So the rumours were right, and Apple are going to start producing machines based on Intel chips. Steve Jobs demonstrated Mac OS X running on a 3.6GHz Pentium 4; developer kits are available and consumer machines will be out next year. A translation system lets PowerPC binaries run on the new system until native versions are available. There’s an Intel press release here and an Apple one here.
This really makes the Intel architecture pretty dominant. But at least there are other suppliers, so in future Apple can shift to AMD, for example, if needed.
But it makes you wonder what the existing Apple hardware sales will be like for the next year…
Indeed, one of the better points I like about this news from Apple is that there will now be serious competition for the CPUs that they use.
Don’t get me wrong. I really like the PPC 970 (G5) CPUs and their emphasis on bandwidth and throughput through high bus speeds and such, but they’re aren’t any real competitors to keep the platform moving along.
With x86 you’ve got Intel and AMD duking it out for market-place dominance almost guaranteeing future improvements in the architecture. As well, as you say, if Intel ends up too far behind the bend then, theoretically, they could switch to AMD fairly easily. Assuming the 64-bit extensions they’ve decided to use are x86_64 and not Intel’s choice or Itanium, etc.
For the classic (no pun intended) Mac market however, this could be bad news. It is rumored that the Classic/OS 9 environment will no longer be supported, even though there is a PPC emulation layer for these new systems (widely known as “Rosetta”). For those that still use this environment (yikes!) this could be a put off for them.
Only time will tell how well this gets executed, of course :).