Some men dream the future. He built it.
Steve Jobs, the maverick who has architected one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Silicon Valley, continues to prove that he is a modern day Howard Hughes. Unpredictable, charming, loving, petulant, and perhaps more than anything deviously mysterious. But more than anything brilliant. When everyone including Intel’s own CEO designate said, that it would be a cold day in hell, before Apple uses Intel’s x86 chips, Jobs goes ahead and does it anyway.
It is a Machiavellian move, directed to rattle the Rajahs of Redmond. It is a subtle message – all things equal, Apple OS is much better than Microsoft’s Windows and the market place will prove it. You might think it is bit of conjecture, but look at the reality of the situation. Now Apple can get Intel’s marketing subsidies. The economics of x86 that Microsoft so adroitly has made work over decades now start to benefit its rival, in the mainstay PC business. The price and speed factors, two issues the Wintel PC makers have so often touted are now working for Apple as well. That leaves the platform – Windows XP versus OS-X! Insecure versus Secure! Work versus Fun! Bill versus Steve!
So how do I see this playing out?
First, this deal is going to be all about the laptops, especially those which can handle OS-X nicely, are light weight and consume less power. Because if that was not so, then Apple could as easily have signed a deal with AMD, which makes better x86 chips for the desktop. IBM has failed to deliver the low power consuming yet muscular versions of its G5 chips fine tuned for Powerbooks. Secondly, I think Apple will exploit Intel’s chips for often rumored Tablet PC, that could have features in common with Nokia 770 tablet. I would not be surprised that Monday morning, the announcement circles around XScale, or low powered Centrino chips.
The implications of this announcement for rest of the industry are not trivial. Intel, with this deal, and its previous efforts with Linux, is willing to part ways with its partner in crime, Microsoft. Expect, Microsoft to get cozier with AMD. It also would ensure that AMD chips might end up in Dell machines, since all bets are off. These are trying times for Microsoft, but I would not even wager even a dime against Chairman Gates.
There is more to this move, and it has got nothing to do with the PC platform. Its all about the consumer electronics devices. Jobs knows that he has to get the Apple a bigger footprint in the computer business, if he can successfully execute on his CE strategy. It needs to ensure that it can still use iPod as the carrot and the stick, not just for consumers but also for the media business. He needs to ensure his DRM is a better option than Windows. In his own autocratic way he wants the world to march to his tune. And if consumers respond well, he might get his wish.
Wall Street Journal has just confirmed that on Monday, Apple is going to announce that it is slowly going to transition to the x86 chips. C/Net had reported on Friday that Apple would make an announcement on Monday at WWDC. WSJ had reported about the likelihood in its Heard On The Street column on May 23rd. (Thanks Bill!)
PS: Just to clarify, this means Apple will make computers that will use Intel x86 chips, not that you can run OS-X on a Stink Pad.