Steve talked about the two major challenges with the shift to x86:
  1. Getting Mac OS X run on Intel
  2. Intel versions of Applications
The first challenge ended up not being much of one at all, as Jobs revealed that OS X has been running on x86 platforms for the past 5 years; every release of Mac OS X has been compiled for PowerPC and Intel.

OS X has been living a secret double life for the past 5 years.

This picture highlights the building on Apple's Cupertino campus where x86 development has taken place for the past 5 years.

As we mentioned before, the entire keynote was actually done on a Pentium 4 3.6GHz system with 2GB of DDR memory.

All of the slides featuring an Intel die shot were actually of the dual core Pentium D, but for whatever reason, the keynote (and its demos) as well as the developer kit were done on a single core Pentium 4 3.6GHz processor.

The second challenge is obviously a bit more complicated, but with the OS already working on Intel platforms, one major hurdle is a non-issue.

At the conference, Apple released an updated version of their Xcode development suite. Xcode 2.1 will let you compile to both PowerPC and Intel architectures, creating a universal binary and allowing developers to ship one copy of software that supports both processors.

A checkbox in Xcode 2.1 will allow developers to create a universal binary that will run on both PPC and Intel platforms.

Apple also committed to supporting both PowerPC and Intel architectures for "a long time" in the future.

The transition in architectures will be an overlapping one.

In order to show just how easy it would be to port OS X applications to the Intel platform, Apple comissioned the developers of Mathematica to port their application to an Intel dev kit. The entire Mathematica 5 app was compiled and running on Intel OS X platforms within 2 hours using Xcode 2.1.

Although Apple is pushing very hard for developers to begin creating universal binaries immediately, they recognized that not all applications would have Intel support on Day 1. Enter: Rosetta.

Rosetta is a binary translator that will allow PowerPC applications to run on Intel CPUs that will ship when Apple begins their transition. We have seen binary translators used in the past. They are never fast, but Apple insists that it will be "fast enough" for those applications that aren't Intel compatible on Day 1.

Steve demo'd Rosetta by opening Microsoft Word, Excel as well as Photoshop to show that it just worked. Loading Photoshop took a fairly long time and we'd expect the larger titles like Photoshop to be available as an Intel version when Apple starts shipping hardware.

OS X (PowerPC) Photoshop running on an Intel OS X system using Rosetta.

Apple will be releasing a Development Platform configured with a 3.6GHz Pentium 4 and will be priced at $999. Apple mentioned that this wouldn't be a product and is strictly for development purposes, and as such, it must be returned by 2006. The development platforms will begin shipping in about 2 weeks.

Microsoft had a representative drop by and pledge support for universal binaries in all future versions of Microsoft Office for the Mac platform, although they didn't commit to a specific time frame for release. Bruce Chizen, CEO of Adobe, also dropped by to pledge his support for the OS X Intel platforms.

In a very impressive showing, Paul Otellini, President & CEO of Intel, dropped by to commemorate the partnership. Paul went through the histories of both Apple and Intel, touching on everything from the founding of each company to the 1996 Apple commerical where they set the Intel bunny on fire:

But, now all hard feelings are set aside and the two companies should be bringing forth some pretty interesting technologies moving forward.

We think that the move to Intel (or x86 in general) makes a lot of sense for Apple, especially with dual core CPUs being widely available by the time that their transition begins in the middle of 2006. If any company can pull off this large of a transition, it is Apple; and the move to do it quick and as painless as possible is really the only way to do it.

While it does seem like it would hurt Apple's desktop sales throughout the end of this year, by offering support for both PowerPC and Intel architectures for the foreseeable future, it is unlikely that it would hurt Apple too much. Pushing for a quick transition starting as early as possible in 2006 would obviously minimize the negative impact that today's announcement will have on revenue.

Apple and Intel, Together at Last


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  • slatr - Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - link

    This may be an indicator of Apple's wish to continue to be the digital hub of your living room.

    They all want to do this living room do all box.. will intel supply graphics chips too I wonder..
  • aliasfox - Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - link

    I personally would be impressed if Apple released a Dothan based Mac Mini for ~$499 at MacWorld Paris (September). Small, quiet, fast, *and* can dual boot OSX and Windows.

    I would actually be even more impressed if Xcode could compile universal binaries for OSX PPC, OSX X86, *and* Windows X86.

    Sadly, I can still only see hardware sells get smaller. Currently, the processor upgrade market for Macs is relatively small, as upgrades are literally hundreds of dollars (a 2.0 GHz G4 upgrade costs something like $400-500, if I recall correctly). If I buy an Intel based Mac and want a faster processor a year or two down the road, I don't need to buy a new Mac anymore, I'll just look towards NewEgg for a $150 Pentium.

    Support is far too big of an issue for Apple to deal with opening up OSX to the rest of the world. Currently, Apple only has to worry about three processors, and most likely one chipset for each (G3, G4, G5). On the Intel side, Apple will have to worry about just what Intel produces. Going A64 or opening up the software for use anywhere would mean having to support ATi's, nVidia's, VIA's, SIS's, and hundreds of other off brand chipsets. Of course, Apple will also end up having to field calls from irate Dell users wondering why OSX won't install on their systems.

    I can't see Apple holding the same price premium as they have in the past (on the desktop side, at least- their laptops are more or less competitive in everything but processors). Would you pay an extra $100-200 for a machine that's elegant, quiet, and made of sturdy materials? I'd consider it.

    Or another analogy: Your average PC is a Camry, the Mac version is an ES300. Same drivetrain, the Lexus has a classier look and feel.
  • equinox76 - Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - link

    AMD simply doesn't have the manufactuiring capability to compete with Intel. They might have a better product right now but if it can't be delivered, what good is it ?? Reply
  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - link

    #54, Anand said PRESENTLY, if you even bother to read what you quoted, dickwad. Reply
  • smn198 - Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - link

    #54 I wish you didn't read them too. Reply
  • Calin - Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - link

    Apple choose Intel mainly for the cheaper dual core processors (my idea). When selling computers at the same price point, there is a great advantage in paying 100s of $ less for processor (or processors). Also, Intel certainly has the resources to at least keep up enough with AMD regarding processor speed/heat/capabilities. Reply
  • vertigo1 - Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - link

    If you think about it, what will Apple Machines be used for? Video and graphics editing and this uses... encoding?

    So even though everyone here seems to kiss Amds feet.... I think that Apple chose correctly given the situation.
  • Kagjes - Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - link

    -Hmmm, a thought crossed my mind. What would it take for MacOS to support DirectX? Reply
  • Kagjes - Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - link

    i think this is one of those situations where things could go in million different ways. Just depends on the reactions of the biggest players. All of the speculations are both right and wrong. But one thing is for sure. I love the way things are going, and Macs getting closer to the hectic and sometimes chaotic x86 market is really an explosive combination. One thing is for sure. For macs, being able to run WinXP and play games AND keep their own OS at the same time is an edge that can't be matched. I would really like to have one of those. Reply
  • Dekay - Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - link

    I understand why apple working with intel could make more sense. This move from apple also means an enrichment in the software department. But I think more anaemia in the CPU department can become problematic and intel more a "monopolist" (I am exaggerating a little bit). And in the end that is not good for us, remember the times before K7? We can continue to discuss whether the chips from amd/intel are better or roughly similar but a <20% market share (and only slowly rising) for AMD is not a good sign. Reply

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