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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  • barnett25 - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    "I think Jobs reminds me of the John Kerry of computing. The guy is always saying one thing and doing but doing another. PPC is better than x86 one minute, the next he's transitioning in two year time. Apple users are deaf, dumb, stupid and blind not to see how patheic Apple really is. And all of the time they have been hating PC's, because of this and that; guess what, now your stuck with one like it or not. Maybe that little Apple dome sticker on the front of your x86 powered, defacto standard PC will make you feel all warm and fuzzy so you can sleep better at night? "

    No one gives a crap about what processor is inside a Mac as long as it runs OSX fast. Thats what people like about Macs, the OS. You know, that thing that actually matters about a computer that so many of the people on this site forget about (instead focusing on things like 2% increases on hardware performance).
    Reply
  • ranger203 - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    Will I be able to dual boot a MAC OS 11 on my pentium 4??? Reply
  • AnnihilatorX - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    "The Intel brand is much stronger than AMD's, and that is the sort of partner that Apple is interested in."

    This doesn't make any sense to me at all
    People who bought Mac PC bought them because of Apple not the IBM CPU. I don't the Intel brand will have anything to do with sales either. Even they stick some unknown CPU in nobody cares, they cares about the Mac OS and that's what make people buy Mac
    Reply
  • Backslider - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    I think Jobs reminds me of the John Kerry of computing. The guy is always saying one thing and doing but doing another. PPC is better than x86 one minute, the next he's transitioning in two year time. Apple users are deaf, dumb, stupid and blind not to see how patheic Apple really is. And all of the time they have been hating PC's, because of this and that; guess what, now your stuck with one like it or not. Maybe that little Apple dome sticker on the front of your x86 powered, defacto standard PC will make you feel all warm and fuzzy so you can sleep better at night?

    I say good luck Apple. Keep telling your lemmings what they want to hear. Just get better at the lies, the PC world has gotten quite good at it. I mean we are going to all be buying back our p3's arent we!?
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    I heard a number along the lines of 50,000 EE chips are manufactured per SKU. It looks like Intel will actually make this a real processor instead of just something to get headlines.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • phantom505 - 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."

    Wow...lots of if's. And IF Intel had let the Isreali's design the P4 they wouldn't be in the mess they are in now.
    Reply
  • Sunner - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    Zebo, Steve was actually the one who saved Apple when they needed it the most.
    He turned a dying company with nothing but red ink on their financial reports into a profitable company with some very well recognized brands.
    Reply
  • Dukemaster - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    Most Apple fan's will be dissapointed but the fact is that the move to Intel will mean more money for Apple. The Mac's will become faster and cheaper and software compatibility will be enhanced. I say good move of Apple. Reply
  • JAS - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    Video of the WWDC keynote:

    http://stream.apple.akadns.net
    Reply
  • Zebo - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    Jeff what Stevie is doing should have been done 15 years ago then Apple would be Dell. Now it's too little to late, a wish and a prayer, a shot in the dark. Dell simply has too much presence, awesome prices and is the defacto standard for PC's. Gateway, HP, Compaq etc all going or went down to Dell and they are much bigger than Apple. The only PC makers doing well are boutique builders like AW or high-end servers from IBM, HP or Sun. Apple caters to neither market. Reply

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