Page Two

By Matthew Rothenberg  |  Posted 2002-10-01 Print this article Print

: Apples Great Leap Forward"> Some Mac handicappers have hypothesized that this break with the OS past might have been forced by a commensurate change to Mac hardware; specifically, theyve suggested that January 2003 might be the month when Apple makes its long-rumored switch to a 64-bit CPU architecture. Our sources say no, for a couple of reasons. First of all, the final decision to draw the line in the sand over dual booting was apparently made by marketing, not engineering. Indeed, wed heard reports that Apple was weighing the move to Mac OS X-only booting before Julys Macworld Expo/New York; from what we can tell, the company only pushed it back to January to ease the shock to Mac buyers systems—architectural changes had nothing to do with it.
Second, the IBM timeline were tracking makes it clear that even if everything stays on track, GPUL wont reach Apple or other OEMs in quantity until late summer 2003. (And even if IBM should somehow deliver the chips freakishly early, they wont reach the mainstream of the desktop Mac line until autumn.)
Moreover, Mac watchers in the good seats stress that Apple is not about to drop Motorolas PowerPC flavors any time soon, at least when it comes to its laptop lines. Finally, the 64-bit architecture of GPUL should be able to run 32-bit software with only minor tweaks—presumably including the classic Mac Finder. In short, a sea change in Apple hardware is fast approaching, but it wont be as early or as abrupt as some observers have suggested. At the same time, I can easily see Apple using this hardware milestone as another opportunity to advance the Mac OS X cause. The switch to Mac OS X-only booting in early 2003 will leave the Classic environment intact; this is pure conjecture, but might the change to GPUL in late 2003 (and the probable launch date for Panther, the desinated successor to the current Jaguar version of Mac OS X) mark the end of the line for this final vestige of the historic Mac OS? And speaking of history: Apple is the last major proponent of vertical integration. Upon his return to the helm of in 1997, Steve Jobs wasted no time pulling the plug on Apples nascent efforts to license Mac hardware designs to third-party vendors. Since then, hes minced no words that Apples future depends on maintaining tight control over Mac hardware and software—and wringing maximum performance from both. Hurdles to advancing either agenda hobbles both; Apple must constantly fire on both engines to provide the hardware horsepower necessary to run the ever-growing demands of the OS. I predict that these pieces will come together in the latter half of 2003, and I trust that the resulting picture will capture the imagination of Mac veterans—as well as other power users who need a few more reasons to make the platform switch. Mac veteran Matthew Rothenberg is online editor for Ziff Davis Medias Baseline and CIO Insight magazines.

Online News Editor
Matthew has been associated with Ziff Davis' news efforts for more than a decade, including an eight-year run with the print and online versions of MacWEEK. He also helped run the news and opinion operations at ZDNet and CNet. Matthew holds a B.A. from the University of California, San Diego.


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