My Turn

It's a Fantastic Idea to Port OS X to Intel

Matt Schultz - 2002.02.08

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

We've thought long and hard before posting this one, because the arguments the author makes are ones too many Macolytes will dismiss out of hand. After all, we tend to see "Intel Inside" as a warning label, not a good thing. Set your biases aside for a few minutes and consider what Matt Schultz is proposing. He's far from the only one who believes porting OS X to Intel makes sense. dk

Recently, both Korin Hasegawa-John and Adam Robert Guha published articles explaining why Apple should not port OS X to Intel. I don't have three names like these authors do, but I do know a good idea when I see it.

Both author's arguments were akin to, "Why it's not a good idea for Bob to cut off his right hand." They basically said that cheap hardware would ruin Apple's hardware sales and erode its base of revenues.

While it's probably true that Apple would not wish to compete component for component with Dell and others, porting OS X to Intel just makes good business and technical sense. It would be great for Apple's sales and would boost its market share by a factor of three in less than two years.

Both these authors missed the whole point of porting OS X to Intel. They both made huge assumptions that porting OS X to Intel meant that Apple must abandon its hardware. This is not necessary, and it makes no business sense whatsoever.

Porting OS X to Intel doesn't mean that OS X would be able to run on any "Wintel" based machine (e.g., Dell, HP, Compaq, et al). Apple could still hold its boot ROM code and other secret sauce and elements of its system hostage for its own hardware platform. Keep the family jewels sacred, as it were. This could be done in ASIC form, as an example.

All porting to Intel would mean is that instead of being stuck with dog butt slow Motorola processors, Mac users could be running 2.4 GHz machines today - and extremely fast graphics processors.

Intel is not the world's largest semiconductor vendor for no reason: Its defect densities are by far the lowest on earth, and its technology is unsurpassed. It's time Apple started leveraging these processors for the benefit of Mac users everywhere and for the betterment of the platform as a whole. The new 64-bit RISC processor from Intel means a smoother transition path from the Motorola RISC design, making the time right for Apple to make the switch.

Apple could build all its own custom hardware in any color or shape it likes, only utilize an Intel or AMD processor rather than the PowerPC.

Motorola has shown beyond a reasonable doubt that it is not up to the challenge of keeping up with Intel - or AMD or Transmeta, for that matter. It's time to drop this dead weight from the platform and expand the technological horizons of the Macintosh.

Think about what this would actually mean for all Mac users. Really fast machines and the possibility of running a bazillion different games and apps.

There are much broader opportunities here, opportunities that make great business sense and open the technology of the platform to better products with higher levels of quality and engineering.

Think faster.

Update: In June 2005, Apple announced that it would switch the Mac from PowerPC to Intel "within a year" - and the first Intel-based Macs came to market in January 2006. In 2005, Apple sold 4.6 million PowerPC Macs. In 2008, 9.9 million, more than doubling Mac unit sales within three years of making the switch to Intel.

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