Apple’s slogan ‘Think Different’ may seem a bit tarnished, considering its recent announcement to swap IBM for Intel as it’s future chip supplier.
After all, when most of the planet uses Intel engines under the hood how different can you remain? Very, I’d say. Apple has always stood out on hardware design and its operating system/software. The chip, after all, is just a chip.
You don’t see Formula 1 fans crying when their team announces plans to move to bigger, faster engine, do you? We are now two weeks on from the day that certain Apple diehards refer to as ‘the end of the world’. But two weeks of nail-biting seems to have transformed itself into a mellower acceptance that it’s not all bad. Apple’s switch to the Dark Side is now more a brush with the Grey Side.
At the end of the day, the decision to partner with Intel is logical, although some feel that Apple would have been better off teaming up with AMD. The thinking goes that, in terms of innovation, Apple and AMD would have been a better fit.
When you look at Apple’s traditional flair for innovative software and hardware design alongside AMD’s breakthroughs in 64-bit computing, you can see why a partnership might have seemed a better fit. It doesn’t hurt that they are both underdogs. But the deal is done and next year will see the first Intel-powered Macs and Powerbook notebooks.
So, what does it do on the chip front? It’s a nice win for Intel, no doubt, but it’s hardly going to bump its bottom line significantly. Apple’s share of the worldwide PC market is just over two per cent so, while Intel will make a bit of money, its real bonus is the ‘cool’ factor of powering Apple’s stable of designer kit.
Whether Mac users will be able to stomach the ‘Intel Inside’ logo on their precious style statements is another thing. Apple had problems with IBM and the PowerPC chip for some time before its chief executive Steve Jobs dropped the bomb.
As well as some supply issues, IBM had yet to come up with a notebook version of the G5 processor that did not overheat. Jobs also promised the faithful a 3GHz G5 desktop by mid-2004. They’re still waiting. Certain IBM insiders have noted that the problem with Apple/IBM is a business, not a technical, one. They maintain that IBM just wasn’t willing to put in the extra work on chip design until Apple coughed up more cash to fund it.
Switching to Intel gives Apple a roadmap of single, dual-core and 64-bit processors for desktops and workstations. It also finally gets some real horsepower for its Powerbooks, from performance Pentium 4s to low-power, wireless-enabled Centrinos.
Obviously, Jobs has announced this deal early to give developers a chance to sort out the software. This will be easier than many think since the Mac’s OS X is based on a previous operating system which used to run on Motorola and Intel processors.
Some Apple punters are going to hold off buying new Macs, which may impact new sales for the next few quarters, but they will bounce back.
Finally, it has been mooted that using Intel chips will result in cheaper Macs. Yeah, right. A cheap Apple product? Very funny.
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