Chips with everything

by Giles Turnbull

Do I even need a Mac any more? I can run OS X on my old PC now, right?

I know this is obvious but I think it's important to stress the difference. Just because the chips inside the boxes are going to be made by Intel, it doesn't mean that Apple is going to release a version of their OS that will run on any box with an Intel chip. I've no doubt it will be possible to wrestle OS X on to a standard PC, if you have the time and inclination, but it'll be a labour of love.

What good reason is there for buying a PPC Mac now?

Well, if you want an up-to-date machine running OS X, it's your only option. Some time around 2008, Apple will stop supporting it officially, so you might only get three years of 'official' life out of it. Three years is considered a reasonable life for many computers, especially laptops. It will probably continue to work for a lot longer than that, just without Apple support. No doubt, or something similar, is being registered as we speak. There will be a lively community of PPC Mac owners willing to share help and tips with one another.

But this will have to affect sales, won't it?

Common sense suggests that, doesn't it? It would seem only logical that sales of high-end machines, particularly, will slowly decline between now and the release of the new Intel-powered machines next year. Unless someone has an urgent need for dual G5 oomph right now, many are going to just sit it out. Personally, I've been planning to buy a G4 or G5 Mac for a couple of months now. I think I shall just go with a Mac mini, which should be sufficient to do what I need until next year.

I've been telling everyone I know how much Wintel sucks. Now I look like an idiot.

You and me both, sunshine. But relax. Grin, shrug, and admit what Steve Jobs has admitted: PPC architecture was great, but if people wanted newer, faster Macs in 2006 there was no other way of ensuring they could be manufactured. Those mythical 3GHz processors were taking too long, and Apple couldn't afford to wait any longer.

So my G4 laptop has to last until 2006? Maybe even mid-2006? It's going to feel like an antique by then!

Yup. Above all other Apple customers, you're the kind that they really have to pay attention to now. Apple will have to work very hard to stop you from buying a Wintel laptop and running Windows or Ubuntu or something. But that hadn't even occurred to you. Had it?

Intel will have a monopoly on the desktop.

Yeah, almost. Don't forget AMD. As several folks have commented, the switch away from PPC gives Apple more freedom in the longer term, to use whatever chipset comes along. But I think it's fair to say that, to the average (non-technically minded) consumer, it will seem as though every single computer for sale in the local mall will be using the same chip. Maybe people will start to wonder if there's any difference at all. At that point they will (hopefully) compare OS X and Longhorn and make their choice based on the software.

What do developers think of this? I mean, really?

I'm trying to find out. I've been contacting lots of developers large and small to get an idea what they think about it all. I'll report back when I have some responses. So far, they are broadly positive.

Note about the title of this post: here in the UK, we say 'chips' when we're talking about fries. There's a certain kind of cheap cafe, also called a 'greasy spoon', that serves chips with every item on the menu; hence the phrase, "Chips with everything." My journalism teacher once told me a pun was no good if you had to explain it to the readers, but anyway...)

You've had a few hours to think. Feeling happy, or sad, or something else?


2005-06-06 21:46:25
What do developers think of this?
I’m trying to find out.

Heh, I think you’ll need to wait a week or so before trying to ask for any sort of assessment. I don’t think anyone can think this through clearly and make their mind up in much less time than that. This is just too big.

2005-06-06 23:12:14
They don't have to stop supporting PPC
Although, right now the best option seems to be to go with Intel, if IBM suddenly came up with the good then Apple could continue to produce a PPC based box (or Opteron or Athlon64 for that matter) and as long as supporting both architectures is as simple as Apple says it will be then the door is still open. Lots of old NeXTStep/OpenStep devlopers seem to suggest that multi architecture development was easy then. Of course things are more complex now, not least because vector units are so different. However if Apple has written VecLib correctly, and everything points to the fact that they have even this might not be too hairy.

The message seems to be, to deploy anywhere, use Cocoa.

2005-06-07 07:21:48
Universally true
Mike Patton, at the end of his first world tour with Faith No More, commented that if he'd learned one thing in his travels it was that "Everything, and I mean f******g EVERYTHING, comes with fries."
2005-06-07 08:46:51
Reality check
My wife is a teacher in a district that uses Mac's exclusively. She loves them.

She came home last night and I told her the "big news" about Apple's chip change. She didn't get it. She asked, "Is it going to look the same?" and "Is it going to have the same software?" I had to say yes to both and she seemed satisfied at that point. She then asked if the district would need to buy all new computers and I had to say no and tried an explanation of emulation and fat binaries. With that answered, she asked if she could buy a new iBook now.

I guess my point is that between Apple switching to Intel, Debian having a release and rumors of Duke Nukem Forever being released, yesterday was a big day for anyone reading this post. However, the average person couldn't care less.

2005-06-07 09:42:16
There was a time...
Nobody has really mentioned this, but there was a time when Objective-C and all the frameworks were also being compiled and run on Sparc processors...
2005-06-07 17:03:57
Centrino inside Powerbook
I'm a developer, I'm a power user. I'm a mac user and I would not buy a Powerbook with Centrino Inside logo. Even if I have to, I'd tear of that sticker. Why? Because Apple have created this user culture. Think different! Yes I think different and I'm sad that Apple had to chose Intel.
2005-06-07 17:29:09
Reality check
My dad is thinking of ditching his creaky old Gateway for a brand new Mac. Extra spiffy Father's Day present.

He is now reconsidering--we like to run our computers till they die, so this is like 4-5 year purchase for him. If Apple stops supporting present-day PPC in 3 years, it will be no sale for him.

2005-06-08 03:13:04
Reality check
I'm in the same sort of position, but I've decided that it's still worth spending money on a low-cost G4 machine like the eMac or Mac mini. Even if I just get three years out of them, they're good value; and I suspect they will be useful for years after the withdrawal of official Apple support anyway.