Apple Archive

Does Apple + Intel Make Any Sense at All?

, 2005.06.10

The world is wondering - does Apple + Intel make any sense at all?

Not really, some say. Intel was Apple's "enemy" for years. Remember the snail ads? They also point out that IBM's new Cell processor, which is to be used in the Playstation 3, is much more advanced than any of Intel's offerings.

Others think that Apple is making a good move - after all, remember how Apple was stuck at 500 MHz for so long? Remember how there were 800, 900 MHz, and even 1 GHz PCs out before the Mac got anywhere near there?

And where is the PowerBook G5?

Regardless of whether it's a good move or a bad one, Apple needed to do something to stir some more publicity. The iPod's already popular. The $499 Mac mini is selling well. The MHz War is essentially over (a 1 GHz x86 and a 2 GHz x86 end up performing common tasks with nearly the same speed as far as the user is concerned).

But if you buy a Mac now, what do you get years down the road, especially with Longhorn (the next generation of Windows) coming to the PC relatively soon? Apple wanted to show users and developers that it has a clear future.

You may wonder, "Why would Apple want to announce the partnership now, they'll just lose sales!"

iMac G5I certainly won't be buying a new machine right now, but that's mainly because I don't need one too badly, so I figured I might as well wait a bit. Those with systems that have quit working or are too obsolete to run the software they want will buy Apple hardware. The Quadra 650 wasn't completely obsolete in 1997, three years after production was stopped, and neither will an iMac G5 be in 2008.

But what about PowerBooks? A variant of the 68040 chip did manage to find its way into Apple's laptops, but there currently are no G5s in Apple's PowerBook line.

Again, let me remind you that the MHz Wars are pretty much done. In three years, sure you might be better off with a faster, used G5 desktop, but a 1 GHz G4 PowerBook should do most jobs just as well.

If you're thinking about a Mac now, you might as well go out and buy it. Intel's not going to be present inside all Macs for another two years, and even then applications may have problems with the new architecture. Your copy of Photoshop, which is optimized for G4 and G5 processors, may not run well at all. Add another few hundred for a new copy of Photoshop if you go with an Intel-base Mac - and you've got other software, you may need to upgrade it as well.

Why Now?

Why did Apple announce this now? Why couldn't they just wait until they had a consumer model ready to ship?

The answer's pretty simple - they need to get people used to the idea of Apple working with Intel. They want to make sure the rumors are gone and get those "the world is ending! Apple has joined the Dark Side" people to accept what's going on, even if they end up not buying another Apple computer. (Then again, what choice do they have? It's x86 or nothing.)

Is Intel the best path for Apple now?

It seems more logical that IBM's multithreading technology would be better for running OS X. Then again, Apple's laptops are popular machines, and if they can't keep up with current technology, Apple will lose a lot of sales.

If IBM can't provide Apple with suitable technology, Apple has to look elsewhere. If Intel can do what Apple needs, perhaps this is the best decision right now.

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