Apple Archive

Smooth Sailing or Choppy Seas for Apple's Intel Transition?

- 2005.12.09

There have been widespread rumors on the Internet about Apple possibly introducing Intel-based PowerBooks and/or iBooks in January. It's true that the iBooks and 12" PowerBook are getting tired, although they're still competitive with PC offerings.

I recently recommended a 12" PowerBook to a friend - not because I want to get more people using a Mac, but because it simply offered him a better value than most PC laptops in the same price range.

For instance, PowerBooks all have dedicated video memory, whereas most inexpensive PC laptops share system memory for video. The PowerBook is also lighter and smaller than just about all the PC laptops he looked at.

He didn't want to purchase a Dell or IBM, because that would involve waiting for the machine, and he needed it by a specific date. That pretty much left HP and Toshiba, both of which can be purchased in stores.

When compared to the PowerBooks - and even iBooks - none of these machines can match them in terms of size, durability, and features. Sure, some come with more RAM, but RAM can be added easily. Others have bigger screens, but you lose the "small and light" feature.

And then there's the software that comes with the Mac - GarageBand, iPhoto, iCal, and more.

Transitions

The ultimate question is whether Intel-based PowerBooks would they be more competitive with Windows laptops - or would transition issues end up damaging Apple's reputation for making a quality laptop?

Think about the issues with the release of Mac OS X in 2001. The high-end machines at that time were 500 MHz dual processor G4 Power Macs, and 500 MHz G3 iMacs made up the low-end of Apple's lineup.

At that time, Mac OS X 10.0 was slow on the G4s and positively impossible on a G3. Version 10.1 was better but still very slow on the hardware of the time - and on older hardware it was even more painful without a ton of RAM and a fast hard drive.

OS X 10.2's Quartz Extreme helped things a bit, but that only worked if you had a machine with 16 MB of video memory - basically the Power Mac G4s, as the PowerBooks, iBooks, and iMacs weren't supported.

The other problem was software: Most software in 2001 didn't work natively with Mac OS X, and using Classic mode was slow and quirky.

Apple decided to ship even the relatively underpowered G3-based Macs with OS X 10.1, although they also booted into OS 9, so using OS X was optional.

When they dropped support for OS 9 with the introduction of the 12" and 17" PowerBooks in 2002, OS X still was fairly slow and still had relatively few applications that ran natively - and those that did were rarely compelling upgrades.

Both Photoshop and QuarkXpress were far behind, and Microsoft's Office v. X was little different from Office 2001 aside from it's OS X support. The slowness and lack of applications combined to frustrate users, and I know a number of people's negative attitude toward the Mac was based on the OS X transition experience.

There were two main problems with the transition. The developers didn't jump on board quickly enough with native software, and the actual operating system was too far ahead of the hardware that it had to run on.

Now that the hardware has caught up, that's no longer an issue. OS X runs very quickly on my G5 - and even my two-year-old 12" PowerBook G4 runs it reasonably speedily with enough RAM.

The Intel Transition

The developer issue is going to be a problem for the Intel transition. It's all well and good if we've got Intel PowerBooks, but if there's no native software to run on them, they're as good as useless.

The problem that exists for developers is fairly obvious: If the new software is made Intel-only and has compelling reasons to upgrade, the people buying new hardware will buy it - but the software companies will lose a lot of sales from people who just bought PowerPC hardware.

Mac OS X already runs well on Intel processors, so speed shouldn't be an issue. However, bugs probably will be. For those who don't remember the first PowerPC version of the Mac OS, System 7.1.2, it was ridiculously buggy and pretty much existed only so that the Power Macs could be launched before System 7.5 was ready (it came out the following year).

It would probably serve Apple well to introduce the Intel 'Books slowly. For instance, still sell G4-based PowerBooks and iBooks while also offering an Intel version. Then slowly phase out the PowerPC models as the popularity of Intel-Mac software grows and the bugs get worked out.

This would help prevent Apple from accepting too much blame for any issues that may come up and give consumers the option to choose which platform they want to use - Intel for future compatibility or PowerPC for compatibility with the past.

As for my friend, he hasn't chosen a laptop yet. Right now it's the hard drive size issue that's holding him up - 60 GB in the iBooks isn't enough, 80 GB in the PowerBooks is fairly small, and he doesn't want to wait for a build-to-order 'Book. Perhaps there's another issue that Apple could address in the Intel modelsÖ.

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS news feed

Today's Links

Recent Content

About LEM Support Usage Privacy Contact

Follow Low End Mac on Twitter
Join Low End Mac on Facebook

Page not found | Low End Mac

Well this is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching, or one of the links below, can help.

Most Used Categories

Archives

Try looking in the monthly archives. 🙂

Page not found | Low End Mac

Well this is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching, or one of the links below, can help.

Most Used Categories

Archives

Try looking in the monthly archives. 🙂

Favorite Sites

MacSurfer
Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
MacInTouch
MyAppleMenu
InfoMac
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
RetroMacCast
The Vintage Mac Museum
Deal Brothers
DealMac
Mac2Sell
Mac Driver Museum
JAG's House
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ

Affiliates

Amazon.com
The iTunes Store
PC Connection Express
Macgo Blu-ray Player
Parallels Desktop for Mac
eBay

Low End Mac's Amazon.com store

Advertise

Well this is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching, or one of the links below, can help.

Most Used Categories

Archives

Try looking in the monthly archives. 🙂

at BackBeat Media (646-546-5194). This number is for advertising only.

Open Link