Jobs Eye on the

By Peter Glaskowsky  |  Posted 2005-06-06 Print this article Print

Prize"> I believe Apple is switching because Steve Jobs has his eye on the big prize—a substantial share of the personal computer marketplace. In fact, I believe Steve Jobs has been working toward this goal since he returned to Apple in 1997.
Remember, it was Jobs nemesis John Sculley who presided over the switch from Motorolas 68000 processors to the PowerPC architecture, missing the opportunity to gain PC compatibility.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. IBMs Power architecture was part of a wave of RISC (reduced instruction-set computing) technology that promised to sweep x86 away. Intel couldnt make the switch, but Apple could; Sculley believed RISCs inherent advantages would give Apple a compelling advantage over x86 PCs. What RISC proponents didnt predict was that Intel (and AMD) could create new x86 processors built around RISC-like cores. Their higher production volumes more than compensated for the slight inefficiencies of this approach. The new PowerPC platform also turned out to be less compelling than Sculley expected. By forcing its customers and software developers to choose between two fundamentally incompatible platforms—the well established PC platform and Apples proprietary designs—Apple forced itself into a small market niche from which it could not escape. Even with this years remarkable growth in Mac sales—40 percent year over year—Apple still has less than 4 percent of the U.S. personal-computer market. The transition to x86 will cut into Power Mac sales in the short term, but the new strategy gives Apple an opportunity for growth rates that would be otherwise unimaginable. Click here to read more about the outcry over the Apple-Intel deal. How might this strategy play out? I think the keys to Apples success now lie in the "platformization" strategy of Intels new CEO, Paul Otellini. Otellini is behind Intels new emphasis on technology beyond simple microprocessor design—the Centrino platform, Intels Virtualization Technology and the security features code-named LaGrande Technology. Apple, arguably the most platform-oriented computer vendor, will now contribute its considerable skills in hardware/software integration to Intels chipset developers. Apple will show Intel how to make software-friendly hardware, and Intel will put its unmatched manufacturing muscle into Apples service. The ideal future x86 Mac will run Mac OS X and Windows, but I think its unlikely that Apple will release a version of Mac OS that runs on non-Apple PCs. Apple relies heavily on hardware sales to subsidize Mac OS development. A shrink-wrapped Mac OS that runs on Dell machines, for example, would cut into Mac system sales. Jobs did not address this question in his speech Monday, but we should learn the answer later this year. If Apple had adopted the Intel architecture instead of PowerPC, this would have been a difficult problem to solve. Apple would have been forced to make its systems fundamentally incompatible with the standard PC platform to prevent hackers from making their own Mac clones. Today, Intel has the answer. LaGrande technology provides an unbreakable cryptographic lock that can keep Mac OS from booting on systems not made by Apple. The LaGrande solution allows full PC compatibility, so Macs could be able to boot Windows, but dual-boot systems have never been particularly successful. Users dont want to be forced to choose between multiple operating systems when they start their computers. The ideal solution would offer access to all the software and all the data on the machine at the same time. Next Page: Virtualization technology.

Peter Glaskowsky is Principal System Architect at microprocessor startupMemoryLogix in Silicon Valley and works part-time as a consulting editor andtechnology analyst for Envisioneering, an analyst firm in Seaford NY. Beforejoining MemoryLogix, Glaskowsky was editor in chief of the industrynewsletter Microprocessor Report and a columnist for Electronic Businessmagazine. Prior to that, he was a chief engineer with semiconductor firmIntegrated Device Technology, Inc.

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