Sunday, June 05, 2005

Apple: Turning To The Dark Side? [UPDATED]

From the original post on

The rumor originated at The Wall Street Journal:
The report, citing two industry executives with knowledge of recent discussions between the companies, said Apple will agree to use Intel chips.

Apple has seriously considered switching to Intel at least twice in its history. One previous project code-named Star Trek actually ported Mac OS 7 to Intel based hardware in 1992. Most recently, internal IBM documents noted that Apple considered switching to Intel but felt it would cause too much trouble:

Apple believed that using Intel would deeply affect its current customer base. Using an Intel architecture might solve Apple's short-term megahertz dilemma, but customers would have to suffer through a slow transition from PowerPC over the long term.

Such a switch would traditionally require recompilation of applications, [recent] rumors have suggested the use of Transitive Technologies' software which claims to "dynamically translate and accelerate binaries" up to 80% performance matching, as well as unconfirmed reports of x86 seeds of Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger).

Jackwhispers analysis:

Apple no longer owns a stake in ARM (sold it all to Intel), but they do have experience and could easily hire/rehire programmers that worked on Apple/ARM devices (read as Newton)

My guess is that this will be for a new ARM processor for the iPod - the custom chip is probably too weak for advanced features.

Intel has been wanting to move to RISC chips for some time - maybe they want to become a CELL/PowerPC production partner to catch on the wave - 100% of the gaming world will be using PowerPC or PowerPC deritives in the next year - year and a half -

Intel now owns the largest stake in ARM (bought from Apple) - this is the processor in the majority of PocketPCs, Palms, and GPS units. So - this Intel processor is most likely for a new device or even the iPod.

Also take into account that USB2.0 chipsets are currently made by Intel (and others) and that Apple uses Intel chips in the XServe line for RAID I/O.

As I read up in other forums about this topic - another intriguing possibility pops up ... Intel is the developer of WiMax technology - this would be the perfect continuity for the iTunes, iPod solution as WiMax is being pushed heavily as the broadband for the rest of us!

Of course, then there's the business strategy angle:

Apple may be putting heat on IBM for pricing & production concerns to get IBM's attention. Leaking this to a market analyst with a big mouth and big ego is an easy way for a story like this to get press.

Here is a post I made to the Engadget forums about this topic:

Intel developed WIMAX - they make the chipsets for WIMAX ...

Apple needs to expand the number of users that have access to the iTunes Music Store

They also need to have a broader base of users with broadband before they could launch an iMovie store

WIMAX is touted as broadband for the rest of us - it's the broadband that will go the extra mile and twice as fast as cable modems!

I see Apple jumping on this early ... just like they did with Airport - calling it AirportMAX and announcing a partnership with INTEL for a huge nationwide deployment - BOTH companies have the cash to fund this.

[UPDATE II] As always, Daring Fireball's John Gruber can say it better than me. Thank you for the readers that pointed this article out.



Jack Campbell said...

I think you're right on track. When I read the Journal article this morning, my first thought was, "Don't these people realize that Apple builds a lot more than just Powermacs?"

OS X is entirely too entrenched in the PowerPC architecture, and is gaining too much market and developer community momentum to face the deep pothole of forcing all of the current OS X developers to back up and recompile their applications for the '086 platform. If ever a groan heard 'round the world were to emit from the WWDC, it would come from such a stunning announcement as that one. "Hey, guys... Thanks so much for rallying around OS X, with all of your wonderfully fresh development work these past four years. Now, we want you to junk 50% of your code, and rebuild it for a new chip."

Geez... just the workarounds to make CoreImage and CoreAudio calls work effectively on a non-Power platform would be daunting, if not flat impossible.


The Journal is right: There was a time when moving OS X to Intel would not have been a huge undertaking. But, wiht every forward iteration, the OS has been tethered more and more specifically to the PowerPC architecture. Tiger is not our grandmother's OS X, folks. Migrating it to another chip is far, far more work than a simple "port."

So, I utterly agree: If Apple's buying Intel chips, it is for an entirely different usage than Macs. Since shredding the current iPod OS is nearly as unlikely as screwing around with OS X, my guess is that this is for an unannounced product.

Wayne Smallman said...

The thinking of most people when they read about Apple meeting with Intel is quite limited and prosaic.

This article from The Register dots all the i's and crosses all of the t's (go to:

FYT said...

This article from The Register dots all the i's and crosses all of the t's (go to:

Of course that's just this right?

Anonymous said...

From a post at /.

Just a few weeks ago, Intel and Genentech filed a joint brief in support of Apple's lawsuit against ThinkSecret over its disclosure of trade secrets. Genentech's participation was easily explained by its CEO also being a member of Apple's board, but Intel?? The best explanation I had was that the two, Apple and Intel, had something BIG to hide.

Wayne Smallman said...

It's easy to see something where there might only be mutual interests over patent protection and the like.

However, Apple have been making great strides into life sciences.

Without getting into the whole OS X on Intel argument, I think there's a great deal in there for Apple if done properly.

For example, by only allowing OS X to be run on selected machines with very specific configurations and only computers sold by major names, such as Dell, HP, IBM et al.

Then, by not selling to the public direct and only selling to corporate / enterprise in units of no less than 10.

That way, Apple fend off the problems that Microsoft have with the myriad configurations and all of the problems that entails. Plus, by-passing the consumer and going directly to big business, they protect against market share cannibalism while penetrating new markets not open to them before.

On the back of this, they could throw in Xserves with Xsan and whatever else compliments what the customer wants.

For me, Apple either sit on the side looking into a market hoping for that one big win, or they could sell in with a lower profit margin but gain a presence that could well be built upon and turn into something much bigger later on.

Market share first, increased profits later.

Haven't they learnt anything from watching Microsoft all of these years?

Anonymous said...

Doubt it, but IBM should be careful. Hopeful, the big blue could expend its G5 empire not at the expense of losing its business from Apple Computer.


George Lien