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Summary:

Confirmed at WWDC today. What’s even more crazy, Steve wasn’t wearing jeans. or the turtle neck? He is finally growing up? So perhaps hell is freezing over! Some men dream the future. He built it. Steve Jobs, the maverick who has architected one of the greatest […]

Confirmed at WWDC today. What’s even more crazy, Steve wasn’t wearing jeans. or the turtle neck? He is finally growing up? So perhaps hell is freezing over!

Some men dream the future. He built it.

steve jobsSteve 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.

  1. Holy Crap! Tiger on a Thinkpad, love it!

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  2. No it will be tiger on a powerbook running x86 chips

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  3. [...] confirmed rumors about Apple looking to Intel to power its future systems, Om Malik just posted a thought-provoking article on what could be Apple&#82 [...]

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  4. Wow…this is going to have a profound impact on the industry. I cannot wait to get the Tiger on a powerbook with x86. Also, this sets the course for their foray into consumer electronics.

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  5. Matthew Maier Saturday, June 4, 2005

    “Unpredictable, charming, loving, petulant, and perhaps more than anything deviously mysterious..”

    you forgot megalomaniacal, and paranoid…

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  6. matthew … i knew you would weigh in so left a soft opening for you. :-)

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  7. Steve Jobs, like Howard Hughes, Mystifies

    Some men dream the future.

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  8. Soon the three OSes–Windows XP Pro, Fedora Core and FreeBSD–on my dual-PIII box will have a new neighbor? They sure are excited about it. ;-)

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  9. Om:

    Look at it from the other side. What if Intel was the aggressor in this deal? They close out a possible AMD deal, plus they have a new platform for their lonely daughter Itanium and the whole 2-core processor crew.

    I bet Intel orchestrated the CNET and WSJ stories. Who’d believe another Apple rumor?

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  10. no thank you Sunday, June 5, 2005

    Good grief, you can’t even correctly spell what you’re talking about. It’s called Mac OS X or OS X — anything but OS-X.

    Is this what we can expect from Apple using Intel processors — every Wintel mouth now some sort of Mac “expert”?

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  11. Here is the deal,

    IBM is overcommitted to supporting their PowerPC console clients, namely, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, in that order of importance and timeline. Granted, MS holds all the IP on all chips involved in XBOX360 so they can have it fabbed wherever with whomever as many fabs as they so like to manage their BOM cost. Sony will fab their own chips as well, but may need process help from IBM. Nintendo….not enough data till end of 2005 to know.

    Apple has ridden the PowerPC architecture for a fair number of years now. Apple has shown they can and know how to pull off both a major CPU arch change as well as a major OS framework change. In the consumer computing space no one but Apple has done the first and you could probably argue that MS has done the second with the Win9X->WinNT change.

    All that being said however, to have a MAC you need a few things:

    OpenFirmware, a.k.a. Mac ROM
    Rigid hardware spec
    Hardware control

    The rest really is just software. Apple already has the ability to support multiple archs in application bundles (this is an ability they have had since NeXT days [check the manpage of ditto in a Terminal session on a Mac to understand this] and kept around when OS X was forged).

    Expect Apple to adopt an Intel WiMAX chipset for their PowerBook line. Apples Airport Extreme is looking long in the tooth compared to the 802.11 pre-N/MIMO/Super-Duper-“Turbo”-108Mbps G products.

    Apple would FINALLY have a CPU supplier that has easily enough fab capcaity to squirt out however many processors Apple needs to sell. Every time Apple has speed bumped the G4 or G5 there is a big queue up of sales online and at the stores and you see countless posts of Mac fanatics waiting for their systems to finally ship.

    Intel means they would get cheaper (then IBM I suspect) CPUs as well as being able to possibly tap into the Intel Inside marketing money. However, I will be very surprised if Steve lets them put a damn sticker on their nice shiny PowerBooks or other systems. Maybe they will get away will just an Intel Inside logo on the box the computers come in?

    Also, Apple can use AMD as a baseball bat against Intel for CPU pricing pressure here. However it remains to be seen how critical AMDs fab capacity situation is. Right now they are probably skating on thin ice but doing a remarkable job of it until the new Dresden fab opens up in 2006/7?

    The biggest question mark however in all of this is a hardware one. Who will make the motherboards and the motherboard chipsets? Will Apple design the mobo, but use the Intel south and northbridges? Will Apple design their own mobo chipset under Intel’s guidance?

    Other factors to take into account here:

    1. Current cash on hand for Apple. I’m lazy and I forget but I recall it was somewhere in the 4-5 billion dollar range. Expect hardware sales numbers to behave wierd (i.e. low and unpredictable) while Mac faithful decide what this means to them. Expect something like the 4 stages of denial or something similar but I think people will eventually reach the state of “If it still runs OS X, and is secure as OS X is now, and my apps will still be supported on either platform, then why do I care if its Intel or PPC under the hood?” Plus, Mac guys know their chips are fast, but not the fastest (except in very narrow application that take full advantage of the vector capabilities) so now they would be on cutting edge CPU performance too.

    2. Developer response – Check the WWDC keynote video when its eventually put up on the Apple website (by 3PM typically). The big players here would be Apples Pro apps, Adobe, and Microsoft. Everyone else can rot if those three show they are supporting it, then the rest will follow I suspect.

    3. Vector units – Apple loves them. Intel has never had one, unless you count SMID/SSE/SSE2/SSE3 as a kind of vector unit, but it seems obvious that Apple may possibly influce Intel into looking at/adding a vector unit to future CPU designs….or maybe toss in a Cell SPE or two on the die? Who the heck knows, not me for sure.

    Hope this helps clear some things up. It is not an impossible task but it sure as hell isn’t going to be easy either. However, once they finish this transition, well, its pretty safe to say that they are never going to have to do it again until Intel/AMD decide to totally drop the x86 family and lord only knows when that will happen. It’s ugly as all hell from a cpu level standpoint but its what every Tom, Dick, and Jane uses nearly so its the standard.

    Let me know if I missed anything here guys.

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  12. More Apple/Intel

    So, I was convinced that CNet was being played on the Apple moving to Intel CPUs rumor. Then I read Scoble’s take on the topic, and I’m not so sure anymore. He claims that he’s personally confirmed it with people he knows, and that Ap…

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  13. [...] will be much like the newly announced Nokia 770. [FURTHER UPDATE] Globaly (as speculated here) this major Apple-switch will have a unpredictable impact at [...]

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  14. [...] will be much like the newly announced Nokia 770. [FURTHER UPDATE] Globaly (as speculated here) this major Apple-switch will have a unpredictable impact at [...]

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  15. [...] will be much like the newly announced Nokia 770. [FURTHER UPDATE] Globaly (as speculated here) this major Apple-switch will have a unpredictable impact at [...]

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  16. Ronald Pomeroy Sunday, June 5, 2005

    Just to get on record, here’s how I see it playing out.

    It’s not really a wholesale switch. Steve’s pissed a Big Blue but he’s going to keep our options open and maintain fat binaries for both going forward.
    After the dust settles, the high end goes to Cell the middle and low end go to Intel/AMD.

    On the fringe – the bombshell may be that Apple resurects 4-way fat binaries (form the NeXT days) and extend support for Sun, HP, Power, X86 and AMD.

    The fact they brought back system-wide dictionary lookup (Oxford this time instead of Webster’s) tells me there are some folks around ready to deliver some payback.

    Ron

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  17. Apple kaapt Windows via Intel-chips

    Een en al speculatie naar aanleiding van een artikel op News.com over Apples vermeende aankondiging van het feit dat ze met Intel-processoren gaat werken (bevestigd in de WSJ [WSJ-link]). Maar waarom en waar? Intel enkel op MacOSX-servers? Of is dit he…

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  18. You had me until the gratuitous ThinkPad slam …

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  19. Roy Flanders Sunday, June 5, 2005

    I stopped reading when this… this “writer” turned the word “architect” into a verb, a past tense one at that.

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  20. Mr. Flanders,

    here is something from the dictionary and how even

    verb [ trans. ] (usu. be architected) Computing design and make : few software packages were architected with Ethernet access in mind.

    oh never mind you stopped reading right…

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  21. Staci,

    stinkpad because my first book went into a coma when the stinky pad , think pad t40 went into convulsions back in 2002. hence the hatred for that machine. more personal…

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  22. What is going to happen is Apple is going to announce a deal with Intel to build PowerPC chips. Apple is part owner of the PPC chip design, IBM can’t build enough with all 3 Game Consoles now using PowerPC, so Intel is being brought on board to help build enough.

    That’s the connection.

    Never in a million years would Apple use x86, there is no technical value there.

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  23. stephen Ackroyd Sunday, June 5, 2005

    A bigger deal would be announce the Sony/IBM/Toshiba Cell processor. The x86 architecture is tired. And a cell processor deal would line up Apple as a key development platform for the Cell processor.

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  24. Jeff_Lebowski Sunday, June 5, 2005

    Most commentary regarding this rumor seems to be concentrating on the technical issues. Sure, a move to x86 can be accomplished. But, until someone offers up a plausible scenario for how Apple can achieve this transition without completely destroying it’s current revenue stream, I will remain skeptical. Apple’s Mac business is growing for the first time in years. They are on track for a 12 billion dollar year. If they announce a multi-year migration to x86, current Mac sales will plummet and revenues will drop by at least 75%.

    Furthermore, what would motivate large developers like Adobe, MS, Macromedia, etc. to go through another re-development cycle on a platform with such a marginal market share after spending millions of dollars recently to port their applications to OS X on PPC?

    I would love to hear any ideas on on these business issues. I, for one, will sell my position in Apple and postpone any purchases if a move to x86 is announced tomorrow. I have no bias against the x86 and understand the bad position Apple is in regarding the lack of laptop-compatible G5 CPUs, but I can’t see how this transition can take place without devastating the company’s revenue and valuation.

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  25. Richard Taylor Sunday, June 5, 2005

    The fog of battle has blinded us, children.

    Monday the fog lifts.

    In the meantime, whether it’s to be x86 or PowerPC made by Intel, or even if Apple decides to start producing two different lines of computers on different chips, it’s all mist.

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  26. Jobs like Hughes mystifies.

    Om Malik has a wonderful post about Steve Jobs being the modern day Howard Hughes. A great read! [read article] Oh, if you don’t get it because you didn’t click through, the Wall Street Journal confirmed that on Monday, Apple

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  27. yes, the History Channel did a wonderful story on their show “Modern Marvels”. It covered Howard Hughes’s desire for excellence and went through many of his influences. Like Planes of course, but they were the first with Satellites, Cell Phones, and Howard designed the modern day Hospital Bed, underwire Bras etc. etc.

    Steve is just entering the height of his career. He just turned 50, so there’s a good 20 years to go. He’ll be credited with modern day computing of course, the world wide web, moving music into the digital age, the next Disney with his pixar films, etc, etc.

    Hughes and Jobs are both a bit crazy, shun the press unless it’s highly calculated, and both were never formally trained in the industries they command, but know how to pull the best and brightest together, then take the credit.

    See the modern marvels show if you can.

    http://www.historychannel.com/modernmarvels/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jobs

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  28. My Macintosh History: 18 Years – From the Macintosh Plus to G4 PowerBook 17″

    Tags: Apple, Macintosh, Mac, PowerBook, iBook, Intel

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  29. Clarence Wooten: Biography

    Clarence Wooten, Jr. – General Partner Prior to establishing Venturepreneur Partners, Clarence Wooten was managing partner of Wooten Ventures, an angel investment firm providing seed funding and guidance for entrepreneurs building innovative businesses…

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  30. Kamal Mubarak Sunday, June 5, 2005

    Don’t you guys get it? Here is what will happen.

    Apple is going to use Transitive technology to make the current Mac software run on x86 processors. Darwin runs fine, and at least some of the remaining Tiger stuff is easy to port. The rest will run via fast emulation. No Mac OS 9 support.

    Then you have a computer that will run both Mac OS X and Windows. No generic x86 will run Mac OS X, ever.

    Remember, Apple is a hardware maker. This allows Apple to use dual core processors to host both Windows and Mac OS X at the same time. Apple can’t sell computers into businesses because their computers can’t run Windows. That is what changes. But if you had a computer that ran Windows and Mac OS X at the same time, what would see greater use?

    Exactly….

    So now Apple can sell to enterprise, compete with Windows on a level playing field, raise its profile yet again, and tout its virus-free nature.

    If you were a CIO, wouldn’t you get a computer that would run both operating systems, allowing you to switch any time in the future?

    Now the Switch campaign really gets going….

    x86 is a dying platform. A Mactel allows a painless transition to PowerPC down the road.

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  31. CNET is reporting rumor and speculation, NOT FACT. Didn’t Apple sue the last group that did that? There is not one fact stated in the article. Ther are no confirmations in the article by any party. It is all rumor until we hear from Steve tomorrow. I hope CNet gets a big bunch of egg on their face. It all smells of a BS media frenzy to me.

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  32. Apple cosies up to Intel

    Reports in both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times are pretty clear. Apple is getting into bed with Intel. If correct, it marks an about turn the likes of which we haven’t seen before….

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  33. this is not just c/net, also wall street journal which has reported and confirmed this news. i am going with their story – they have a better track record that anyone else i know in the media business of getting it right

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  34. [...] baseball musings The IntAPP, it is about the laptops stupid Okay, as I wrote yesterday, the big switch to x86 is totally about the laptops. N [...]

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  35. From what I understand, IBM and Motorola have not been very nice to Apple and so Intel stepped in and said we will take care of Apple.

    I expect this to be a good shift for Apple. Imagine being able to purchase a Mac Gx for less than $2000….

    However, I have not read anything saying that Apple will go to x86 architecutre. I really hope no one thinks that Apple will allow their OS to run on any x86 platform as they like to keep tight control over their hardware specs…. look what happened to the clones years ago… which caused problems between Apple and Motorola. Has anyone played with the though that Intel may have been courting Apple so it can do an architecture shift as well? They do have 2 years to develop a new architecture, in fact this deal was in the works for 2 years so they may have done the R&D. It could be that the future Intel chip is a new fangled dual core processor designed specifically for Apple. Afterall, Apple did not want PowerPC clones running around, why would anyone think they want any crappy x86 PC running their prized Mac OS X? So this may not lead to significantly cheaper Macs… but with Intel’s mass production capabilities, it will reduce somewhat.

    .. Just few thoughts from the wayward.

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  36. Here’s some irony for you all. Apple makes a switch to Intel that counters Microsoft’s move to support IBM’s PPC. You all know that Microsoft’s new xBox which is being positioned as the server for the home runs on a 3 core IBM, PPC processor…take one guess at the OS. Now this is one man’s opinion but it really makes you think:

    http://www.forbes.com/business/free_forbes/2005/0620/041.html?partner=yahoomag&referrer=

    Apple’s comment that IBM’s chip roadmap looks weak is totally bunk. You heard it hear first….PPC will be running your Windows desktops some day. I think Apple is making a good short term move but long term their PCs will be irrelevant, if they aren’t already.

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  37. Apple Intel: The Hidden Impact

    It’s been a week since Apple Computer and Intel presented their landmark deal, and my opinion of the deal has come a long way. When rumors began a few weeks ago that Apple may start using Intel chips, I was…

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  38. [...] I have an extra Powerbook, which I can plug-into my LCD display television using DVI-connector and enjoy the FrontRow on a big screen. It helps me find new use for my old Mac. Of course, it could prompt many of us to opt for buying a Mac Mini and just place it next to the television, or our A/VC set-up. I would gladly pay $49.95 for Front Row. In addition, they could dip into my wallet and charge $79.95 for a bluetooth version of their remote. Alas, Jobs is the new Howard Hughes, and who knows what he will do. This is all wishful thinking of a NyQuill-addled brain. [...]

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