June 10, 2005

Apple + Intel

I've read just about everybody's take on Apple's upcoming switch to Intel processors, but I think Jon Stokes hit one of the nails on the head when he wrote this in recent Ars Technica piece:

''...the "RISC" PowerPC architecture has been a core part of the Apple brand and the overall "mythology" of the Mac platform since the 68K transition, even if that architecture rarely delivered on company's promises with benchmark numbers. So what Apple fans are mourning right now isn't the loss of some actual technical superiority of the Mac hardware, but rather the loss of the perception of that hardware's "technical superiority."''

We've long known that our Macs usually aren't the fastest PCs out there. What I want to know is: how much does this still matter? I guess it still means a lot to the marketplace, and Joe Sixpack might like the sound of 3.6GHz more than 2.5GHz, though he might not know why or what it's worth to him. Apple's a public company and their execs have to do what they can to increase profits, yadda yadda, but what do we need all this speed for? I'm chugging along on a 867MHz G4 desktop and an 800MHz G3 iBook, doing serious photo work daily, and I'm getting by. Sure, I wouldn't mind a little more speed now and then, but when I think a refurbished dual 1.8GHz G5 would serve me well for the next three years, I have trouble getting excited about Macs at 3.6GHz. I'd do better to save the cash and get something old. In fact, the first thing I thought of after hearing this week's announcement was, "Wow, a year from now, used PowerMac prices are going to fall through the floor!"

Anyway, Apple moving to Intel, and universal binary program distribution, also raises another question: will Apple stop with Intel processors? Perhaps XCode, and this move, is the first step in making Mac OS X software generally processor-agnostic. Then they could use the best chip for the job in their various machines and new machines to come (handhelds, tablets, home entertainment machines, heck maybe even refrigerators). Rather than letting developers get locked into x86, they'll have room to move to newer technologies as they become available and XCode is updated. 64 bit processors? Just check another box when you make your project. Quad processors? Check. Multiple cores? Check. Server farms? Check...

All this, and my recent experiments in object-oriented programming (finally!), make me want to get into making Mac OS X software. I have an O'Reilly book or two gathering dust on my shelf. When I get some free time, and come up with an idea or two, I hope to crack them open.

Posted at June 10, 2005 02:07 PM, Categories: Computing
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