The Macintel Report

Apple Shuns 'Superstar' PowerPC Startup, Intel Core Speed Bumps and Price Cuts, and More

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2006.05.25

This Week's Macintel News

"Did Apple make the right move switching from PowerPC to Intel?" That's been the topic of debate since June 6, 2005, the day Steve Jobs announced that Apple would make the transition. Although the Intel conversion is proceeding ahead of schedule and has been widely applauded, people love playing the "what if?" game.

This week's top news has been an efficient 2 GHz dual-core PowerPC processor being developed by PA Semi (which Ashlee Vance calls a "superstar chip start-up") that could have meant 2 GHz dual-core PowerBooks sometime in 2007. With Intel announcing 2.33 GHz Core Duo for June, 2.0 GHz next year sounds like too little, too late.

Speaking of which, Intel's Core Solo and Core Duo prices are being slashed this week, and we strongly suspect we'll see speed bumped iMacs and Mac minis within the coming weeks. The new 2.33 GHz Duo has the same price as the current 2.16 GHz. Likewise, the 2.16 GHz Duo drops to the price of the 2.0 GHz chip, 2.0 GHz to the 1.83 GHz price, and that to the 1.66 GHz price. At the bottom, an updated 1.66 GHz Core Duo and a new 1.83 GHz Core Solo share the same price as the just discontinued 1.66 GHz Core Solo.

Given the choice of 1.83 GHz Core Solo or 1.66 GHz Core Duo at the same price, we'd love to see Apple use the dual-core chip in the entry-level Mac mini. dk

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.

Apple Shunned Chip Start-up for Intel

The Register's Ashlee Vance says:

"Did Apple make a mistake by switching to Intel? We may never know, but Apple had more options than has been previously reported, The Register can exclusively reveal.

"A chip start-up that created a high performance, low power processor compatible with existing Mac software had been working closely with the computer company for many months.

"Apple was looking for a new chip supplier largely because it was struggling to find a decent part for its key laptop line. IBM could not deliver the right performance per watt characteristics needed for slim, powerful kit and was struggling to produce chips as efficiently as Apple would like.

"PA Semi - a maker of low-power Power processors - formed a tight relationship with Apple - one meant to result in it delivering chips for Apple's notebook line and possibly desktops. The two companies shared software engineering work, trying to see how Apple's applications could be ported onto PA Semi's silicon. When word leaked out that Apple had signed on with Intel, it shocked the PA Semi staff, according to multiple sources.

"'PA Semi was counting on that deal,' said one source. 'They had lots of guys walking around in a daze when Apple went to Intel. They had no idea that would actually happen.'"

Editor's note: PA Semi's first CPU won't begin sampling until 3Q 2006 and won't ship in volume until sometime in 2007. The low power (7W vs. 21-25 for Core Duo) 2 GHz dual-core PowerPC processor is too late to help Apple, which has been stuck at 1.67 GHz on the G4 and 2.5 GHz (with significant cooling) on the G5. dk

Link: Apple Shunned Superstar Chip Start-up for Intel

Core Solo and Core Duo Price Cuts

DigiTimes' Monica Chen and Carrie Yu report:

"Intel will lower prices of three Core Duo dual-core processor models by up to a third on May 28, according to sources. Prices for the T2400, T2500 and T2600 processors will be lowered from US$294, US$423 and US$637 per thousand units to US$241, US$294 and US$423, respectively, with the T2300 currently priced at US$241 per thousand units to be replaced by the T2300E at US$209, the sources said. Intel Taiwan declined to comment on unannounced information.

"Taiwan-based notebook makers suggested that the plan was caused by weaker-than-expected demand and new competing products, such as the low-power AM2 and Turion 64 X2 processors from AMD. In addition, the price cut will help make room for the upcoming Merom (Core 2 Duo) processor (to be launched in August), the makers said."

Editor's note: We believe these price reductions are already built into the speed bumped MacBook Pro models released last week. According to this article, the 1.66 GHz Core Solo is being replaced by a 1.83 GHz part, and a 2.33 GHz Core Duo is available for the first time. Our guess: Speed bumped iMacs and Mac minis. dk

Link: Intel to Fend Off AMD Low-power Challenge with May 28 Price Cuts of Core Duo

MacBook Puts Apple on Track for Upside

Forbes' Maya Roney says:

"Apple Computer's new MacBook, with its competitive price and timely launch, could bring about fiscal third-quarter upside, according to American Technology Research.

"'MacBook is shipping one to two months ahead of our checks,' wrote analyst Shaw Wu in a research note. 'We thus have a higher degree of confidence that Apple is on track to hit the upper-end, if not exceed, its guidance.'"

"The analyst finds the timing important as it is well ahead of the back-to-school buying season that starts in July. He believes the MacBook will become the second highest volume Mac behind iMac, and possibly even make a run as the top-selling Mac."

Link: MacBook Surprise Puts Apple on Track for Upside

Taking the Macintel Plunge: Guide to Getting Started

PCMag's Cisco Cheng says:

"A year ago, the thought of spending my hard-earned money on a Mac was laughable. The components were slower, specifically the G4 and G5 processors, than those found on Windows PCs. Also, the idea of abandoning my native Windows language and adopting OS X was unsettling. How things have changed: Over the past few months, Apple laptops and desktops have gotten Intel makeovers, so now it runs just as fast as any Windows-based PC. The bigger news is that Apple is sanctioning the coexistence of Windows XP on a Mac-Intel. I'd say those are two compelling reasons to go out and get a Mac.

"If you're a first time computer buyer or if you're like me - a Windows user thinking of making the switch - a Mac-Intel is looking very attractive right now. In addition to the faster, more capable, Intel processors, Apple computers are less prone - not completely immune, as Apple might have you think - to virus attacks. (The bulk of virus attacks are mainly targeted towards Windows.)"

Editor's note: The bulk of virus attacks (90%+) are aimed at Windows, and most of the rest are after various flavors of *nix. To date there have been a total of five that target OS X, only two of them have made it beyond the lab, and neither has been widespread. dk

Link: Taking the Mac-Intel Plunge: Guide to Getting You Started

Intel to Take PCs Virtual

eWeek's John G. Spooner and Matt Hines report:

"Intel is eyeing a plan to use software to boost a PC's ability to fight hackers, talk on the phone and even capture television programs in the future.

"The chip maker, which launched its security- and manageability-focused vPro brand on April 24, is contemplating a standard method for adding virtual appliances-purpose-built software applications that run on top of their own miniature operating systems inside virtualized partitions-to PCs, an Intel executive said."

Link: Intel to Take PCs Virtual

Startup Key Combinations for Intel-based Macs

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"These are the startup key combinations you can use on Intel-based Macs:

"Keystroke/Description

  • Press C during startup - Start up from a bootable CD or DVD, such as the Mac OS X Install disc that came with the computer.
  • Press D during startup - Start up in Apple Hardware Test (AHT), if the Install DVD 1 is in the computer.
  • Press Option-Command-P-R until you hear two beeps - Reset NVRAM
  • Press Option during startup - Starts into Startup Manager, where you can select a Mac OS X volume to start from. Note: Press N to make the the first bootable Network volume appear as well.
  • Press Eject, F12, or hold the mouse (/trackpad) button - Ejects any removable media, such as an optical disc.
  • Press N during startup - Attempt to start up from a compatible network server (NetBoot).
  • Press T during startup - Start up in FireWire Target Disk mode.
  • Press Shift during startup - Start up in Safe Boot mode and temporarily disable login items.
  • Press Command-V during startup - Start up in Verbose mode.
  • Press Command-S during startup - Start up in Single-User mode.
  • Press Option-N during startup - Start from a NetBoot server using the default boot image."
Link: Startup Key Combinations for Intel-based Macs

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