Step Away from the RD Field: Intel Inside

by Derrick Story

I had to step away from the reality distortion field that engulfed Moscone West and think about one of the biggest moves Apple has ever made. Switching from PowerPC to Intel is the heart transplant that makes the head spin.

OS X is the brains. And our suspicions were confirmed today that Apple's brilliant OS has been running on Intel all along. To prove this point, Steve's entire keynote demo had Intel inside.

I've got to hand it to Apple. They seem ready for this transition. Xcode 2.1 can compile the universal binaries right now that enable apps to run on both Intel and PowerPC processors. They have a developer kit ready to go for $1,000 that includes all the tools you'll need to start developing for the next generation of Apple computers. The kit even includes an Intel-powered Mac. And as always, Steve's arguments for the change were persuasive.

As I sit at my desk over a mile away from Moscone West, far enough away from the reality distortion field to digest this logically (I hope), I can't help thinking that this is a good move. Mac users haven't seen the 3 Ghz PowerMac or the G5 PowerBook that they've yearned for. What's arguably the world's best operating system deserves maximum horsepower.

What a year 2006 will be. We'll not only see Longhorn running on Intel, but OS X too. Should I be thinking now about partitioning my hard drive?


2005-06-06 13:16:49
Windows on Mac/Intel?

Your comment about partitioning your drive is interesting - would Microsoft be inclined to make Windows run on these Intel-based Macs? Their business model would seem to support the idea (sell software that runs on someone else's hardware) better than the unlikely possibility of Mac OS X running on anything other than Apple hardware (Apple only makes OS X for the purpose of selling its own hardware). Not that I'd be particularly enthusiastic about running Windows on my Mac, but having the option, and having it be fast, would make the hardware that much more appealing.


2005-06-06 14:03:19
OS X and Windows co-exist on Intel?
Derrick has some good points. Lots of boards are already full of speculation. I think it was Phil Schiller already stated that they are not going to allow OS X to run non-Apple computers, but did not rule out the other way around.

That leads to some interesting possibilities. Partitioning may not work because of the different file systems, but how about dual booting to a separate drive that is NSF formated with Windows. Would that make VPC obsolete? Right now I have two computers on my desk. My Mac and a Windows PC to run Windows only apps like accounting software. Would love to get rid of the Dell! One of the frequently stated barriers to buy a Mac is that it will not run the software they need to because it works in Windows only. The possibility is there for the barrier to be removed.

The concern about current sales is real. I don't know what to tell friends who were about to switch to the Mac. Now do I say hold off for a year or so for the new hardware? Or myself, who is overdue for a nice G5 tower. Nope, make that G4 tower do for another year or two.

I feel for the small developers. Many who are probably not using Xcode. Lots or utility apps and other programs are not written with objecive C or Java but in other languages such as RealBasic. I wonder if RealBasic can be modified to compile to the new Intel based OS X since they already compile for Windows.

Lots of questions to be answered in the future.


2005-06-06 14:50:00
Windows apps on Macintel...
I recall a year ago reading something about Windows applications running on a Mac (as they would in VirtualPC) but without the Windows container. So that the Windows application windows were peers with the Mac OS X windows.

It seems that a Macintel architecture simplifies and liberates much of the VirtualPC environment to be more flexible and faster.

2005-06-06 15:26:55
You know, even with all the rumors, I am still stunned.

Given Apple's continued focus on consumer electronics, does this mean they will eventually get out of the PC-hardware game altogther?

Old reasoning, I know, but: Who will pay $1,300 for an iMac when you can run OS X on a $300 Dell box?

2005-06-06 17:02:39
RE: Wow
Well, I don't think Apple, or Dell for that matter, have any intentions of running OS X on a stock PC. That doesn't mean that such a system couldn't be cobbled together by a hackish type. But Macs with Intel inside will be different than Dells. Apple has no plans of getting out of the hardware business. That's a fact.

(And yes, it is stunning!)

2005-06-06 17:06:01
RE: Windows apps on Macintel...
I'm wondering something along these same lines...

True, file system differences will inhibit just loading up Windows on a stock Intel Mac. But... seems like the whole Virtual PC thing gets easier to implement. I could see a dual boot Mac that actually runs Windows at a decent speed. And I would want that (but guess on which partition I would spend 95 percent of my time?)

2005-06-06 17:08:47
RE: Windows on Mac/Intel?
My guess is that we saw Roz today for more than just the promise of continued MS Office support. I think Microsoft will want their fingers in this pie.
2005-06-06 17:41:30
RE: Windows apps on Macintel...
It would be interesting to see if they can implement a Classic-type environment for Windows applications. Even if it's a third-party utility, or the next version of VirtualPC, the notion of launching an EXE and having the necessary Windows core components load up and run the program as (not in) a standard window is quite appealing.

Oh, wait. Viruses. Forget it.

2005-06-06 18:45:26
OS X and Windows co-exist on Intel?
Why wouldn't you be able to have one HFS+ partition and one FAT partition? Or an HFS+ and an NTFS? Doesn't OS X have read access capabilities for NTFS? If not, three partitions: HFS+,NTFS, and a small FAT for file transfer.


2005-06-06 20:14:45
Windows on Mac/Intel?
Don't see why MS wouldn't be happy to sell more copies of Windows for Apple's machines. It's a foot in the door, it fuzzes up market numbers for the Feds, and the sales will all be high-profit retail sales.

Another plus for Apple: buyers who like the design and style of PowerBooks but are Windows adherents can just buy the machine, dump the OEM OS, put Windows on it, et voila! Apple becomes a fancy Wintel hardware vendor!

Serious question, though: Why didn't they even pretend that Apple was simply moving to a CPU-agnostic position, where the CPU choice would be made on a model-by-model basis, and everything would be permanently dual-binary? At least they wouldn't have Osborned their sales for the next 1-2 years. Then. once the whole product line just happened to be on Intel in 2007, they could drop the other shoe.

Any ideas?

2005-06-06 22:53:12
RE: Windows on Mac/Intel?
Was it just me or did Roz take the cake for *nervous*? She looked like three hundred ants were crawling all over her body, forcing a non-stop squirmathon.
2005-06-06 22:54:32
RE: Windows apps on Macintel...
Great point! :)
2005-06-06 22:57:39
RE: Windows on Mac/Intel?
Actually, did you see her last time she was on stage for a Stevenote? She actually dropped a few lines. So I was holding my breath for her this time. Even though she was clearly nervous, her delivery was stronger. My guess is that this isn't her favorite part of the job...
2005-06-07 05:36:23
RE: Wow
"Apple has no plans of getting out of the hardware business. That's a fact."

Wired has some interesting speculations about an Apple set-top box, movie downloads, and Intel's Pentium D.

I think Apple is positioning itself to be an American Sony, with a heavy focus on consumer electronics and less on PC architectures. While they may not get out of the hardware business altogether, I bet their PC product line is going to be seriously trimmed over the next five years.

(I was one who always thought that the only way Apple would move to x86 would be when they pried the PowerPC from Steve Jobs' cold, dead hands. So for me, at this point, anything is possible)

2005-06-07 07:06:01
OS X and Windows co-exist on Intel?
From MacWorld:
Apple also confirmed that they would not stop customers from running Windows on the Intel-based Mac, although the Mac OS will not run on another PC.

“We will not sell or support Windows, but we are not doing anything in the hardware that would preclude someone from using it,” said Moody.

The possibility of a dual-boot or tri-boot system will be a major selling point for Apple hardware. Apple will have the only hardware out there that will legitimately boot Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows. This would be a great alternative to Virtual PC as customers wouldn't have to pay for a copy of VPC in addition to paying for a copy of Windows. Plus Windows and Linux would run at native speeds (after rebooting). I think cross-platform developers and switchers with large software libraries would love this.

2005-06-21 10:06:06
RE: OS X and Windows co-exist on Intel?
An interesting point from WWDC was that it wasn't as much the smaller developers I was hearing concern from, rather the larger operations in science and education that had optimized their systems for Altivec. I think they are going to feel some pain during this transition.