Apple Hearts x86 – or Intel anyway.
June 6, 2005
Yep, it’s actually true…
(Update – See Also: “Apple & Intel – All About the DRM?“)
Apple is officially moving the Mac platform to x86 starting in June 2006, to be “mostly complete” by June 2007. In fact, Job’s keynote address was run on a 3.6GHz Pentium 4, running Tiger.
It was also revealed that pretty much every version of OS X has had both an Intel and PowerPC build, although none have ever been released to-date. “Fat Binaries” are returning (as “Universal Binaries”) with Xcode 2.1, allowing applications developers to include both PowerPC and Intel code in the same executable.
Cocoa-based Xcode developed applications can supposedly be tweaked to run on both platforms in “several days”, and Carbon-based applications in “several weeks”. As an example, the developers of Mathmatica ported their application in 2 days.
For those applications that are not ready at release, “Rosetta” will provide PowerPC emulation at speeds that are “good enough”, according to Jobs. Doubtless for various values of “good enough”, given what we’ve seen with other attempts at PPC emulation on x86 architectures.
Development platforms running on 3.6GHz Pentium 4s are supposed to be available in several weeks for under $1000, with an agreement that they be returned in 2006 (they are not to be a “product”).
This has got to be ugly, ugly news up Microsoft way—whether or not a “plug and play” version of OS X ever arrives for “Windows Ready” hardware, this puts Apple in a position to start running on a very even footing with Windows in cost-per-performance terms.
All in all, this opens the door for some interesting speculation, including how will this affect PPC-based Mac sales over the next 12 months (I’d expect them to be off considerably), and when or if we’ll see Mac compatible workstations from other vendors.
It’s interesting that they are highlighting Intel as the choice, rather than the more generic x86. This led to some weekend speculation that they might select one of Intel’s other processor families, but of course, they didn’t. Where this leaves AMD is anyone’s guess, particularly since AMD is currently winning the dollars-to-performance game in the x86 world by most people’s measure. It leads one to wonder what Intel is (quietly) bringing to the table, in order to be annointed the chosen vendor.
The next 18 months should be veeeery interesting…. .