Electric Blanketmobile

Monday, June 06, 2005

Macs using Intel chips?

Oooookkkk....Apple has announced today that they're switching from IBM to Intel to produce their processors. This implies that eventually even high end Macs will be using Intel chips, which is an insanely dangerous move.

The biggest problem is the whole instruction set issue. Computer software is based on a simple set of instructions, which the CPU knows how to handle. IBM chips have a different instruction set than what PCs use these days (x86, via AMD or Intel). This means ALL mac software is going to have to be ported over to a new instruction set, x86 or other. By "all", this does not just mean interactive programs like SimpleText, or games like the Escape Velocity series (great games by the way). All the drivers, the firmware, the bioi (plural of bios?), and libraries that contain simple memory handling functions will have to be changed. Everything. Though it is true that a fair amount of the same code could be used, since some stuff written in C++ (for example) can simply be recompiled.

This also bothers me because I'm an AMD guy. AMD is a far more respectable company than Intel (can someone say "1.0GHz barrier"?), and manufactures faster processors for much less money. The Intel and Apple partnership just gives Intel more of an undeserved stranglehold over the market.

I must admit, though, this could be an intriguing development. Imagine using OSX, then deciding you wanted to play some games in XP. Easy! Reboot into XP! That's right, if Apple decides to go with x86 instructions, this dual boot XP-OSX scenario might be a reality. No more OS emulation.

It seems this could be either a total disaster, on the scale of Apple going dead, or a positive influence where Apple breaks into the Windows dominated market.

NOTE: I was a mac guy for 10 years, but during the last 10 years I've been a PC guy. This post sounds kind of pro-mac, which I don't object to.

2 Comments:

  • It seems to me that this move will regulate Apple to primarily the operating system market, which is maybe what they're going for. I don't really think it's such a good idea. Part of what makes Apple special is the design of their computers and products.

    On another note, what's to stop someone from building an Apple computer using AMD if they do go this route. Won't they be interchangable?

    By Blogger CJ, at 12:57 PM  

  • i personally will believe this when i see it. in any case the PPC architecture can be emulated and there already are emulators, espicially with apple behind it i don't think porting of all the older software will even be talked about.

    as for os x and new software, apparently apple has been compiling os x on intel ever since the os was started, knowing that it comes from a bsd core this makes sense.

    i personally can see where apple is coming from. in terms of scalability in the chips, IBM and before them Motorola have not exactly been competitive with x86. sure, it may be a pretty architecture and instruction set but if it can't scale then it's not gonna last too long, especially these days.

    in the short term i wouldn't be to worried about AMD either (AMD fanboi here as well ;). AMD is handily spanking intel at the moment in terms of price AND performance and with the dual and quad core AMD64's coming soon it seems like the sky is the limit.

    so, i can see where motorola is coming from but i also don't think this is the ultimate end of apple on non-intel chips.

    By Blogger per hatlevik, at 2:58 PM  

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