This is like a major change in all the way we do things electronically, only that it's not.

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I've been getting a lot of e-mails from folks wondering about my reaction to Macintosh computers switching to Intel based processors.

Honestly.

I'm not kidding. A full day of High Drama on the Internet Seas yesterday, and what's the major e-mail topic coming in? "Dude! Apple's switching to Intel! What the fu--"

Hell. What the Hell. I'm trying, Robert. I told you I didn't get enough sleep. (Again.)

Now, I'm a reasonable bloke. I can understand the implications. Apple. Is going to Intel based Macintoshes. Not PowerPCs. Intels. I mean... Intels. This is exactly what happened to the Catholic Church after Vatican II. People were wandering the streets saying "Mass in English? The vernacularization of the liturgy will bring the wrath of Heaven upon us! We are tampering with things that have been laid down by the Mother Church for many hundreds of years! We are destroying the sacred core of tradition, the essence of the holy mystery, the concept of the Divinity as being striven for instead of suffered mildly! What have you done? What have you done?"

I mean, you can see the correlation. Apple's changing its CPU.

Wait, you can't see the correlation?

Sadly, neither can I.

I was mildly concerned until I learned that they'd been maintaining Intel trees for OS X all along. So, the next generation of Macs might run into a hiccup or speed of process issue here or there, and eventually software that's processor intensive will want to be rewritten. But for the most part, for me a guy just using Macs, absolutely nothing's going to change.

Let me repeat that.

Absolutely nothing's going to change.

It's possible the price of Macintoshes will go down, but I wouldn't put bank on it. Otherwise, this is a total non-event for the life of any Macintosh user not at the developer level, and only a minor event at the developer level. Compared to the transition from OS 9 to OS X, this is barely worth even obsessive Mac fan attention. It's nothing compared to the ever present "is there going to be a G5/next gen powerbook for next year?" question.

There is exactly one thing I'd love for this to mean, and I haven't heard one way or the other yet about it. If this means that Intel-based Macs will be able to run WINE in X11 -- WINE being a windows emulator -- that in turn will let me run current versions of WordPerfect (with their beautiful 5.1/DOS mode) with less trouble than dosbox gives me running it, I'm going to buy Steve Jobs a nice new coffee maker.

Otherwise... honestly. The only question the end-user should ever ask about a new model computer running his preferred operating system is "is it faster than my current computer?" With the followup question of "is it faster enough to justify upgrading my current computer?" It's not like we ever have to look at the processor. It's not like we ever have to care. And it's sure as Hell not like Intel is somehow dark and dirty compared to clean, bright, pristine, beautiful, pure and virtuous Motorola and IBM.

Intel or PowerPC based, they're still going to be Macs. Let's keep that in perspective.

Yellow Dog, on the other hand, is in major trouble.

31 Comments

Yep. For me, this will be about as disruptive as switching to OSX...which is to say "almost not at all" once you subtract out the hassle inherent in getting ANY new computer, regardless of OS or chipset. Transfer as much as you can, replace a few things that don't run as well (or at all) on the new machine, move on with life.

If I really cared about the guts of my computer, I wouldn't own an iLamp. I'd have some sort of home-built *Nix box.

Hey. You have perspective about this.

Are you *sure* you're a Mac user?

Yellow Dog, on the other hand, is in major trouble.

So is PearPC. Sure, it's a PowerPC emulator, not a MacOSX-on-PC hack, but the project suddenly became 300% less interesting.

I agree with you that this is hardly scandalous news, and not worthy of "OMG WTF" reactions from people who had not realized that Apples running on IBM was already the pinnacle of irony.

(Also, we frankly should have known what this was all about.)

However, it is interesting to:

a) Windows folks who would like to try out MacOS X. Sure, Apple says it's not possible, but they also said that Intel Macs would run Windows, leaving me to infer that the obstacles are software-based.

b) Linux folks who may find their favourite OS losing ground, because there's a prettier *NIX in town.

Prettier, yes. But I suspect that Apple will find a way to maintain its profit margins, so I don't think we're going to find that Intel Macs are any more affordable than the PowerPC counterparts... not by much, anyway...

Personally, I find this to be great news as a long suffering windoze user who wants to switch to a Mac. I skimmed through Steve's comments from the WWDC, and I read that the new Apple x86 hardware would also be able to run windows.



The hardcore faithful will shoot me for saying this, but dude, dual boot system! Or barring that, a VM that doesn't suck and allows me to do my VB development work on a Powerbook.



My only comment to Jobs on this is that he's a heartless bastard for making me wait 12-18 months for my own personal nerdvana.




a) Windows folks who would like to try out MacOS X. Sure, Apple says it's not possible, but they also said that Intel Macs would run Windows, leaving me to infer that the obstacles are software-based.

I expect this to be a BIOS issue. OSX will look for something in the mobo's BIOS that IDs it as Apple hardware. Enterprising hackers will no doubt come up with a way around this.

Apple will want to avoid selling OSX (and future versions) as a stand-alone x86 OS because of driver issues.

I could care less what kind of chips computers use. It can be a Fritos Chili Cheese chip for all I care, as long as it work and works fast, I'm content with my processing units.

I prefer chocolate chips myself, but that's another story.

The only question worth asking is, how much longer will my new PPC Mac be supported? It seems like the answer is probably "not as long as I had hoped," but I guess we'll see.

John: My boyfriend is a hardcore Mac user, and he's talking excitedly about being able to tri-boot OS X, XP, and Debian. Personally, I write tech support documentation, so being able to work from 10.2, 10.3, 10,4, Windows 2000, and Windows XP on the same computer is a dizzying prospect.

I'm really glad to see a sane outlook on all this. Way too many people are going chicken-licken about this, and many others are spouting nonsense about Macs now not being any different from PCs.

The change isn't _quite_ as minor as you make it out, though: Applications that aren't recompiled for Intel will almost certainly run crappily, so it won't just be processor intensive apps eventually, it'll be every app you can get updates for, as soon as possible.

On the plus side, there'll be no need to download seperate installers, because the OSX binary format supports bundling multiple different architectures into one binary. On the down side, binaries will be larger, of course.

For a lot of developers, the move will have a more than minor affect, too. As demonstrated, well behaved carbon apps take little modification, but there's a lot of other apps out there - cocoa apps, and not-so-well-behaved apps. I forsee a lot of issues with the change from big to small endian resulting in files saved on PowerPCs not loading on Intels, thanks to careless developers, too.

All I can say is that if one more of my Windows-using friends leads off a conversation with, "Well, Anne, now that Apple's switching to Intel, they're pretty much done for, don't you think?" one more freaking time today, a violent event will take place.

I look at it this way: Am I shocked? Yes. Would I *really* like to buy a new laptop next year and have it run at a decent clock speed? Hell yes. Do I think Steve Jobs came all this way to run the company into the ground? Nope. Therefore Intel = Fast Mac Goodness.

Gimmie!

I forsee a lot of issues with the change from big to small endian resulting in files saved on PowerPCs not loading on Intels, thanks to careless developers, too.

Arachnid, if that was a major concern, wouldn't there be more problems loeading GIFs, JPGs, Office docs, etc. from one system to the other? The files I transfer from Win to Mac and back don't seem to be damaged....

I forsee a lot of issues with the change from big to small endian resulting in files saved on PowerPCs not loading on Intels, thanks to careless developers, too.

Arachnid, if that was a major concern, wouldn't there be more problems loeading GIFs, JPGs, Office docs, etc. from one system to the other? The files I transfer from Win to Mac and back don't seem to be damaged....

Endian-ness is a problem when two architectures are trying to communicate, in particular over a network. The reason is that bytes get sent one-at-a-time, pretty much directly from one processor to another (via network cards, wires, etc) without translation...

File storage, however, is something else entirely. A file format should specify its own endian-ness, and then the processor needs to respect that when reading and writing files of that type.

One instance in which this isn't necessarily the case is executable binary files. However, those are architecture-specific anyway...

Whoops, that second paragraph should have been italicized as well. Oh well.

About all this does for me cause me to exclaim "Ha ha!" is a Nelson the bully sort of way. I mean really. I'm a Win user as it is and Mac architecture hasn't interested me for years.

Except on my exceptionally geeky side. I'm a hardware programmer. I know a bit about processors. Switching your CPU is a serious business. Endian-ness for one, but also the instruction set and implementation. Intels are fine, but they have never handled the graphics side of things as smoothly and as nicely as the Mac and G4 systems. That's why Macs are so widely used in the graphics and print media businesses.

I just wonder how the change will affect performance. Oh, and how much of a blow this is going to be to Motorola/Freescale. I wonder what they saw in the future that precipitated this change. Good luck to all of you Mac users!

Right at the beginning when they announced OSX (well, whatever codename they were using before it was called OSX, anyway), I remember reading that they would be releasing versions for Intel hardware, and even application-level-over-Windows (presumably for development), but they soon ditched that idea.

This will probably be about as disruptive to users as the switch from 68k to PowerPC Macs: that is, not at all. The solution is even the same (for a while after the PPC Macs were introduced, most apps were distributed as "FAT Binaries" containing both 68k and PPC versions, until the 68ks were no longer an issue and developers switched to PPC-only binaries).

Arachnid, if that was a major concern, wouldn't there be more problems loeading GIFs, JPGs, Office docs, etc. from one system to the other? The files I transfer from Win to Mac and back don't seem to be damaged....

Not really. GIF, JPEG, etc, were all designed with cross-platform in mind. Many mac apps that simply use C (or similar) functions to write blocks of memory to disk (in their own custom format) don't have that in mind. If I ask C to fwrite() an integer to disk, it'll be written verbatim. That's fine if I'm reading it in on a machine with the same endianness (as has always been the case with macs so far), but as soon as the file can be saved on a machine with one endianness and loaded on a machine with another, problems will start cropping up.



Well behaved apps, of course, either use a well documented protocol with endianness specified, or use an intermediate reader/writer class provided by the environment for safe serialization and deserialization.

Well, I've been reading this little endeavour of Eric's since the *first* post, and this is the first time I've felt the urge to emblazon my thoughts upon Mr. Burns little Opus 12 here...

I've been a Mac user since 1984, I had the Original Macintosh (still have it, in fact), and a bevy of others over the years, including a couple models during the dark times...... Deforma 6205CD *shudder*.

I lived through the 680x0 to 60x transition, and then the 60x to 7xx Processor series (if anybody tells you they're the same, please punch them for me.), and then through the Classic Mac OS to OS X transition.

That's just to sort of lay down my credentials, as far as being a Mac user. I know I've tended towards Evangelism over the years, but as I've gotten older, I've mellowed a touch, and anymore, run what works for you, it's certainly no skin off my ass.

That being said, I won't be buying any more Apple desktops or Laptops, not as long as Intel is their supplier, and possibly even not if they drag AMD into the picture. I was burned numerous times by Intel (Pentium, Pentium II, i810/815 Chipsets, Intel Branded NIC's, had issues with every one of them, in relatively low-stress environments).

This isn't a OMGWTFBBQ!!!!one!!! reaction by me. There are valid technical reasons I want nothing to do with the x86 architecture, for my personal use, I'm not a hardware engineer, or even a coder/developer by trade, but I can read a whitepaper as well as anybody else. But technical reasons aren't even why I won't be buying any more Apple computers.

It's an emotional, esoteric thing for me, I run Macintoshes just to be a little different, it's always felt good being part of a little sub-culture, with a taste for a little finer things in life.

Did I always think Macintoshes were better than any old average $dell_box running Windows? In the past, most definitely, but Microsoft (and Others) have made strides in recent years, on the Operating Environment front, that my workflow is impacted by a factor of almost ZERO, regardless of which environment I work in. I bought Apple, since the release of OS X, to have that little edge, something a little different, something a little more "elite" I guess, to put a point to it.

I'm not predicting the downfall of Apple, nor do I wish them Ill, they don't owe *me* or anybody else a damn thing, they have shareholders, and typically, you want to keep the shareholders happy. This makes good business sence for them, and honestly, I think will put the Macintosh into the hands of more people out there, the Operating System, if not the hardware.

But I won't be along for the ride, I started looking at Sun and SGI boxes today, to replace my aging G4 desktop, and when my iBook is due for replacement, I'm not entirely certain what I'll replace it with, but probably a Thinkpad running Linux or BSD.

I'm sorry if this has been long-winded, but I've had some time to think today, and I'm not mad at the Steve, just a little dissapointed.

The end of an era for me.

Funny. My answer to "oh no, architecture switch by end 2007 and I have an emotional attachment to PPC" wasn't "I can't ever get a Mac again," but, rather, "I guess I'm somehow going to be budgeting for an awesome PPC-based Mac before the phaseout's complete, then."

Which is not to say I won't use MacIntel -- not by a long shot; are you kiddin' me? Browser tester heaven, babe -- but I can't view the switchover as any sort of dealbreaker. I'm not fond of x86, but I'm also unconvinced that the subcultural and design elements SFaulken can't be transposed onto the platform.

(And if we need credentials, my first Mac was an original, too.)

The DRM bogey was raised at my house before I left, but I'm not going to panic until I know what that's going to sensibly entail. (As for the remaining practicalities, do you have any idea how happy I am that this represents the long-awaited death of the Classic environment?)

For me, so long as the machines continue to work, I'm content. I sure as heck don't think Motorola or IBM have any kind of moral superiority over Intel.

As far as the Intels having burnt folks before... having suffered through the incredible failing iBook logic boards crisis on hundreds of iBooks at our school over the last two years (and seeing actual melted 12" aluminum powerbooks during the same time), I can't personally imagine the Intels will be worse for that.

At the same time, I understand SFaulken's response on one level, and if SFaulken moves from this to other hardware, then c'est la vie. It's all what works best for the end user. ;)

(As for the remaining practicalities, do you have any idea how happy I am that this represents the long-awaited death of the Classic environment?)

Spoken like a person who doesn't have a registered copy of Adobe Streamline.

I can only pray this means they finally -- finally -- upgrade the thing.

I write cross-platform apps. Byte swapping is already a part of life to me. It just isn't that big a deal.

The only thing that concerns me is the loss of Classic. I hope they reconsider that, or vMac returns. It's fairly cool to be able to run 20 year old software...

I write cross-platform apps. Byte swapping is already a part of life to me. It just isn't that big a deal.

For you, sure, but for how many other mac developers?



Maybe I'm completely on the wrong track here - after all, it'd be a lot easier for an x86 developer to not realise big endian exists than vice-versa, given the preponderance of x86 machines.

Heh, don't get me wrong Eric, I personally haven't had an iBook problems, but I do have a 5300cs in the closet (The Pinto of Macintosh Powerbooks, explodes on impact), and there were *alot* of lemons during the Gil Amelio/John Scully days at Apple, it's all tech, it all has problems. I mean, arguing IBM vs. Intel on moral grounds is just silly, they've both pulled some big boners over the years, and pissed alot of people off......

I'm not even sure I stated my position all that well, but I'm not even sure I can articulate it in such a way that it make sense....

Of course, there's that outside chance I'm just a raving nutter, it wouldn't be the first time I've been accused of something like that...

It really is amusing that Macheads are distraught over the loss of their connection to Big Blue. Does nobody remember the days when the major pair of antonyms in computer culture was "Apple" and "IBM Compatible?"

At any rate- I'm tremendously excited about this. I hear the news and I think- "Sweet, now it's only a matter of time before some enterprising hacker lets me install that beautiful, beatiful OS on my machine without paying through the nose for their overpriced, overmarketed hardware."

Lotsa peoples here seem to think that Intel == x86 only.

It doesn't. ix86, not being 64-bit, is an unlikely candidate for Tiger and beyond. Honestly, a more likely candidate is Itanium. I'd also be suprised (read: horrified) if Apple made the PeeCee BIOS-based motherboard a standard for Apple Macintoshes. ARCS would be nice (as SGI did once upon a time), but it will probably more closely resemble the G5's open firmware and asynchornous bus.

People dreaming of running a secure, stable 64-bit OS on top of 20-year-old legacy architecture with an x86 processor have a very different reality waiting for them when they wake up. Sorry, ain't gonna happen, folks. You want stable/secure on x86? Use FreeBSD. Or Linux. Or score an old copy of BeOS or OpenStep off eBay (with all the attendant hardware restrictions).

If you want a nice, stable/secure unix with great user interface, you'll still have to get a Mac.

Also, some people seem to think the CPU (beyond 64/32-bit issues) actually matters. And I'll grant you, at one time it did. But those days are long gone; what matters more than anything else is the surrounding hardware and the OS. These things contribute more to productivity than any other factor in modern hardware.

What I _do_ care about is the ever-narrowing CPU hardware market. Time was you had a good range of choices: UltraSPARC or MIPS, HP PA-RISC, PowerPC or x86. Now the biggest vendor of PowerPC desktop hardware is about to bow out of it and it's becoming difficult for me to think of the CPU market as being particularly healthy anymore.

Actually, scuttlebutt (read: my mac obsessive workmate) is that Apple are going for a 32 bit architecture chip from Intel - probably the next generation of P4 (now 'Pentium D')!

Oh, and the development machines have been released. They're literally beige-box PCs running OSX, though Apple have said that this is obviously not the hardware the new Macs will be running on.

The breakdown and hypothetical roadmap over at Ars Technica makes for fascinating reading on the subject. The argument for a Pentium M in a Powerbook is not a little compelling.

God, I need a donut.

a) Windows folks who would like to try out MacOS X. Sure, Apple says it's not possible, but they also said that Intel Macs would run Windows, leaving me to infer that the obstacles are software-based.

Sorry, ain't gonna happen. And I've read comments like this in forums so many times, every time Mac-on-Intel comes up as a subject, that I'm getting really tired of it - especially since it's been refuted so many times. So apologies if I get a bit sharp on this particular instance.

Apple is a hardware company. It makes its big money from hardware sales. Not software. The one time Apple tried licensing, it almost killed the company, because the money they made from licensing fees didn't come close to matching the money they lost from sales of their own hardware.

I don't have any specific figures on Apple's profit on an OS sale vs. a computer sale, but here's an estimate I did on the sale of iPods vs. iTunes Music Store, in extended response to someone suggesting Apple should sell the Mac mini at a loss to build market share, and claiming that they would make up the loss in OS upgrade sales.The upshot was that despite Apple selling 100 million iTMS songs in the same time as they sold 4.5 million iPods, they made at least $45 million on iPods vs. $3-4 million on the songs.

So yes, I expect Apple will not make OS X-Intel bootable on a standard PC, and I expect they will do everything reasonable in their power to keep this from happening on any level more significant than 'hacker's curiousity.' Anything more than that would mean Apple losing money, unless they manage to sell so many copies that it makes up for the loss of revenue from hardware sales.

As far as being able to run Windows... first off, the quoted comments I saw did not say Apple would make it run Windows, or even that it would run Windows; they said they wouldn't stop anyone else from trying to make it run Windows. What I'm personally expecting from the new 'Mactels' is not a relabeled commodity PC hardware design; instead, I'm expecting either an evolution of the current Mac system board design with an Intel chip replacing the IBM one, or else a 'clean-sheet' Intel-based design that doesn't have any of the legacy cruft in the current Wintel platform. To run Windows on this system would take something like a VMWare setup, where a software layer provides a virtual machine that translates Windows system calls to the native platform equivalent.

Apple also has to be careful about making its systems too Windows-compatible, to avoid the scenario that killed OS/2: if your system can run Windows apps just as well as your own native apps, developers have no reason to make native apps for you - making a Windows app means a developer can target both Windows machines and your machines without any extra effort, so why would they make a native app for you? And if no one's writing native apps for you, why would anyone buy your system?

The_Prof is correct. If someone wants to create a version of Windows that will run on the Intel-based Mac hardware, it will be up to whomever. Microsoft, not being in hardware sales (outside of Xbox & the odd mouse or two), will most likely not bother. Making sure Windows runs on a vendor's hardware is left up to the hardware vendors, and Apple is not about to become a platform for its biggest competitor.

In any case, whatever Apple produces WILL NOT be a BIOS-based PeeCee, and will instead be another iteration of a trail already blazed by the G5 towers. That is, it will have about as much in common with a typical PeeCee as the Seattle Bus system has in common with an aircraft carrier.

Arachnid: it doesn't suprise me that Apple is seeding developers with hardware to test binaries compiled for non PPC archs. As you say, this does not mean Apple has settled on ix86. Right now, nobody really knows what Apple's announcement even means except Apple. But I'm still betting on Itanic, since it has the most potential to simplify the migration.

"And if no one's writing native apps for you, why would anyone buy your system?"

Anyone remember the Commodore 128?

Yeah.

"UltraSPARC or MIPS, HP PA-RISC, PowerPC or x86"

Or Alpha. I always forget that one.

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