In case you haven’t been following this for the past week. Many rumors and confirmations last week that led up to this morning’s WWDC (WorldWide Developer’s Conference) when Steve Jobs officially announced that all Apple machines would be using Intel x486 chips by 2007! Yes, hell is now frozen over. Engadget and MacObserver have minute by minute coverage of the keynote speech if you care to read the details. The video should be up later on apple.com. This is seriously one of the biggest shifts in computing in the last 10 years. Jobs never fails to surprise and delight.
I don’t usually read much into the rumors, but when CNet “confirmed” the switch on Friday, I started reading everyone’s take on the change. Many people, including me, still didn’t believe right up until the moment Steve said it himself. For many reasons it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense, but I, like most, trust Jobs more than any other man in business today.
His reasons are simple and straightforward, but the details, at this point are still a little sketchy, especially where it concerns hardware compatibility. He says, “I stood up two years ago and promised this (3.0Ghz PowerMac), and we haven’t been able to deliver.” Basically because IBM hasn’t delivered, and it is clear the Steve is pretty friggin tired of their crap. Not only are the GHz numbers too low on paper, but the power consumption numbers are enormous compared to Intel.
The big shocker came with the announcement of an Apple team working on a “just in case” scenario, compiling and running every single version of OS X for the last 5 years on Intel chips. That is amazing. Rumored back as far as 2002, those who believed the “Marklar” project rumors weren’t as surprised as I was.
The complex part will come in software porting, however, Theo Gray, of Wolfram Research, explained how they about ported Mathematica in 5 days. Of course that’s extreme, but I guess it’s a good indication of how little actually needs to change. For those developers who don’t get there in time, Rosetta, a new emulation technology, will run existing PowerPC apps on Intel using “dynamic binary translation” – fancy hardware emulation I think.
So all of this is pretty exciting, and it will mean many, many changes for OS X as a platform in the coming months. It means 3+Ghz laptops with decent battery life. It means Ghz numbers that are exactly on par with everything else out there. It means that the best operating system out there can take center stage. But the really exciting part is what wasn’t said today, but has been guessed at by just about everyone…
Will Apple hardware be able to run Windows?! Will Windows hardware be able to run OS X? Will I be able to put OS 10.5 Leopard on my Dell PC??? Will Apple “lock-out” other operating systems from their hardware? Hardware-based DRM? News.com seems to have some answers already. Apparently Apple’s Phil Schiller says there are no plans to sells or support Windows on Apple hardware, but, “That doesn’t preclude someone from running it on a Mac. They probably will. We won’t do anything to preclude that.” He added, “We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac.”
I can’t wait to see where all this goes.
Below is a picture of a burning Intel scientists from Apple.com’s homepage in 1998. All of Apple’s homepages since 1996 have been compiled on Flickr by Kernel Panic, if you care to look.