The Fate of Apples

By Ian Betteridge  |  Posted 2005-05-23 Print this article Print

Portables"> What may be concerning Apple more is the fate of its portables. Here, the company has been forced to rely on the aging G4 series, which is clearly coming to the end of its life cycle—and, thanks to the huge power requirements of the G5, there appears to be little chance of that chip making it into a PowerBook anytime soon.
Meanwhile, Intel has been pressing forward with the development of its Pentium M series so successfully that it has, in many ways, outshone the development of the Pentium 4.
The importance of the PowerBook and iBook lines to Apple shouldnt be underestimated. Revenue contributed by the PowerBook in Apples last financial quarter was second only to the iMac, and the company sold significantly more PowerBooks than Power Macs. If the future plans of IBM no longer include a low-power chip in the G5 series, it would make sense for Apple to look elsewhere for its portable processors—and, if Freescale (Motorolas chip business, now spun out as a separate entity) is no longer interested in the PowerPC except in the lucrative embedded market, Apples only option would be to look to Intel for the PowerBook line. However, even if the reports prove entirely accurate, it should be remembered that there is little chance that Apple will produce a version of Mac OS X capable of running on the average Windows-laden PC. Supported hardware will be strictly limited, and its likely that the company would put hardware roadblocks into place that would make it more difficult to use an Intel version of OS X with a generic machine. Just as it took a major reverse engineering effort to clone IBMs original PC-BIOS and create the market for PC clones, so it would need a similar effort to recreate the inevitable ASICs on an Intel-equipped Mac motherboard. Whether such an effort would be worthwhile is a moot point. There are many other issues that would have to be resolved. For example, what degree of compatibility would there be between PowerPC applications and the Intel-equipped Mac? Would there be a PowerPC emulation layer, perhaps based on technology from a company like Transitive, whose Web site claims to be able to "allow any software application binary to run on any processor/operating system"? Or would applications need to be recompiled? This is not necessarily an onerous task, but still one that would cut the appeal of an Intel-equipped Mac. Either way, the Wall Street Journals report will undoubtedly build a huge level of excitement for Junes Worldwide Developer Conference, which would be an ideal place to announce this potential future direction. After the introduction of OS X 10.4 Tiger, it was thought that WWDC would be relatively quiet: Perhaps this will, in fact, turn out to be one of the momentous conferences in Mac history. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on Apple in the enterprise.


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