The Macintel Report

Developer Systems Impress, Expanding the Mac Base, Vague Transition Plans, First Intel 45nm Fab, and More

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2005.07.28

This Week's Mac-on-Intel News

Low End Mac has standardized on Macintel as our official informal label for the forthcoming OS X-on-Intel Macintosh computers, although you'll probably find just as many people calling them "Mactels". Whatever we call them, Apple's decision to switch to Intel CPUs means we live in very interesting times.

PowerBook, iBook, and other portable computing news is covered in The 'Book Review. General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in The Mac News Review. iPod news is covered in The iNews Review.

News, Analysis, and Opinion

Tech Developments

News, Analysis, and Opinion

Developers Impressed with Speed of Macintel Development Systems

Mac on Intel reports:

"According to AppleInsider, developers leasing Apple's $999 Intel-based Macintosh development system are quite impressed with the speed of the 3.6 GHz Pentium 4-based unit as compared to current, high-end PowerPC-based Macs."

Macintel to Expand Mac Base

Computer Dealer News' Paolo Del Nibletto says:

"If Apple stuck to its core base of creative and desktop publishing, then maybe Intel isn't necessary, but Apple isn't sticking to its guns. It is getting aggressive in the marketplace and wants to gain share against other desktop rivals. The only way to make more systems is to partner with a chipmaker who knows a thing or two about mass production. That is Intel and not PowerPC....

"IBM and the PowerPC, really in all honesty, didn't need Apple. Sure it was great to have them, but they are interested in making super fast chips for Moon rovers, not some poor schmuck doing desktop publishing in Calgary.

"If Apple stuck to its core base of creative and desktop publishing, then maybe Intel isn't necessary, but Apple isn't sticking to its guns. It is getting aggressive in the marketplace and wants to gain share against other desktop rivals."

Resellers Unsure about Apple's Transition to Intel

The Channel Insider reports:

"The dust has largely settled following Apple Computer Inc.'s announcement that it would use Intel Corp. microprocessors in its Macintosh computers - a shift that will start in some models by mid-2006 and will include all Macs by the end of 2007 - but resellers are still trying to analyze the impact the big switch will have for their customers and business."

Why Apple Chose Intel

Business 2.0's Owen Thomas says:

"Apple's announcement last month that it was switching from IBM PowerPC chips to Intel chips was one of those seismic events whose aftershocks continue to be felt for a long time. Now that Apple has started to ship its first Intel systems - test machines for developers who want to port their applications over to the new Intel-based Macs went out late last month - it's worth examining why the company made the move and what the impact on the rest of the tech world will be.

"The reason for the switch is a basic one. Nearly a decade ago, Apple ran ads about how its chips toasted Intel's Pentiums. At the time, that seemed like a good thing. But now heat is a problem that's threatening Apple's burgeoning computer sales."

Why Do They Always Think Apple is Lying?

The Mac Night Owl's Gene Steinberg writes:

"First of all, I was seated in the press section when Steve Jobs uncorked the news that Macs would have Intel processors beginning next year. I heard every single word, took copious notes on my PowerBook, and watched the slides as Steve delivered his presentation. It was short, sweet, and to the point. Yes, some of the fine details were missing, but there could be no doubts about why Apple was changing chip suppliers and when it would happen."

Some Resellers Disappointed by Vague Transition Plan

Computer Dealer News' Howard Solomon reports:

"U.S.-based microprocessor analysts Dean McCarron of Mercury Research and Nathan Brookwood of Insight64 said Intel's Pentium M platform, now used in laptops, is the most likely CPU Mac processors will be built around. Intel has indicated the Pentium M architecture will be used on both desktop and notebook CPUs in the not too distant future, said McCarron.

"Weeks after Apple Computer's decision to start switching to Intel processors, the industry is still digesting the news.

"However, not all of the company's resellers think the news is juicy, with at least one disappointed at the holes in the announcement.

"For example, missing are details about which Intel processors will be in the new Macs, to be released 12 months from now. That will affect the ease of porting Apple applications to the new system."

Tech Developments

Intel Plans First 45nm Fab for 2007

Extreme Tech reports:

"Intel Corp. said Monday that the company plans to build its first 45nm wafer fab in Chandler, Ariz., capitalizing on tax incentives and the know-how the chipmaker already has on site.

"The new fab, designated as 'Fab 32', will begin production in 2007 with the 45nm parts, most likely shifting to a more advanced process over the course of its life span. The 45nm node is two generations away; the intermediary 65nm step is scheduled to begin later this year."

Tomorrow's CPUs Today

Extreme Tech's Nick Stam reports:

"It's no secret that AMD and Intel have struggled to increase clock speeds lately. In early 2004, Intel estimated the Prescott processor would quickly rev to 5 GHz in its 90nm manufacturing process. But initial 3-GHz chips ran wicked hot, dissipating over 90 watts (and 3.8 GHz Prescotts hit 115W). Eventually, Intel realized it needed to shift focus from pushing gigahertz to designing chips with two or more processor cores, improving heat dissipation, and other ways to keep pushing the market forwards.

"Meanwhile, there have been many neat advances from companies other than 'The Gruesome Twosome,' including Transmeta with its low-power Crusoe and Efficeon processors...."

Itanium 2 CPUs Get Faster Bus Architecture

PR: Intel Corporation has introduced two Intel Itanium 2 processors which deliver better performance over the current generation for database, business intelligence, enterprise resource planning and technical computing applications.

For the first time, Itanium 2 processors have a 667 MHz front side bus (FSB), which connects and transfers data between the microprocessor, chipset and system's main memory. Servers designed to utilize the new bus are expected to deliver more than 65% greater system bandwidth over servers designed with current Itanium 2 processors with a 400 MHz FSB. This new capability will help set the stage for the forthcoming dual core Itanium processor, code named "Montecito," which will feature the same bus architecture.

"Intel continues to bring new capabilities to the Itanium architecture, evolving the platform to further improve performance for data intensive tasks," said Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's Server Platforms Group. "Looking forward, we are coming up on the next major milestone for the Itanium processor family - dual-core server platforms based on Montecito. We are extremely excited about the customer and industry feedback we are getting, and the preliminary performance results we are seeing on Montecito-based systems will further expand Itanium's leadership in its targeted market segments."

Itanium-based servers continue to make strides in three target market segments: RISC replacement, mainframe migration and high-performance computing. Today, more than 40 percent of the Global 100 corporations have deployed Itanium-based servers and 79 of the Top 500 list of the world's fastest super computers are powered by Itanium processors. The ecosystem continues to grow with more than 3,600 applications available, while eight of nine RISC vendors and six of seven mainframe vendors sell mainframe-class Itanium-based servers.

The improved front side bus bandwidth allows for 10.6 gigabits of data per second to pass from the processor to other system components. In contrast, the current generation 400 MHz FSB transfers 6.4 gigabits of data per second. The ability to move more data in a very short period of time is critical to compute intensive applications in the scientific, oil and gas and government industries.

Hitachi, which will adopt the new Itanium 2 processors with the 667 FSB into new Hitachi BladeSymphony servers coming in the next 30 days, has also designed a chipset (the communications controller between the processor and the rest of the computer system) to take advantage of the new bus architecture.

Platforms using Montecito are expected to deliver up to twice the performance, up to three times the system bandwidth, and more than 2-1/2 times as much on-die cache as the current generation of Itanium processors. While boosting performance, Montecito is expected to also deliver more than 20 percent lower power than previous generations of Itanium processors due to new technologies for power management. Montecito will also have Intel® Hyper-Threading technology, enabling four times the threads as the current generation.

The Intel Itanium 2 processor at 1.66 GHz with 9 MB of cache with 667 FSB is available for $4,655 in 1,000-unit quantities. The Intel Itanium 2 processor at 1.66 GHz with 6 MB with 667 FSB of cache will be available for $2,194 in 1,000-unit quantities.

NOTE: We know of no plans for Apple to use the Itanium CPU in future computers. LEM

Three New Mobile Chips from Intel

CNET News.com's Michael Kanellos reports:

"On the same day it said it would build its factory in Arizona, Intel introduced three new mobile chips.

"The Pentium M 780 runs at 2.26 GHz, sports a 533 MHz bus and comes with 2 MB of cache memory for rapid data access....

"The Celeron M, meanwhile, runs at the same speed and features a similar bus as the low-powered chip, but it comes with only 1 MB of cache. It also consumes 21 watts.

More Mac News

PowerBook, iBook, and other portable computing news is covered in The 'Book Review. General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in The Mac News Review. iPod news is covered in The iNews Review.

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