Tuesday, June 07, 2005

24 Hours To Think About It : Why The Apple P4 Was The Best Decision

Now that I have had 24 hours to really think about it, I see this as the best move Apple has ever made. It was bold and it apparently has been executed with a lot of forethought. I'm going to list out a few of the positives and negatives in bullet point style if you need some help with perspective:

Positives as I see them:

• Apple has had this plan in place for 5+ years - as a backup developing concurrent versions of Mac OS X for CISC chips (Intel) & RISC chips (PowerPC)

• Apple will make the transition to Intel Chips easier than the transition of OS 9 to OS X

It seems most all applications that already run natively on Mac OS X PPC will run fine in OS X for Intel

• This will alleviate production and progress concerns that Apple has had for YEARS with IBM and Motorola

• This will eliminate the Megahertz myth stigma that surrounds Apple Computer. Now Apple will be able to offer a faster, more secure OS on the same speed processor. So, those selling Macs will no longer have to explain why Macs have slower speed processors. Most retail PCs also do not have dual processors - this could be a HUGE benefit if Apple can start to squeeze dual Pentium processors into their entire line of computers.

• This will make running Windows applications as easy as running Mac applications and therefore eliminate the transcoding of games - games will now only need to be tweaked for the Mac.

• This potentially opens up the entire "Pentium required" library of software - also eliminating a reason not to buy a Mac - and giving hundreds if not thousands of oulets for software.

• This opens HP, Dell, and Sony up to potential installation of the Mac OS AND could VERY possibly allow Apple to truly compete on innovation in hardware and design. Apple would remain a hardware maker and maintain their current hardware marketshare of somewhere around 5% - 10% - keeping them as a LEXUS or BMW type player.

• Apple has included a technology called Rosetta which promises to run most apps currently on the Mac exceptionally well on the Intel based Macs - unlike using classic (OS 9) with OSX currently - this is NOT an emulation - instead it's a forced code translation - emulating the PowerPC processor instead (sort of, but not totally).


Negatives as I see them:

• In a lot of ways, this really undermines Independent Apple Resellers. Just two days ago, I was explaining the advantages of a RISC chip vs a CISC chip with a customer. Now, that argument no longer separates Macs and PCs

• It appeared to me that IBM was on the edge of a true, meaningful leap forward (but see further explanation below) and the RISC PowerPC was going to succeed

• Intel has hyped for years that they have wanted to switch to RISC - I suppose both Apple and Intel are conceding RISC to the embedded market and leaving Linux and Windows Mobile to run on these devices. (Which may just be genius, but I'll get to that in minute)

• Apple has asked a lot of it's users over the last 12 years - this is by far the biggest leap - I have always liked Apple for their software AND their hardware - I pray this doesn't turn Apple into a hardware reference design and software company.

• It appears most all software will run (albeit slower) under Rosetta - a technology Apple is including with OSX for Intel - key words are most all.


After watching the keynote twice, it seems to me Apple is doing a very good job relying on and working with the competition. The best way to compete is to be best friends with the competition and have rivalry rather than insidious backstabbing. Apple seems to have succesfully done this with Microsoft, and now, with Intel. May this be a lesson to the Apple & iPod Peripheral Industry!

Steve Jobs had a read between the lines comment that made GREAT sense to me. IBM now has Microsoft's XBox, Nintendo's Revolution, and Sony's Playstation 3 as customers. This sounds like it would have been a good thing for Apple to have that many strong partners. Here's the hidden conspiracy in that. The Sony Playstation has had the same processor since 1996 and was revamped 6 YEARS later. The Xbox has had the same processor for 4 years and isn't being updated until August of this year! It is doubtful the Nintendo Revolution will even be a player in the next generation of gaming consoles. All three must compete against the Mac and PC for gaming, not to mention all the other niche players - such as vintage games built into a joystick.

So why is that meaningful? This could very well mean that IBM could be content with a processor for 6 years. 6 years ago we hardly had good G3's!!! Macs were at 400Mhz G3s 6 years ago. If IBM was making millions of processors at 3 Ghz - what's their motivation to make anything higher for Apple?

The biggest coup here may be that of Linux. With a true UNIX based sytem now on Intel boxes and no meaningful consumer LINUX on RISC processors ... this could effectively kill Linux on the desktop and at the same time - make Linux TWICE AS STRONG by making it the sole benefactor of the embedded market; as most embedded chips (for onboard car computers, handheld devices, etc) are RISC based.

Motorola and IBM have really let Apple down. Motorola with the G4 - not being able to scale it it more than 10% every 16 months and now IBM not being able to scale the G5 at all. (especially seeing since they told Steve Jobs to expect 4Ghz G5's by the summer of 2004 - so he conservatively announced 3Ghz - it's now a year later and G5s top out at 2.7Ghz - now that I look at it - I would have done the exact same thing - Congratulations Steve for leading a company the right way - with will, guts, and courage!

I'm going to make this first quote that Jackwhispers will be remembered for:

"There are no longer enemies; but the war itself has been lengthened by decades"

Explanation: Microsoft and Intel (previously considered enemies took the stage yesterday at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference, but the battle for Apple marketshare was just lengthened.



Anonymous said...

Finally someone writes down what I was assuming about IBM. They can sit on their butts for five years without innovating an inch. And just because Sony and M$ are using PowerPC this time around doesn't mean they will be next time. Sony could say "screw it" and make their own CPUs when they see how tight IBMs production lines are, and M$ could easily get wooed by Intel with some new architecture. If all things were equal, I would have preferred IBM forever, but I'm proud of Apple for having the big brass balls to make the switch. Yes, they could have gone with AMD, but after Motorola and IBM, can you blame them for just jumping straight to the leader? That's Steve, if you are gonna do it, do it right.

FYT said...

Right, AMD would possibly have presented Apple with the same production problems. They also have resulted to crazy math to explain their own production problems by calling a 2.8Ghz Chip a 3400 and etc. Why would Apple want to deal with that all over again?

IBM can easily become content with making 3Ghz processors for Sony - just meeting production concerns.

Big Blue is proving to be just as ignorant as they were in the 80's with Apple.

While Intel's customers rely on them to constantly crank out higher and higer processors so they can sell that advantage and sell that speed boost. Intel can't sit and worry about production - it's got the cash, ability, and forethought to increase production on a whim.

Marc said...

Once a Mac can run Windows, either in a dual-boot setup, or at acceptable speed via a native emulation layer (WINE, Virtual PC, some other), why will software developers be compelled to spend extra time learning Objective C and the peculiarities of OS X to write native OS X software?

I mean, if your program runs fine under WINE, then why not just tell Mac users to run the Windows version?

Jack Campbell said...

Because Mac users reject clunky software. I know I won't tolerate crappy software design anymore. I rarely see it in the OS X apps I play with and purchase, so, I'm tryign to recalla recent case... hmmm... I remember... the last time I had to use a Windows machine! THAT'S when I saw a lot of clunky software!

If developers expect Mac people to buy their apps, those apps are going to continue to have to hit the high marks of Apple user interface guidelines and usability expectations.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget, the Mac OS and PPC was also something that held back sales of the Mac for 20 years.

Offering an Apple PC opens up sales to Windows users, they have wanted the machines for years -- but couldn't make the leap.

Now they can -- if the price is right.

Apple is an innovator, they are likely to still be an innovator long into the future.

If you want the new technology in a cohesive and attractive package, you'll likely be buying an Apple PC.

Sure this will piss off some Mac users, but Appls stands to gain a whole lot of Windows users as customers. Customers who just might play around with the OS on the drive and fall in love.

Anonymous said...

Running multiple OSes is not necessarily a plus, in fact I think it can be a huge negative. The Amiga was an awesome machine and could be made to play in all worlds, but that certainly didn't give it legs.

The thought of Windows software being easily ported over to the Mac is sickening. So many benefits of owning a Mac may be lost if developers can just port the same junk they spew for PCs. Heck, it amazes me how many programs in XP can't even copy-and-paste plain text between them.

And to me, loosing 64-bit is a huge loss. Apple had some prestige with the clusters... they are going to loose all that because they'll be offering the same chips that can be bought in a cheaper boxes elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Biggest downside: lost sales for the rest of this year; probably no performance gains any time soon

Biggest upside: The End of MSFT is much closer than I would have guessed a few days ago. This will make "Longshot" look more and more like COBOL versus C plus plus

Middle-agedman said...

As a former retail computer vendor representative, I know there are a lot of people that would love to have purchased Macs but were afraid that they might need a Windows application for something and went with the "safe" bet. Don't forget that people tend to buy emotionally and not logically. Most of the techies that read blogs like this buy logically; we represent a very small percentage of the buying public. You can tell the average PC user all day long that for what they will use the machine for all they will ever need is whatever is already available and popular for the Mac but they will still have that nagging doubt that they will end up needing "something' that is only available for PC. With the ability to put Windows on the new Macs, this worry goes away and will close the Mac deal for most consumers and prosumers. Aside from cost, there will now be no more reason NOT to choose a Mac. Macs use virtually the same upgrade hardware as PCs, the same peripherals, the same displays, etc. The only real variable has been software and I strongly suspect that Microsoft will make Apple a really sweet deal to include a copy of Windows XP on every Intel Mac.

I don't believe that anyone is going to purchase a Mac to run Windows software if there is a Mac version of the same software. The benefit of Mac software is the OS X operating system and the strict rules for writing compatible software. The only Windows software people will purchase will be games and vertical apps not available for the Mac.

A huge benefit that no one seems to have touched on at this point is that schools that want to use the hugely superior capabilities of OS X and its applications for graphics and multimedia will now be able to do so. In my city, Dell has an ironclad contract on the computers and it is almost impossible for anyone to get a Mac. With the new strategy, this problem will go away. The same situation exists for a lot of large corporations as well. The IT staff often puts pressure on all of its users to buy the same hardware from the same vendor so that there will be fewer standards to support.

My biggest fear in all of this is that Apple will get out of the hardware business. They were wise years ago to get out of the CRT display, printer, storage, etc. businesses but I would absolutely HATE to see them stop making iMacs, eMacs, towers, and laptops. I spend a fair amount of time in internet-capable cafes and love unfolding my Apple Powerbook or iBook. I can't see myself having the same experience with a Dell or other Winbook. I drive a Volvo and just because Ford now owns Volve doesn't mean I would be OK with driving a Ford. It's not the same thing. Please, Apple, don't stop making hardware!!!!!