Jun. 5th, 2005

Periodically, the rumor comes around that, for whatever reason, Apple has decided to switch from IBM / Motorola's POWER architecture chips to Intel chips. Apple has even always been widely rumored to have, somewhere in deep, dark, secluded workrooms, versions of whatever is the current version of the Mac OS for Intel chips (anyone remember the fabled Star Trek project?).

Those rumors have never gained much traction until now.

No less entities than C|Net, The Wall Street Journal, and The Inquirer are all reporting that this time it's true. Over the next couple of years, beginning with the Mac mini, and progressing all the way up the food chain to the Power Macintosh and Xserve, Apple will transition their entire product line from Motorola PowerPC G4 and IBM PowerPC G5 processors to various flavors of Intel X86 chips. Some versions of the rumor even say AMD X86 chips will be included in the mix somewhere too.

If this is true, it will mark a conversion in the Macintosh world that will equal or surpass the changes from Motorola 68XXX series chips to the PowerPC 601 chip in the mid-90's, and the switch from Mac OS 9 to OS X a few years later. Even if emulation services are provided, for the next several years, developers will have to provide versions of their applications that are compiled for both PowerPC and X86 architectures.

Is this real? Some analysts say it is. Some say it's a crock, and that Apple is going to announce some other type of non-Mac device that will use Intel chips. Some wonder if this will finally allow Windows and OS X to co-exist on the same machine, and look forward to that day. (Me among them, I must say. I live for the idea of being able to seamlessly run both OS X and Windows XP simultaneously on the same system, having them chat between each other like happy little kids). Others say even if Apple makes the Intel switch, the new Intel-inside Macs will have technology included that would make booting Windows impossible. Many say that such a move will cause Apple's already diminished developer base to erode further.

I don't know what's going to happen either. Personally, I don't care what kind of chip powers the damn thing, as long as I have Mac OS X running happily, and I can write Cocoa and REALbasic programs with no hassles, and download software and do all those nice geeky things I do now, or even more of them. As I mentioned above, I'd dearly love having a dual OS X / Windows XP Powerbook. Maybe while they're at it, two-button mice and trackpads with scroll wheels would be nice. It can't be that hard, can it? Oh, right, Steve doesn't like them.

Oh, well.

The truth is, no one knows what's going to happen for sure, until Steve dons the jeans and black turtleneck, and takes the stage tomorrow morning at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference.

What everyone does know is that whatever happens, tomorrow is bringing something big. We think.

Steve is probably meditating right now, summoning his vast and legendary powers of personality, persuasion, and prescience. Muttering the arcane invocations of power necessary for the creation of the Reality Distortion Field.

Steve does love a show.

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