Once again we are hearing rumors that Apple Computer is in talks with Intel about using that companys processors to replace at least some of the IBM PowerPC in its Macintosh. What are we to make of these whispers?
Id bet that the rumor is a reflection of Steve Jobs displeasure with the speed at which IBM is revving the G5 processor used in most Macs. That, as opposed to any real move by Apple into the Intel camp. Whether this will have any impact on Big Blue is speculative. I am not sure how important Apples business is to IBM anymore.
Another reason I think this is Apple posturing is because the rumor involves Intel and not Advanced Micro Devices. While I am sure Intel would love to sell its technology to Apple, AMDs Opteron processor might be a better choice.
Apple needs an advanced 64-bit processor, and AMDs floating point capabilities are generally considered to outshine Intels. For a graphics-intensive operating system such as Mac OS X, the Opteron is probably the best choice if Apple really is leaving PowerPC.
Another point in AMDs favor is that Apple would be much more important, even a flagship customer for AMD, while Intel perhaps would pay Apple no special attention.
Having written two books about Macintosh for Windows users, Ive spent many hours thinking about the possibilities for merging the two. Since Mac OS X is built atop a Unix kernel, there should be no huge difficulty in porting the OS to a processor of Apples choice. If the chosen processor is 64-bit and also will run Windows, so much the better for customers.
I wouldnt at all mind using a machine that could boot into either operating system. Even better would be one that could run the operating systems side-by-side and allow me to cut and paste information between them.
While it used to be that Mac hardware was hugely different than PCs, the differences have narrowed considerably. Macs and PCs now use the same sort of memory, drives, video processors, input/output and peripherals. Macs and PCs also like the same sorts of external monitors, erasing another possible incompatibility. If all you saw were the connectors on a G5 Mac, youd be hard-pressed to guess that it wasnt a PC.
If Apple did add another processor to its lineup—and thats a pretty big “if”—my bet is that the company would continue to build its own, Mac OS-only hardware, rather than a dual-boot machine.
And if there ever were such a machine, it would be a dual-boot Mac, rather than hardware from another vendor capable of running both operating systems. Hardware remains too much a part of Apples revenue model to allow the PC companies to poach Mac OS customers.
What Apple might be able to do, however, is build a truly world-class Windows PC that also happens to be an even better Macintosh. Regardless of what OS its running, I have no question that the best hardware I use has an Apple logo on it. While I dont know how much help Microsoft would be in this regard, perhaps the best Longhorn computer will be an Apple?
Its an interesting thought, but probably little more than fantasy unless Apple switches processor vendors. Hey, did you hear the rumor?
Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers.