Apple Going Intel?

June 4, 2005

Hmmm… This time the rumor is getting more play than it ever has to-date…

Apple has used IBM’s PowerPC processors since 1994, but will begin a phased transition to Intel’s chips, sources familiar with the situation said. Apple plans to move lower-end computers such as the Mac Mini to Intel chips in mid-2006 and higher-end models such as the Power Mac in mid-2007, sources said.

The announcement is expected Monday at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, at which Chief Executive Steve Jobs is giving the keynote speech. The conference would be an appropriate venue: Changing the chips would require programmers to rewrite their software to take full advantage of the new processor.

IBM, Intel and Apple declined to comment for this story.

Well, I’ll believe it when I see it.  Not that it doesn’t make sense, as much as that it has made sense for a very long time; what’s different now?

Maybe Jobs feels that Apple is finally in striking distance of making the big time.  Don’t start, I’m as big an Apple fan as anybody, and I live on a Powerbook.  But Mac is still a vanishingly small share of the market.

Worse, the PowerPC is starting to run out of legs—they desperately need to get the product line over to the G5, but the G5 has serious power consumption issues—it takes a ton of power, and ton and a half of cooling to keep it running.  Not exactly conducive to producing small, svelte hip-looking products like the Mini or the Powerbook.

In contrast, the Pentium M is starting to give a lot of performance in a low power consumption, low-heat package—switching to this would make for some pretty sweet Powerbooks.  The cost of production would have to be cheaper too, if you start using parts that have a lot of volume users other than Apple.

But of course, this lets the camel’s nose under the tent, and running on X86 processors puts OS X that much closer to running on a lot of other machines previously “designed for Windows”.

When that happens, however, Apple may be (de facto, or de jure) out of the computer business, and I don’t think Jobs is ready to let that happen.

Apple on Intel would have to be Bill Gate’s worst nightmare…

Unfortunately, there’s a big chance that it’s Steve Jobs’ worst nightmare too…

It should make for an interesting newsday Monday, however. 

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