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Pangloss

Apple to Announce Intel Conversion Monday

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News.com is stating that Apple will announce on Monday that it's abandoning its IBM partnership and switching to Intel chips. Wow.

I wonder how this will play with Intel's decision to begin embedding Digital Rights Management hardware into their dual core processors. But then again, Apple seems to have dealt with the DRM/iPod issue in a manner that hasn't alienated their user base.

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That's the hope, but we'll have to see what happens.

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If they play this right, Apple could leverage Intel and XML to remove the OS dominance Microsoft has in business. If you can load Tiger on a Dell and use Mac products that transfer seamlessly to Office, why not use it?

 

I doubt they will though. Still thinking hardware..., what's the next Ipod gizmo they can invent....

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I've been thinking lately that the old axiom about casual computer buyers wanting to be compatible with their friends' computers may no longer apply anymore.

 

Most casual users buy computers today to do web browsing and email. I've noticed amongst my friends that they don't really seem interested in swapping programs anymore. I know it's still popular in high school and college circles, but amonst working adults it doesn't seem to be a big thing anymore. They're more interested in swapping songs and (to a growing extent) copied movies (e.g. "rent-and-return"). But you can do these things in any OS, really.

 

And I cannot remember the last time I used, or saw someone else use, a floppy disk. It's all email and memory keys today. And that's totally cross-compatible.

 

So I think we're pretty much "Microsoft by momentum" these days. So cheap Mac hardware combined with a good add campaign could really win over a lot of converts to the Apple tent.

 

The only problem is, Apple still makes most of its money selling hardware. So it's really pretty hard to imagine them selling OS-X on shelves. It would undermine their hardware business completely. Why buy an expensive Mac when you can run the same OS on a Dell at half the price?

 

On the other hand, this would give them the opportunity to COMPETE with Dell, IBM, HP, etc. If they can make a Pentium machine for about the same price as Dell or IBM, and still make money, they might have something.

 

Especially if you can buy a Mac, from Apple, that's pre-configured to dual-boot either OS-X or Windows. That would be really cool.

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Whens longhorn scheduled for release? Im thinking about buying it for my dell dimension 4600.

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We'll be lucky to see a decent beta of it this year. My guess is mid-2006.

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I'm trying to decide if this is the single stupidest thing Apple has ever done. I'm going to have to go with "yes"

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I have to disagree quite strongly. This is a very clever business move by Apple in my opinion.

 

First of all, there's the entire IBM contract. The PowerPC 970 was supposed to be revolutionary in its nature, clocking it to 3GHz+, 64bit etc. However, they were supposed to be at the 3GHz+ mark a year after release - two years later, we're at 2.7GHz. The 970 is a power-hungry, white-hot overbloated piece of poo for the performance you get. Without some significant research on the part of IBM, there's not going to be a PowerBook G5 just because of the huge heat envelope. Of course, besides all of this we have the fact that IBM basically made Steve Jobs (and hence Apple) look bad.

 

On the business end of things, switching to Intel is a good move. They have some good work in the pipeline and I think that OS X could be pretty damn sweet on an x86. Whilst I'm an avid Mac fan, I don't have a problem with the x86 architecture like some do. Tiger has apparently sold about 2m copies, which is not to be sniffed at. People like it because it appeals to them; it's friendly to use and quite intuitive. Apple recognises that by moving to x86, it allows them more room for expansion and possibly marketing out the license to people like Dell. (As an example; they already licensed the iPod out to HP).

 

Now, for what it's worth Apple already went through a rather big shift of architecture back in 1994 when they switched from the Motorola 68k processors to the newer PowerPC 600 series. So they do have some experience, although they made rather a mess of it at the time. However, I think the thing that Apple has definately acknowleged in the past 5-6 years is that you should always try to learn from your mistakes.

 

Anyway, this is all my opinion. If you want a more objective article, have a look at:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/06/06/apple_intel_analysis/

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First of all, there's the entire IBM contract. The PowerPC 970 was supposed to be revolutionary in its nature, clocking it to 3GHz+, 64bit etc. However, they were supposed to be at the 3GHz+ mark a year after release - two years later, we're at 2.7GHz. The 970 is a power-hungry, white-hot overbloated piece of poo for the performance you get. Without some significant research on the part of IBM, there's not going to be a PowerBook G5 just because of the huge heat envelope. Of course, besides all of this we have the fact that IBM basically made Steve Jobs (and hence Apple) look bad.

 

However, Cell uses less power than the dual core P4, has fewer transistors, and an order of magnitude more GFLOPS. At its heart is a PowerPC core which will be clocked, in the PS3 at least, at 3.2GHz. It's certainly a much better way to go... for everything except notebooks.

 

Given his obsession over computational power per watt, it's pretty clear the problem is exclusively with notebooks. Apple is primarily a notebook and iPod company, and they haven't managed to squeeze the G5 into a notebook. The Freescale processors just aren't up to par. And getting Cell into a notebook is likely an insurmountable challenge.

 

Apple clearly just wants to go with someone oriented at making the most powerful notebook processors available, and the Pentium M is probably Intel's greatest hit; a well designed core for notebook and other low power systems which has sold quite well. In that respect it's probably Intel's best product, and certainly the only area where they're truly ahead of AMD.

 

So, as an enterprise/scientific consumer of Apple products, we get screwed so Apple can have some fancy high performance Pentium M notebooks.

 

I'm a little miffed. Especially after reading the "Little endian, get used to it!" section in the Universal Binary Programming guidelines Apple just released :(

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has fewer transistors

um, excuse you! A 3.4GHz P4 processor has approximately 55 million transistors... The Cell has 234 million especially tuned/tweaked transistors, and yes 55million < 234 million!

 

heh, wolfram and mathematica are on that Apple Keynote lecture.

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So, as an enterprise/scientific consumer of Apple products, we get screwed so Apple can have some fancy high performance Pentium M notebooks.

 

At the end of the day, you're always going to have things like the Xserve/high-end G5s coming along with very high-end chips. Remember, the Xeon processor is rather ideal for workstation-based systems (we have one running the Avid at work). I just don't see how the 970 will compete with the stupidly fast advances that the entire x86 camp is making.

 

I would say: "wait and see". We can't gauge how good or bad these systems are going to be before they actually come out. Mathematica looked really stonking running on that machine, so we'll just have to wait and see. Personally, I can't wait to get my hands on one; I'm waiting for them to come out so I can buy a cheap Mac Mini G5 ;)

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um, excuse you! A 3.4GHz P4 processor has approximately 55 million transistors...

 

Notice I said dual core... the Pentium D has 230 million transistors. Read harder, Homer.

 

The Cell has 234 million especially tuned/tweaked transistors, and yes 55million < 234 million!

 

You're still correct though, they're roughly equal with the Pentium D having slightly fewer. However, the point still stands that the Cell processor consumes less power and provides an order of magnitude more theoretical GFLOPS.

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At the end of the day, you're always going to have things like the Xserve/high-end G5s coming along with very high-end chips. Remember, the Xeon processor is rather ideal for workstation-based systems (we have one running the Avid at work). I just don't see how the 970 will compete with the stupidly fast advances that the entire x86 camp is making.

 

As I said before, Cell is the answer... except for notebooks, which sadly happens to be Apple's bread and butter. A shame.

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I think the power consumption issue for desktops is more or less moot. They're like light bulbs. Some produce 80 watts, others 100 or more. Who cares? All that really matters is how much number crunching they do.

 

At any rate, a lot of the technical stuff I've seen talked about (such as above) seemed pretty good on paper, but you have to bear in mind that Apple had to look at a lot of different aspects of manufacturing. When you hear the Apple folks (like Jobs) talking about why they gave up on IBM, the phrase "roadmap" keeps coming up. It's not that IBM lacked one, it's that their comprehensive future plan was incomplete and had a lot of holes in it in comparison with Intel's. Just to give an example of that, IBM has one chip roadmap. Intel has two discount processor roadmaps, two main-line processors (32/64 and dual-core, with two variations of each), two completely distinct lines of laptop processors, and future processor capacity all down the line thanks to both a 64-bit plan and a dual-core plan. Heady stuff.

 

That's not even IBM's fault, really. The nature of the business is such that companies that produce huge numbers have huge advantages in produce the next five or six generations of chips. In the end, it was probably a very easy call.

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Laptops (and the iPod) are Apple's bread and butter. That's obviously why he was so obsessive about computational power per watt during his keynote. That's the only reason why IBM's roadmap looks so unimpressive; they have absolutely nothing to offer Apple in the laptop market, and are moving more towards massive parallelism with Cell.

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Yeah, no question about that. Actually laptops are everyone's bread and butter right now, outselling desktops last month. They have a much higher profit margin and general selling price.

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Guest prozak

It's going to be interesting to see them compete as another hardware company. I think people will be hard-pressed to buy Apple when there are better hardware manufacturers selling the same architecture cheaper. To the end user, there's no real advantage to running a BSD/Mach OS, and thus, when Windows XP is as stable as it is, there's no real advantage to buying a Mac.

 

They'll make an interesting software company, which is where they should have gone years ago ;)

 

My question: why not use AMD chips? It's more keeping with the company legacy.

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