Yesterday's WWDC keynote started like many other of Steve Jobs' keynotes, with an update on the iPod, Apple stores and Mac sales. But then came the turning point. After Steve was done talking about iPod, iTunes, OS X Tiger and the rest of Apple's product line, he said the magic words: "now, let's talk about transitions."

And so it began, the minute that the word "transitions" was put up on the projection screen, you could hear the silence in the packed keynote hall. No one could believe it, despite how strong the rumors seemed to be, despite the slide that was staring everyone in the face, it hadn't even begun to sink in.

Then came the "it's true" slide, and all possibilities of doubt, theories of Intel making PowerPC chips, Apple using Itanium, all of that went out the window. The two words said more than any two words ever have in the entire PC industry. From that one slide, we all knew that Apple would be switching to Intel processors, and it would be none other than Intel's x86 line of CPUs.

Some of you have asked if the crowd boo'd - they did not. You could hear gasps and even feel the looks of disbelief on many faces, but there wasn't a single boo in the audience. What's interesting about the Apple crowd is that they really trust this guy, they truly believe in Steve Jobs and in Apple. We've never been to a keynote by any major industry leader and seen the same sort of support; many will call it a reality distortion field, but regardless of what causes it, it is still a lot of support. It is the type of support that a company needs to be able to complete an entire architectural change in less than two years; it is the type of support that only Apple seems to have. Whether that support will always be there, should Apple grow in size, remains to be seen, but it's there now and Apple needs it.

Many are worried about the negative impact that yesterday's announcements will have on Apple's present-day sales. Apple will begin shipping Intel based Macs starting around the middle of 2006, so why would you ever want to be stuck with a PowerPC based Mac that you just bought less than a year prior?
Apple does seem committed to offering PowerPC support for as long as it takes, meaning that OS X 10.5 (Leopard) will most likely be offered for both PPC and Intel based Macs, not to mention all of the applications that will definitely transition to a universal binary system. We honestly don't expect sales to suffer that much. Those who can wait will obviously do so until next year; those who cannot will still enjoy the same compatibility (most likely better at first) later on when the Intel Macs begin shipping.

Apple is doing their best, however, to control excitement about the switch to Intel. Unlike previous major announcements, this one isn't plastered all over the front page of Apple.com. The G5 product pages still showcase how a 2.0GHz G5 is still significantly "faster" than a 3.6GHz Pentium 4; interestingly enough, the very CPU that Apple appears to be supplying in their development kits. Not putting much marketing muscle behind the switch makes sense at this point - the real work that's needed is on the developer side. That being the case, Apple also released their Universal Binary Programming Guidelines yesterday to aid developers in making sure that their applications work on both PPC and Intel based Macs.

Based on Apple's guidelines, we can also conclude a few things about Apple's x86 implementation.

The default compiler for Apple's x86 line will continue to be GCC. Another very blunt statement from the documentation is that "Macintosh computers using Intel microprocessors do not use Open Firmware."

Rosetta, Apple's PPC to x86 binary translation software, also has some limitations:
"Rosetta is designed to translate currently shipping applications that run on a PowerPC with a G3 processor and that are built for Mac OS X.

Rosetta does not run the following:
  • Applications built for Mac OS 8 or 9
  • Code written specifically for AltiVec
  • Code that inserts preferences in the System Preferences pane
  • Applications that require a G4 or G5 processor
  • Applications that depend on one or more kernel extensions
  • Kernel extensions
  • Bundled Java applications or Java applications with JNI libraries that can't be translated."
Apple has confirmed that their Intel based Macs should be able to run Windows, but you will not be able to run the x86 version of OS X on any hardware platform that you choose. Obviously with the switch to Intel's architecture, it is going to be much more difficult for Apple to prevent users from circumventing any protection that they may have implemented to run the x86 OS on their own hardware. Even if Apple's protection is cracked, you can expect driver support to be extremely limited for configurations outside of what Apple will be shipping.

What Intel CPUs will Apple use?
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  • Vitaboy - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link


    The name for the first x86 Macs? I think it's gonna be

    PowerMac X1
    PowerBook X1

    X "just makes it cool", right? X also continues the "OS X" meme that has shown up in the Xserve, Xsan, and XRAID products. "X" could also refer to x86.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    There is a worm in the apple. And the worm's name is intel.

    What happens with an apple when the worm is done eating? Right.

    Reply
  • Quanticles - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    I cant remember everything I was going to put...

    Apple needs to go Intel because Intel is percieved to be more reliable, and in this transition they need no points of uncertanty.

    This deal does not hurt AMD since it doesnt decrease AMD's market share, and Apple's market share is only 1.5% anyway.

    AMD does not have *any* production capability issues. They have deals with three other fabs to build thier chips if the need ever comes.

    The biggest reason Apple should have gone with AMD (although, not better than the reason to go with intel), is that AMD is gaining popularity in the movie and music industries due to their low latency architecture. Apple's pro series of software deals in these areas I believe.

    Apple makes all of their own hardware except for the components (processors, fans, chipsets, IC's).

    I believe it was stated that you can dual-boot windows on a mac, but you cannot boot macintosh on any other pc. Sure it will be hacked, and someone will make it run on an AMD computer, etc, but are they *really* going to go through the effort of writing all of the necessary drivers, etc, when Apple might kill it with an update?

    Most of the people who steal OS's would regardless of whatever security measures may be in place. Apple might benefit more if they dont have it since it would get more people to use it.

    IBM does not want to try to compete with Intel and AMD with only 1.5% market share, that's just silly.

    Apple can not have huge prices on their hardware now since it will be much easier to compare against other PC manufacturers. Previously the high price was justified by the G5 processor. Now you can go build the exact same dell computer online and see what that is priced at.
    Reply
  • phaxmohdem - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    IMHO I believe that Intel CPU's will work best for Apple in their desktop lines for reasons stated in teh article. However, I think apple would be doing itself a huge favor if they looked seriously at the Opteron for their X-Serve line of servers. Their current ones basically can't hold a candle to a dual or quad opteron setup plus in the server market, a lot more people realize the advantages of Opteron over Xeon, and would probably be more likely to go that route at this point.

    Reply
  • nserra - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    VERY INTERESTING TO READ:

    "Q: When ULi was first spun off, over 80% of your revenues came from notebook chipsets. However, this year, the company expects a significant portion of revenues to come from desktop chips. Can you tell us about this transition?

    A: When ULi started out, we did focus on notebook chipsets, and it was actually quite a profitable business for us. The strength of our notebook-chipset solutions was the southbridge, which had better power-saving technology than southbridges from other vendors. In addition, it was a cost-effective, integrated solution, with the graphics supplied by our partner at that time, California-based Trident Microsystems.

    When Intel introduced its Centrino platform, we knew we could not focus on notebooks in the long-term.

    Centrino changed the whole dynamic of the notebook market. Centrino systems require an Intel CPU, a wireless module and Intel chipsets. So, even if ULi provided a solution that supported Intel CPUs and wireless networking, we would not be able to call it Centrino. In addition, despite ULi having all the parts and better power-saving technology than Intel, some of our customers, such as Toshiba, started to worry. It was all because of naming, a marketing issue."
    Reply
  • nserra - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    This is not bad, like someone already said here AMD is the BMW the other are not, and not everyone can have a BMW.

    If you look good this is not that bad, amd have the others support (nvidia, ati, sis, via, uli), and the others will support even more amd, why?

    The others don’t like centrino, intel igp, ... WHY? Because they aren’t there. Where can they be? Teaming with an amd processor for example.

    Besides in the future you will see MAC dual core system 80FPS, AMD dual core system 120FPS... that will look bad for who...
    (Prepare to see some amd systems with 9600 cards vs sli 6800 ultras on apple benchmarks/marketing)!!!!! ;)

    Intel best performance per watt...... it there where AMD in that chart was scoring what? 300 points?
    Reply
  • erinlegault - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    Please ignore the last sentence in #39. Reply
  • erinlegault - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    Isn't all hardware and software developed with some form of industrial standard, i.e. USB, Firewire, Flash, etc. The drivers are simply the tool for "integrating" the hardware with software.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't work as it should because M$ gives hardware developers the development version of Windows and they design the drivers and hardware to support Windows. Of course new versions of Windows have to support old hardware, but we are seeing Windows dropping support for legacy devices, i.e. ISA. Soon LPT, serial/com/rs232, and floppy will be dropped as well.

    Given the way the PC industry is done, it shouldn't take too long for Apple to develop a compatable OS. Just, give hardware development copies of the OS and all will be fine. It will just take some investment.

    Plus, they shouldn't have too much trouble getting M$ to cooperate given they don't want another antitrust case.

    Now that Apple will be getting in the PC business
    Reply
  • nserra - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    "If Intel does indeed embrace an on-die memory controller and a Hyper Transport-like interface by 2007 in a cooler running architecture, the demand for Apple to support AMD may in fact diminish."

    I don’t understand these articles that say that intel will have a superb system by 2007.... 2007 is not today, and in 2007 amd will still have the same processor (amd athlon64 4000+, fx55, ....) ?!?!
    Reply
  • othercents - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    There is a simple answer why AMD was not choosen as the CPU manufacturer. Intel not only is the CPU manufacturer, but they also manufacture Motherboards and Chipsets. AMD does not. Apple was probably looking for a total solution that they can slam into their cases without have to design or develop anything else. Intel can do that and AMD can not.

    Other
    Reply

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