will take that long to be updated to run on x86. and for those that wont be, the rosetta layer should take care of emulating(i assume) a virutal ppc instruction set layer. Altivec is not native to PPC, apple had ibm add the instruction sets to the PPC970/G5. Seeing they have had OSX running on x86 since it’s inception, i dont think it will be too big a deal

    as for the hardware and osX running on x86 generic brand PCs, i doubt that. I am sure that apple will limit the amount of supported hardware and work with intel to add some dinky hardware feature to make sure that OSX is running on apple approved hardware. Will it be breakable? sure, i don’t see why some hacker wouldnt be able to override some security protection. Will that cause apple to go belly up? No. The kind of people who would go to such great lengths to get the OS running on other hardware would be trivial compared to the regular user base, which doesn’t have the knowledge to install a hack or fix to be able to run the OS.

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  7. That guy says:

    I think the fear of spyware and viruses coming to the mac is not from the processor but what the processor will do to the mac. Microsoft is virus and spyware ridden because something like 80-90% percent of the world uses it. Now that Apple has “switched” to intel and the possibility of OS X being ported to run on any intel machine means OS X has the possibility of being so widley used bored hackers around the world will start ruining the Macintosh experience. This was the first thing that came to my mind and scares the hell out of me. I’ve been using Apple computers since the mac classic and I would hate to watch all that be flushed down the toilet.

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  8. Dave says:

    I had a long list of reasons why Apple would never do a wholesale switch to Intel and I still think they are all true but were trumped by one overriding factor: IBM simply doesn’t seem to be interested in conventional desktop processors any more. Watching Jobs I think its obvious he’s not happy about it but there’s not a whole lot of choice if Apple is to keep pushing forward.

    As a programmmer I love the PowerPC’s clean architecture compared to the x86, which spends a lot of resources propping up what’s still essentially a register starved, awkward, inefficient, ancient 8080 derived model. Fortunately these days you leave the grunt work to the compiler and they’ve done a good job squeezing performance out of it so I can live with that (really going to miss AltiVec though.) And yes, I do expect that the days of a malware free OS X are numbered, a good reason why PPC Macs will remain valuable even after the transition.

    That being said, there will be positives too. I’m betting the first round of shipping MacTel machines will ahve fast multi-core processors and the various ‘Books will have much better battery times. There’s a lot of experience with and tons of libraries of tuned x86 code for A/V codecs and pretty much anything else you want to do. We might even see Macs mentioned in a few commercials again, courtesy of Intel’s large ad budget. With any luck top PC games might arrive on the Mac quickly and run well (ironically, assuming the PowerPC based next gen consoles don’t kill off the PC game market.) One way or the other I bet we also soon see ultra-cheap low end machines running OSX and running it better than they do XP.

    One incredibly smart thing Apple is doing is going to developers NOW with tools to produce x86 binaries, and they’ve made the process about as easy as is humanly possible. By the time MacTels ship a lot of on-the-shelf apps will be ready. I would like to see Apple do more to help the legions of small developers who are a big part of OSX’s success and can’t justify $1000 for the loan of a machine. Readily accessible and numerous “developer kitchens” for testing and advise would be enough and they’ve done it before.

    I’m not crazy about this decision from a technical point of view but I understand the reasons for it. Its going to be a bumpy ride for the next year or two but we’ve made it through worse so don’t jump off a bridge yet.

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  9. spaghettigalieti says:

    The strength of Apple is not that they are a software company or a hardware company…it’s the fact that they are both, and they are damn good at it. The are not the company that they are because they whore out their computers to third party companies like PC’s. Cost? I will go through three broken PC’s in the same time it will take me to enjoy one functioning Mac. Intel or not, You do the math and PC’s aren’t cheeper.

    My concern with making it too “broad audience” as PC’s have become, is that you will start to have polluted CPU’s and Mac will loose what makes them great. It sounds a bit like a computer arian race idea, but there is side to the idea that makes sense when it comes to computers being stable. I love that mac’s are solid, stable computers that aren’t bogged down with hardward conflicts the whole “this program doesn’t work with this program”, or “I can’t use this video card with that game” complaint.

    Bottom Line Steve Jobs isn’t a idiot. He might have switched to an intel chip but I doubt it is because it is a lower quality or because he wants to see the problems we are all worried about come to be reality. He has worked to many years to build apple to what it is to simply piss it away over a few bucks. Given the circumstances, He made the best decision he could. I’m sure there will be a time where Intel will have it’s day when they no longer work out. As long as Apple keeps it’s standards high, I trust they will make the right decisions.

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