So the rumours are confirmed, the truth is out, Steve has spoken. Apple are going to dump the aging, slow moving PPC architecture in favour of Intel processors.
There is going to be a lot said about this move in the next few days. I think it’s marvelous. For all my attacks on the software peddled by those charlatans from Seattle I’ve nevr had any complaint about the x86 architecture. I learnt C programming for the Z80, the great grandaddy of the current Intel CPUs, My first commercial programming was on 8086 and 80286 boxes and DOS before I went cross to Unix. So I’ve never been a CPU fanatic.
I have been a hardware fanatic. One of the advantages Apple has always had is well designed and built hardware. All the way down to the smallest detail Apple designes just work. One small example – this Windows laptop from Sony is fairly well designed, it works pretty well (as hardware, don’t get me started with XP) but just yesterday I was unplugging an Ethernet cable and almost threw it across the room. The port has a small spring loadeded cover and the tiny clip that locks the cable in place is jammed against the cover – rotate the port 180 degrees and the problem goes away, Exactly the sort of thing that Apple get right and nobody else seems to think is important.
I am an operating system fanatic. OS X is the first consumer level operating system that is worth criticising, everything before this (including Apple’s previous offerings) have been toys, designed to do the absolute minimum.
So how much of that is going to change. None of it. Apple will continue to design marvelous hardware tightly coupled to an excellent operating system.
Then think of what we will get. I have just bought an Intel based laptop because it was considerably smaller and lighter with a longer battery life. Let’s be honest, the competition in the WWintel processor space has pushed the technology ahead in certain areas and laptop technology is one of them.
Intel themselves will get some benefits, Apple have a reputation for pushing CPU design, they own a chunk of PPC technology and they also eek out the last bit of power from a chip design.
The one thing we won’t see is your average Wintel box running Mac OS X. Apple won’t do it, they enjoy the benefits of producing both hardware and software with limited hardware options. As for a third party doing it, there would be a lot of work given that Apple are likely to keep Open Firmware and the current boot process just to start the ball rolling.
We also won’t see clones. Apple have tried clones, it didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Apple want the control of the hardware, want the hardware profits.
We also won’t see a software only Apple, as some have just predicted. Let me say it again, very slowly and with little words. Apple … benefits … from … controlling … the … hardware … design. A large part of the stability and speed we get with OS X is because, unlike Windows, Apple can test the software on all possible hardware combinations. Windows suffers as there are too many different motherboards and a thousand times too many possible expansion cards.
This is good news. I’m looking forward to a stronger Apple from this move.