The big computer news this week was announced earlier by Steve Jobs at WWDC (The worldwide Developers Conference). Jobs announced that Apple Computers will be moving the Macintosh line of computers to use Intel Processors (Pentium Inside!) instead of the PowerPC chips they have been using more recenlty. This announcement brought on a lengthy discussion across the Internet on whether this is a good move or not for Apple. With the exception of a few insightful people, most people have got this completely wrong (IMHO).
What many people think this means is that OSX will run on their newly purchase Dell computer. Apples has for quite a long time been very strict with what hardware their software will run on. This is one of the reasons that Macintosh systems have been so stable. If you now exactly what platform your stuff will run on, you can test the hell out of it to make sure there are no problems. Windows can run on any crappy hardware you run on it. You el-cheapo IDE controller may cause the machine to crash every once in a while, but the computer was really cheap to get.
I don’t see Apple changing this policy any time soon. I am sure their engineers are working around the clock making sure that the Intel version of OSX will NOT run no your white-box PC. And I’m sure that when it comes out, there will be hackers working around the clock trying to get OSX to run on a generic Intel PC. Really, I just think Apple will be looking for any way to not support non-Apple branded hardware.
I’ve also read complaints that putting OSX on Intel will hurt the Open Source Movement, and more specially Linux. To that, I say Bollocks! See my above point. Since people are going to have to shell out money for the nice Apple Hardware, the Mac will still remain more of a premium product. This means less people using it, and therefore less people hacking on it. It is hard to compete with the “Free” cost of Linux to attract people on a budget.
How about existing Mac developers? Won’t they have a really hard time porting all their applications to the new platform? No, they won’t. Most application developers program to the APIs that Apple provides for doing things like disk access, networking, graphics, etc. These APIs have nothing at all to do with what processor things are running on. As long as Apple keeps the same APIs (which they have promised that they will), it should just require a recompile with the new toolchain. The exception is anyone who has done some in-line assembly in their application, which will have to be re-written in x86 assembly (I feel sorry for anyone who has to do this, as x86 assembly sucks!). But in truth, that doesn’t happen that much for application developers. That is more for driver writers and the Operating Systems people themselves.
How will all this effect the end user? I don’t think they will even notice a difference, except for a small drop in price of systems, and maybe a speed improvement.
Why do I say a small drop in price? This is really getting to the heart of this post, which is why this is a good deal for Apple. Volume. Intel sells a metric buttload of Pentium processors each year. IBM (which provided the PowerPC processors today’s Macs run with) doesn’t sell as many each year. So they should be cheaper to obtain.
If I were Apple, I would go out and talk to Dell. I would have Dell OEM the Apple Hardware (to Apple’s Specifications) and have them install OSX and ship it. Focus on your core competencies. Dell knows how to make X86 PCs, and ship them as ordered. Apple knows how to design funky looking computers and really easy to use software. Concentrate on what you are good at, and let other people do what they are good at. But don’t let Dell do your customer support. I’ve had to call Apple for support a few times and they are the best customer support people I’ve ever worked with.