Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Apple-Intel: Why not!?

Yesterday I opined that the Apple-Intel news was (is) a smokescreen to cover for the sexual discrimination suit. One commenter agreed, but further stated the news is a cover up for the bad news in general - and that certainly has merit.

Looking at the continuing saga of comments both mainstream press and bloggers are putting forth, I'm seeing a general direction that, while pro/con, is mostly con. I.e., Apple shouldn't go Intel.

While logistically that sentiment may have merit (read: Apple's in too deep with PowerPC to feasibly make the jump), I think it is premature to put that sentiment forth as the reason Apple won't go Intel. Let me clarify: yes there is a huge set of apps developed for PowerPC - and folks who already (clue!) have made the investment in PowerPC (read: developers, et al.) the move from PowerPC to Intel chips is stupid. But that's just one perspective.

Consider the "unwashed masses", or in "Gladiator"/Roman parlance, the "Mob". What platform are they using? x86. Specifically (since I'm talking majority), Intel chips.

Granted, this news could blow over and Speculators who've said the deal is more in relation to appliance hardware might be proven correct. But that's irrelevant to my point.

Why is it illogical for Apple to jump to Intel, or at least "add" Intel to it's line of non-appliance PowerBooks/Macs iBooks/Macs? It seems that some of the arguments are from a philosophical/pseudo-religious conviction of what Apple stands for, or stood for. Indeed, Apple "stuck it" to "the Man" in 1984. Apple was, and to many, is still viewed as that same company. But a lot has changed since Jobs took over. Steve is a genius, no argument there. Steve's genius; however, is much wiser than it was in 1984. Steve may still have hippie ideals, but he's not a dunce. Apple is a capitalist company, make no mistake. Apple will do what is right for Apple. Apple is in the business to make money.

With that in mind, it is not inconceivable for Apple to go with the dominant platform (Intel) especially when that platform is like Walmart (humor me) in terms of ubiquity. IBM is not. IBM does not have the broadness and ubiquity (YET) of Intel. Side Note: Xbox 360 using IBM chips certainly stands to have a major impact on the chip market. But IBM still has to deliver the chips in quantity, and it is something they've had difficulty doing for Apple. The elusive 3GHz G5 is yet to be found. It is late. Very late. Does Microsoft have more muscle to make IBM deliver? Perhaps. If so, it could be a big plus for Apple.

If, as the Wall St. Journal reports, Apple is interested in Intel's mobile chips that have better power-management capabilities, then it stands to reason that the possibility is ... well, possible. I didn't say probable. I, for one, would much rather have a processor that is fast but a far better manager of power than one which is fast, but can't help me preserve battery life in the way the Centrino/Pentium-M laptops can.

If discussions are actually taking place, Intel may well have shown Apple blueprints for chips that rival or trounce G5 performance while delivering power savings - and fit in a laptop - and are not the "mother of all thermal challenges". As well, Intel is also in the position to *deliver* chips to Apple more consistently than IBM.

Could it be that the "mother of all thermal challenges" (G5 laptop) is insurmountable? Could it be that Intel approached Apple and said, "look Steve, we can surmount that challenge easily enough. It's called a Pentium-M-Whatzit. It's going to be a sad day when we ship this chip to Dell and the entire field changes in Microsoft's favor. Would you like to discuss over some coffee ... well, tea for you?" Could it be that IBM is too stretched delivering the millions of chips to Microsoft for the Xbox to offer a different chip to Apple?

It is fun to speculate. I doubt IBM is sitting on their hands. I don't doubt that discussions have taken place between Apple and Intel. I don't doubt that it is a shot across the bosun's (IBM) ear to send a wake up call. But what happens if IBM doesn't wake up? The capitalist Apple will not stand still. It would be suicide to leave laptops at G4 era chips. So enter Intel.

Analysts say it would be unlikely, but analysts have been wrong before.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Instead of scribbling up pages of "content" in your blog pondering "why not," why don't you instead contribute to the world's collective knowlege by researching the information already available, and report on why Apple, who has demonstrated remarkably savvy in software engineering, hardware engineering (Apple has designed their own VLSI chips since the 80s) and unmatched feats of platform migration (68000 to PPC, System 7 to NextStep, cross platform development of MkLinux, Darwin, QuickTime, etc), WHY THIS COMPANY HASN'T DONE WHAT YOU PULLED OUT OF YOUR ASS?

You are making the world a stupider place.

-rdm- said...

My goodness "anonymous" you certainly drink the juice, don't you.

Using your, um, logic, that very brilliance so deeply ingrained at Apple is precisely why a migration to Intel *could* be pulled off. Why they *haven't* done it yet? Uhh, gosh, I don't know, maybe timing, maybe IBM has hit a brick wall, maybe Steve just feels like waiting. Give me a break.

hmurchison said...

OS X has a Hardware Abstraction Layer that would allow the OS to be portable. The problem is one of resources. The myriad of varying X86 hardware would be a labrynth to Apple. Drivers for thousands of hardware pieces would be needed. Software would need to be rewritten to match the endian structure of the Intel chip. It's not a matter of "could Apple do this" that answer is a definite "yes". The question really is "what does Apple gain by moving to Intel processors" and today that is very little. Pentium 4 are not faster than PPC 970s. The hardware that supports the microprocessor isn't superior either. Thus Apple would extend a massive amount of work for what is a lateral move. Actually worse because competiting with Microsoft on their turf isn't healthy for most companies.

It's fun to dream about..but it will remain just that...a dream.

Anonymous said...

There was an article in Linux Insider last fall showing the G5 to be faster than Pentiums. (Compare the throughput of supercomputers based on each chip.) Pricing is always fluid but even if the Intel chips were free it wouldn't be a big enough inducement for Apple to switch. The emotional cost of changing platforms would very likely brink Apple to its knees. IBM is working on lowering the power demands of their chips. Freescale is working on a dual core G4. Things are a little tough today but they will change. Waiting this out is far, far easier than changing platforms.

Anonymous said...

There was an article in Linux Insider last fall showing the G5 to be faster than Pentiums. (Compare the throughput of supercomputers based on each chip.) Pricing is always fluid but even if the Intel chips were free it wouldn't be a big enough inducement for Apple to switch. The emotional cost of changing platforms would very likely brink Apple to its knees. IBM is working on lowering the power demands of their chips. Freescale is working on a dual core G4. Things are a little tough today but they will change. Waiting this out is far, far easier than changing platforms.

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