The Macintel Report

Intro to OS Virtualization, Flash-based Macs Rumored, End of Media Drives, Intel Invests in Flash Memory, and More

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2005.12.01

This Week's Macintel News

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

Other Intel News

News, Analysis, and Opinion

Introduction to OS Virtualization

Expect this to be a Really Big Thing™ with high-end Macintel computers. Virtualization would allow you to run OS X, Linux, and Windows concurrently. dk

DebCentral's Josh reports:

"One of the hottest topics in all of IT today is the subject of virtualization. While it has been around for some time, it has just recently started to garner the attention of the biggest names in tech. Everyone from Intel and AMD, to Microsoft, Sun, and virtually every commercial Linux vendor has either current or planned support for virtualization. So what is it, and why is everyone so head over heels about it?

"Virtualization comes chiefly in two forms, hardware or software virtualization. The most well known is likely hardware emulation. In this type of virtualization, the host OS provides a layer which translates the usual system functions of the guest OS. For example, VMware running on Linux but also running a Windows OS inside the application. In this situation, VMware intercepts the calls Windows makes to the actual physical hardware and translates those calls into a manner in which the Linux kernel can understand....

"The second main type of virtualization is OS or software. This type is a newer approach, and is much more efficient than the older method of hardware emulation we talked about above. Examples of this type of virtualization can be seen in applications such as Xen, Virtuozzo, UserMode Linux, VServer, or Solaris' Zones. This type of virtualization also uses a base, or host OS but with one major difference. Instead of sharing processes by translating them from the guest, running them on the host, and returning the result, this approach provides each guest its own environment to directly access the hardware....

"The next step in this evolution is actually to go down lower to do 'real' hardware virtualization. Intel and AMD both have been developing processors that allow multiple OS's to run inside partitions on the system, requiring no additional software and no emulation of any kind. Earlier this week, Intel was the first to announce the availability of this type of virtualization for desktops (it has been available within Xeons for some time now) with Intel Virtualization Technology (VT). These processors currently are single core Pentiums with Hyperthreading, but will be replaced with dual core, Hyperthreaded VT enabled processors next year. AMD is planning to roll out their line of virtualization equipped processors in multiple core designs very shortly. These chips function by providing a layer, called a hypervisor, that allows multiple OS or applications to utilize the host hardware to its full potential without tripping over each other or attempting to share a single memory address among OS's."

Link: OS Virtualization: An Introduction

Instant-on Macs Coming Soon?

The Motley Fool's Seth Jayson says:

"Someone's gotta be the one who starts the rumor, right? So here goes.

"I think Apple's going to be offering instant-on computers in the very near future. Make that near-instant. Faster than normal, anyway. And some of these may just be the integrated music and video home-media boxes people have been predicting ever since the iPod redefined Apple's game.

"Confused yet? Let's take a step back and look again at the big NAND flash deal that Apple signed with Toshiba, Samsung, and a new joint venture between Intel and Micron Technologies...."

Link: Instant Gratification from Apple?

No Media Drives on Macintel Models?

My friend MyMac columnist Roger Born says:

"Think about it. Apple did something like this before when they came out with the very first new iMacs. Remember? No floppy drives. Apple was ahead of the curve then. So why not now, when the new Intel Macs come out? Having a CD/DVD drive is old hat. What better time to drop them altogether and allow media content to play on the Mac from downloads, FireWire and WiFi? Why not allow backups directly to external USB drives, iPods and such?

"Take a look at what has been said about this idea...."

Link: No Media Drives on Intel Macs?

Intel, Micron Team on Flash Production

eWeek's Jeffrey Burt reports:

"Intel Corp. and Micron Technology Inc. are forming a company that will manufacture NAND flash memory, a rapidly growing segment of the flash memory market that is used in such devices as some of Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPod music players.

"In announcing the plan last week, Intel and Micron also said Apple will buy a 'significant share' of the flash memory manufactured by the new company, which will be called IM Flash Technologies LLC. Apple will prepay Intel and Micron $250 million each as part of the deal."

Link: Intel, Micron Team on Flash Production

Intel Hedges Its Bets with Flash Memory

BusinessWeek's Olga Kharif reports:

"For years, Wall Street has urged Intel to change its approach to the computer-memory market. Investors pressed the chipmaking colossus to make a play for so-called NAND flash memory, used to store music and video in consumer electronics products such as Apple's iPod digital music players. Intel balked, insisting NAND would go nowhere. Instead, the chipmaker clung to its plan to support an different data-storage format known as NOR. Since then, Intel, which developed NOR in the 1980s, has become the market leader in the technology.

"Now, it looks like Intel finally has got the message. Demand for NOR, which stores data on cell phones, is dropping, while sales of NAND have been growing about 60% a year. On Nov. 21, Intel announced a joint venture with a top PC memory supplier, Micron, to manufacture NAND. The companies will invest as much as $5.2 billion over three years. Intel's about-face didn't come a moment too soon - and it could trigger a sea change in how NAND memory is used and the way Intel markets its products.

"Called IM Flash Technologies, the joint venture has already signed up a heavy-hitting customer: none other than Apple , which consumes about 20% of all NAND output today, according to chip consultancy iSuppli. Apple has already placed a $500 million order that will be divided equally between Intel and Micron, the companies said. That's likely to give Apple a whooping 25% of all NAND chips next year (its other suppliers include Samsung, Toshiba, and Hynix)."

Link: Intel Switches Its Chip Bets

Intel Starts an 'Apple Group'

eWeek's Daniel Drew Turner reports:

"Industry analysts and others have confirmed that Intel Corp. has formed an internal 'Apple group.' This group, formed in the wake of Apple Computer Inc.'s decision to base its next generation of Macintosh computers on Intel processors, is comprised of engineers and sales staff.

"Intel has similar groups for other large clients such as Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard. Specifics on the Apple group are sparse, however. Details are considered confidential internal information, said Intel representative Tom Beerman."

Link: Intel Starts an 'Apple Group'

Revisiting the Apple/Intel Connection

Gene Steinberg, the Mac Night Owl, says:

"When 2005 began, I doubt that many of you expected Apple would announce a switch to Intel processors by the middle of the year. At the time, the new products included a pair of product lines that Apple said it wouldn't produce: The Mac mini and the iPod shuffle. So you knew from the get-go to expect the unexpected, but did you ever believe that would include a switch to Intel processors?"

Link: Revisiting the Apple/Intel Connection

Will Apple Rush Macintels to Market?

Gene Steinberg, the Mac Night Owl, says:

"As any one who has dared invest on Wall Street can attest, psychology remains a huge factor in a company's stock performance. If you perceive that a company's sales are apt to increase, you buy its stock to take advantage of the expected higher prices, and if you perceive that sales are not meeting expectations, you sell in a mad rush before prices collapse. The same apt to be quite as true for a retail product. If you know that a superior model or a price reduction is coming soon, you may ignore existing products and sit on the sidelines."

Link: Will Apple Be Forced to Rush Macintels?

BBEdit Ready for Intel Macs

Dr. Dobb's Journal's Tom Thompson says:

"In June of this year, Apple Macintosh developers discovered that they had a formidable challenge set before them. The bad news was that to continue in the Macintosh software market, they were going to have to migrate their Power PC-based applications to an Intel x86-based Macintosh. The good news was that the operating system, Mac OS X, had already been ported and was running on prototype x86-based systems. Furthermore, Apple Computer offered cross-compiler Xcode tools that would take an application's existing source code and generate a 'universal binary' file of the application. The universal binary file contains both Power PC and x86 versions of the program, and would therefore execute on both the old and new Mac platforms....

"Apple provided developer reports that describe the migration of an existing Mac to the new platform as relatively quick and easy. I don't dispute those reports. There are situations where a particular application's software design dovetails nicely with the target platform's software. For example, if the application is written to use Cocoa, an object-oriented API whose hardware-independent frameworks implement many of Mac OS X's system services, the job is straightforward.

"However, not all Mac applications are in such an ideal position....

"This brings us to the $64,000 (or more) question: For most existing Mac applications, how difficult and costly is it to migrate a Power PC Mac application to the x86-based Mac platform? To see where the truth lies, I present in this article a case study of the porting process for a commercial Mac application.

"The application in question is Bare Bones Software's BBEdit, an industrial-strength text editor (http://www.barebones.com/)...."

Link: A Mac Text Editor Migrates to Intel

Other Intel News

Intel's P4 Roadmap

The Register's Tony Smith reports:

"Roadmap Intel's 'Conroe' processor, the multicore desktop CPU derived from the company's next-generation notebook chip, 'Merom', will ship in Q3 2006, according to the latest leaked roadmap.

"The roadmap confirms the arrival of the Pentium Extreme Edition 955, the 65nm, HyperThreading-enabled 3.46 GHz dual-core processor already mentioned by motherboard maker Asus. The 955 will ship in Q1 2006, and not be replaced until Q4 with a part whose model number and clock speed remain unknown.

"The 955 is based on the Presler core, which will also form the basis for the Pentium D 920, 930, 940 and 950 next quarter. The two HyperThreading-less dualies are clocked at 2.8 GHz, 3 GHz, 3.2 GHz and 3.4 GHz, respectively, the roadmap - revealed by Japanese-language website PCWatch - shows."

Link: Intel Juggles 'Cedar Mill' P4 Model Numbers

Intel Preps Next Gen Celeron Rollout

The Register's Tony Smith reports:

"Exclusive Intel Celeron M processors based on the upcoming 65nm 'Yonah' core will appear in Q2 2006, according to the chip giant's latest roadmap.

"Separately, internal Intel retail documentation seen by The Register reveal the next generation of Centrino, a.k.a. 'Napa', will debut in January as anticipated, but be followed by a second-stage rollout in March.

"Celeron M clock speeds remain unlisted for now, but the roadmaps, as conveyed by Japanese-language site PCWatch, indicate the chips will appear as models 410 and 420. A third Celeron M, the 430, will ship in Q3 2006. All three contain 1 MB of L2 cache and are single-core chips.

"A single Yonah-based Celeron M ULV will debut in Q2 2006, as the 423."

Link: Intel Preps Two-stage 'Napa' Retail Rollout

Intel to Take 'Averill' to Market as Centrino-like Platform

The Register's Tony Smith reports:

"Intel will next year launch its third branded PC platform, after Centrino and Viiv, this time pitched at corporate desktops.

"As yet there's no word on the platform's go-to-market brandname, but it will almost certainly be based on Intel's 'Averill' platform. Averill was announced at the chip giant's Developer Forum in March this year for availability in 2006."

Link: Intel to Take 'Averill' to Market as Centrino-like Platform

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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