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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  • Tripper - Sunday, June 12, 2005 - link

    For an entirely different POV than my own previous comment see http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20050609.... as to why Microsoft my be the real loser. I can only hope. Reply
  • yanon - Thursday, June 09, 2005 - link

    Here comes a challenger to MS. Initially, Apple OS market share will still be small. There will be more and more software developers offering Apple version of their software in the future since the hardware platform will be essentially the same for either OS's
    In time, Apple OS market share will grow. MS being smart at killing competition will probably stop developing Apple version of MS Office to slow Apple's penetration into the coporate world. Needless to say, 2008-2012 will be a very interesting time for computing world.
    Reply
  • Tripper - Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - link

    "If AMD collapses, Intel would immedately go back to it's good old days of 1990-1998 of $500 CPUs...this is the nail in Apples coffin. $400 Dells' will kill them."

    I competely agree with Zebo's #5 post, this move threatens to isolate AMD even further and surely will spell the death of Apple. Why buy an Apple, even if it comes in under $1000, when cheapee Dell's are available? There was an argument that Mac's were better that their Wintel cousins, but you can't make that claim anymore. Apple survived because it was unique, yet now they have traded that commodity away. And what guarantee's does Jobs have that all their vendors will jump on the new platform for a mere $1000? It will be interesting to see how many of these developer packages they sell, and how fast too.

    IMO Apple's only hope is to become a software company offering their OS and other warez as a counter-point to Microsoft. If OSX were compatible with AMD I'd purchase it over Windows, as long as they don't try to imitate Longhorn.s long as they don't try to imitate Longhorn.
    Reply
  • nserra - Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - link

    #50 Very simple.

    Apple goes for Intel because it can provide them all they need.

    Products from Intel are "bad" for the market because if all comes from the same manufacture means less competition, less differential products (all cost the same, do the same, look the same).

    And it's all about marketing. On that post all your questions are answered. And it doesn’t have nothing to do we this subject.
    Reply
  • Pandaren - Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - link

    #51 - If you look at Apple's OS X for Intel documentation, you'll find that the overwhelming focus is on IA-32 and not x64. Apple probably can and will use Yonah because: (1) it'll take awhile to get x64 OS X working (2) lower end consumer machines don't need or can't physically fit more than 4GB of memory. For a Mac Mini or iBook, an IA-32 rather than an x64 processor is just fine. Reply
  • mczak - Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - link

    To #47, I think you're correct that Anandtech is very wrong. However, I'm a bit puzzled: I highly doubt Apple would bother with the "old" x86, that would just mean they need to transition to x86_64 shortly afterwards. But, Yonah is supposed to not have EMT64, and its successor Merom (with EMT64) will not appear before late 2006.
    As for the power-efficiency, indeed the 65nm Netburst cores (single-core cedar mill / dual-core presler) are supposed to be not doing too well. But the successor to them (conroe) are rumoured to run VERY cool (should also appear late 2006).
    I'm pretty sure all powermacs will use dual-core cpus, after all at that time "normal" PCs will pretty much all be dual-core except the Celeron-class ones.
    So in fact I can't see what cpus apple wants to use before late 2006 - and their transitioning is beginning in june 2006. The only half-way decent box I can see at that time-frame would be a imac with a single-core cedar mill (which is rumoured to not have a too high power consumption), but notebooks are out until late 2006/2007, unless apple reconsiders and chooses a amd turion64 for that...
    Reply
  • ceefka - Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - link

    Won't virtualization lift all barriers and make OS-X run on an AMD platform as well? If they can tweak OS-X and an x86 Intel to run OS-X now, that possibility will surely come in the future even without any hacking.

    I can see why Apple marries Intel, though there's a lot of technological reasons why it could have been AMD too.

    #44 Intel still wins video and audio benchies over AMD. It just depends what software you run.

    All in all this is kinda sad. Apple ceases to be the oddball, square peg in the round hole called Personal Computers. You could cynically say that future Apples are tweaked Intel boxes, no more, no less.

    #42 Interesting, AMD should work with ULi on laptops. Just how does this relate to the article?
    Reply
  • Vesperan - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    I dont think Ive read what I consider another factor in Apple choosing Intel (and not mentioning Amd).

    Namely, had Apple gone for Amd and announced how wonderful they were - how likely would an Apple + Intel partnership be after that? Apple would be shooting themselves in the foot if they mentioned or partnered with Amd in this enterprise.

    I cant wait to see how well Apple goes on x86, I think its a great decision in the medium-long term.

    Reply
  • T8000 - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    I think Apple is going to call the Intel generation the G6.

    They can do this, because the G names just represent Apple branding. IBM has only 3 digit model numbers for their PPC CPU's.
    Reply
  • Pandaren - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    Anandtech's conclusions are unlikely to be correct. When CNET first broke the story, it said that Apple intended to move the lower end consumer machines (iBook, Mac Mini) to x86 first. The 65nm netburst chips are probably not good candidates for small form factor PCs and notebooks that don't need much cooling.

    The more likely scenario is Yonah in iBook and Mac Mini, and Merom/Conroe in the PowerBook and PowerMac when it comes out in late 2006.
    Reply

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