CNET News.com claims that Apple will announce a switch to Intel x86 processors on Monday at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference—a move that has been rumored for years yet never materialized. According to the report, the switch would start with Apples low-end computers by the middle of next year, with higher end systems following in 2007.
The report has not been without questions to its validity and most analysts remain skeptical due to numerous unanswered problems that would arise from such a major architecture change. News.com did not address several issues, including the lack of emulation for easing the transition and necessary support from major third-party developers such as Adobe and Microsoft.
Even Intel CEO Paul Ortellini added his two cents after the original Wall Street Journal report last week, calling such talk the “Haleys Comment of rumors” at the papers D conference on May 24. However, Ortellini refused to confirm or deny the rumors.
Neither Advanced Micro Devices nor Intel has made it any secret that they have attempted to court Apple in the past.
“We always talk to Apple. Apple is a design win that weve coveted for 20 years and we continue to covet them as a design win. We will never give up on Apple,” Intels vice president of the Mobile Platforms Group Anand Chandrasekher told Infoworld in an interview Friday.
John Gruber, author of the Web log Daring Fireball, last week addressed the technical issues with a switch. “All existing Mac OS X software would need to be recompiled for an Intel processor architecture,” Gruber said.
The last time Apple made a major change in its processor architecture—from Motorola 68k to PowerPC nearly a decade ago—the change was aided by the ability of the PowerPC to emulate the older processor at a reasonable speed. “But emulation is out of the question for a switch now … Intel chips may be faster than current PowerPC G5s, but they are nowhere near fast enough to emulate them at an acceptable speed,” Gruber explains.
But the larger issue, Gruber says, relates to marketing. “The minute Apple announces theyre moving to x86 processors, sales of current hardware dry up. Whos going to spend $3000 for a deprecated CPU architecture?”