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June 6, 2005

Apple on x86

So, are the rumors true? I don't know yet. A shift from the PowerPC processor to something like a Pentium 4 would be a boon to Apple in the long run, but probably not the immediate future. I asked someone at work if they thought Apple was going to switch processors again (let's not forget the switch from 680x0 to PowerPC) and he replied "They can't do that, the Mac is sacred". And to a certain degree I think most MacHeads do believe this. They fool themselves into believing that the MacOS is so more stable than a commodity (x86) PC because of the processor difference. That and Intel is so closely related to Microsoft that when you think of one, you almost immediately think of the other. Are we going to start correlating Apple and Intel the same way?

Getting back to my argument, the MacOS isn't so stable because of the processor, but because every hardware platform is known before they even need to write things like drivers. How does this help? Well, when you know what the hardware is going to be you can test out every little thing that may go wrong, you can plan for any possible hardware failures in any combination, etc. The developers don't have a whole lot of unknowns to deal with. Whereas any x86 platform can have something like 30 different manufacturers of a motherboard, each with their own quirks, enhancements and interpretation of specifications. This means that an Apple developer needs to test a driver on maybe 10 different platforms, but an x86 developer needs to test a driver on 20 platforms minimum, more if they want to support the other 20% of the community.

Either way, some big names [washingtonpost.com] are throwing their weight behind the rumor [nytimes.com]. I guess we'll find out later today or this week what exactly is going on. Stay tuned.

Posted by Guy at June 6, 2005 7:35 AM