June 6, 2005 11:04 AM PDT

Apple throws the switch, aligns with Intel

SAN FRANCISCO--After years of trying to get people to switch to Macs from Intel-based computers, Apple Computer itself has switched.

CEO Steve Jobs announced Monday that Apple will gradually shift its Mac line to Intel-based chips over the next two years. The move confirms a timetable first reported by CNET News.com.

Jobs' announcement formed the centerpiece of a keynote speech to Mac programmers attending the company's annual Worldwide Developer Conference here. The conference, expected to draw some 3,800 attendees this year, is a traditional venue for Apple product launches.

"Mac OS X has been leading a secret double life the past five years."
--Steve Jobs
Apple Computer CEO

In his speech, Jobs revealed that Apple has been developing all versions of OS X since its inception to run on Intel and PowerPC chips.

"Mac OS X has been leading a secret double life the past five years," he said.

The move to Intel marks a tectonic shift for Apple, which has used processors from IBM and Motorola (now Freescale Semiconductor) throughout the life of the Mac. However, the company has changed architectures before, shifting in the 1990s from Motorola's 68000 family of chips to the PowerPC architecture jointly developed by IBM and Motorola.

Jobs also noted the significant effort required earlier this decade when Apple moved from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X. Although the operating systems are only a digit apart, he noted that the move to a Unix-based system was a major shift. "This was a brain transplant," Jobs said.

The CEO showed a demo of the Tiger operating system on an Intel-based machine, saying, "We've been running on an Intel system all morning."

Complete coverage
Apple's new core
Read News.com's complete coverage of Apple's dramatic decision to transition to Intel processors.
As for why Apple was making the shift, Jobs pointed both to past problems and to the PowerPC road map, which he said won't deliver enough performance at the low-power usages needed for powerful notebooks.

Two years ago at the same conference, Jobs introduced the first G5-based Power Macs and promised developers that the company would have a 3GHz PowerMac within 12 months. The company still doesn't have a machine that fast. "We haven't been able to deliver," he said. Nor has Apple been able to introduce a G5-based laptop--something Jobs said "I think a lot of you would like."

Things weren't looking better in the coming months, Jobs said, saying that IBM's PowerPC road map would only deliver about a fifth the performace

CONTINUED:
Page 1 | 2

171 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
The end of an era?
What I find interesting is that while they mention "Intel-based" processors here, they don't specifically say x86. For all we know, the plans could involve XScale chips or IA-64. That said, this is certainly an occurance I never thought I'd see.
Posted by johnroche--2008 (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why does everyone assume Intel = X86?
Has anyone thought to ask the obvious question about whether they're switching to the x86 chips or to the Itanium? The Itanium is a cleaner, newer chip and would make a better replacement for the PowerPC chips than the x86.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Now It's the Battle of the OS's
Windows versus OS X, running on basically a single platform with
common programming. And Apple thinks that this is a survivable
decision?????

On the other hand, maybe this is the ultimate Windows vs Linux
battle. That one is morre problematic.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hoodwinked...so who do we believe now?
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.apple.com/powermac/performance/" target="_newWindow">http://www.apple.com/powermac/performance/</a>

Jobs: We were just kidding when we posted that. Believe me now and doubt me later, Intel is superior.

Apple Sheep: huh

Jobs: Basically we are upgrading but continue to buy soon to be obsolete Apple products until the transition is complete.
Posted by (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
PowerPC lives on with the Amiga
I guess this could be good news for the Amiga and its PowerPC
future. The question is; will AmigaOS4 beat Longhorn to market?
Posted by JuggerNaut (860 comments )
Reply Link Flag
what?
so they are going to stop you from installing OSX on IBM compatible machines??
if this is the case, how can they expect sales to increase. the mac base is very small to begin with and now, many will feel violated with the new change to intel, so apple risks losing many loyal followers anyway.
sorry, but someone will come up with a way for this to happen. and i'll just wait it out.
Posted by xman95 (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Open Letter to Steve Jobs and Apple Computers
With the recent announcement from Steve Jobs and all the buzz
surrounding it, a lot of your customers are worried about this
switch to Intel. Many say that the PowerPC is fine and there's no
need to switch. They say that a decision like this is going to
force many customers away. They say that Intel charges more
than twice as much for their chips comparable to the PowerPC.

Your loyal customers are worried right now. Can you keep the
same high standards for design, stability, security, and ease-of-
use? Is this going to hurt the developers? What about the price?
Your equipment is already expensive, but then again it is top of
the line, and I know that I personally, like many customers,
don't really mind spending nearly $3,000 for the 17" PowerBook
because I know that it will still be near top of the line 2 or 3
years down the road.

I feel that in the coming months, before you even begin
designing and building Intel-based systems, you need to start
talking to the consumer. You need to create an open forum for
discussions of the issues mentioned above. You have an
installed base somewhere near 16%, and I know that you as well
as Mac loyalists don't want to see that shrink. I love my
PowerBook, but if I have to spend $5,000 on the next PowerBook
when it comes time to upgrade, I'm probably going to get a Dell
just because I can't afford to buy a Mac anymore. I know yours
is a company full of intelligent and talented people, and I would
truly hate to see your products grow so expensive because of
this move that even people like me who swear they'll never buy a
Windows machine make the switch BACK to the dreaded Wintel
platform because your harwarde has gotten so expensive.

Yours is a great company that's been through Hell and back and
has still, somehow, managed to produce some of the greatest
products the PC industry has ever seen. It would truly be a
shame if this switch forces your company back into the position
it was in during the 90's. I sincerely hope that you'll open up the
lines of communication and begin seriously considering and
releasing information on pricing and development, and keep the
customer informed of the progress made on the Intel platform. I
hope you can hold Intel to the same high standards that you
hold your own design teams. I'd really like to see this move as
the beginning of Apple reclaiming it's rightful place os a true
dominant force on the PC industry, instead of the underdog that
it has been and, admittedly, still is.
Posted by Dr Juice phD (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mac = system software + cool design
Apple should finally get out of the PC business except for still
creating cutting edge technology and PC packaging. I hope they
will start a "Mac certified" program for hardware so they can still
tightly control the hardware-software integration, but basically
allow anyone willing to adhere to this hardware standard to run OS
X. They would likely have an instant OS hit with a huge user base
that people will flock to to get the gerat OS software lacking bugs,
worms, and viruses.
Posted by Bailey Kessing (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pandora
Anyone see a link between this move by apple and intel's pandora? it got me thinking last week when i saw the pandra up next to the mac mini and then later heard the rumors beginning to surface, kinda makes sense though.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So much for buying my powerbook.
I'm about a week away from shelling out the cash. Meh, maybe I'll just buy a 23 inch screen instead. Yes.... That's what I'll do. And then I'll kill myself because I just realized the shock of the news is over, and I'd rather them go with AMD processors cos Intel processors suck.

Yup. Time to kill myself.
Posted by (461 comments )
Reply Link Flag
oh deaaar god.
No really, this is not good. Undoubted long term, core strategic error. God, he could at least have gone with the opteron. It trounces xeon in graphics heavy arenas. The nasty sound is the reality distortion field around cupertino cracking. This strips away one of the core elemnents of the macintosh's alternative ethos. Bugger it. I knew this era was too good to last. I think jobs has fundamentally misjudged the delicate psychology of apple's position in the buying public's mind. The one thing you cannot say about this decision is that it represents the much espused virtue of thinking different. Rather, it strikes you strongly of capitulation to the seeming banal realities of apples position. Whatever figleaf remained is now gone; the mac is now an enclosure, good fabrication and a well regarded unix variant os. Demmit, Jobs, what were you thinking of?
Posted by noadandy (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
One additional item...
... as previously reported, Apple's move to Intel may have very
much to do with securing video distribution rights just like Apple
did with music via the iPod. Check the other articles, and wait for
what OS X will be able to do inthe near future. This could make
Windows Media look like a total waste of time and effort.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Big Hint
Well, the big hint is that Steve Jobs has said that Mac OS X has been leading a double life for the last 5 years.

Thus dosen't say that we can just pick up a copy of Mac OS X and run it on our home PC's.. just that they will have a "Mac" with an Intel x86 processor in it. Obviously the innards of a "Mac" will now change although I think you'll find it will inherit some of the PowerPC stuff.. for example: No BIOS, it will have still have OpenFirmware instead and other intrinsic "Mac" things.

..anyway I was just reading between the lines, Mac OS X isn't for everyone.
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE:
pretty funny analogy
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ONE AWESOME BOX: MAC OS X or WINDOWS
While Apple does't plan on letting OS X run on other hardware, they
practically said their new boxes will probably be able to run
Windows.

Apple makes the nicest high-end laptops (PowerBook) and
desktops (G5 tower and iMac G5).

Plus, they'll have to remain competively priced.
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Virtual PC & Virtual Mac on the same hardware?
Look beyond the change which is doubtless going to be painful for the Mac users to some of the possibilities. Even if Apple keeps it's MacOS locked to their own hardware it's likely someone will write the drivers to make a virtual Mac available on just about any generic PC available. The Mac hardware platform may be opened up even if Apple doesn't want it to be.

There are still too few details about this whole change available to make any decisions about whether this is a clever move or horrible misstep but one thing is certain, IBM must have been a really hard partner to work with or Intel has offered a huge incentive to Apple to force Apple to make a change like this.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Looking forward to a PowerBook in 2007
I would of already bought a Powerbook if Apple could have upgraded them to G5. Even though I don't like the fact that I'll have to wait a year or two, I'm glad that the PowerBooks will finally be upgraded to a more powerful processor.

Does anyone know how the Intel chips compare in regards to battery life?
Posted by (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Concerns wrongfully bundled
In order to ally your fears:

The processor that an OS runs under has very little to do with its security. Keep in mind that Linux also runs on x86, and still has better security in many distributions than OS X.

Indeed, none of the concerns I've read in the replys to this story are valid for a processor switch. Intel x86 processors - and their supporting circuitry - are generally lower priced than those for PowerPCs (check prices for PPC for Amiga boards vs. Intel boards), and get comparable or better performance (depending on factors such as time of the year, phase of the moon, benchmarking utility used, mood of the reviewer, company that owns the reviewer, what the reviewer had with his beef chow mein at lunch last thursday, etc).

I bet you're waiting for me to say more about Intel processors. That's it. Price and speed. That's ALL that matters.

Ok, one other thing matters: Fault frequency. The number of uncaught errors that occur per successful instruction processed. IBM's PPC has a fault frequency of 2 faults per 100 trillion instructions. Intel's x86 has a fault frequency of... 2 faults per 100 trillion. AMDs have an FF of 4 faults per 100 trillion. (aren't you glad they went with Intel?)

For all intents and purposes, Apple made a lateral move in terms of price and performance (the marginal cost of porting software - anywhere from 2 manhours to 40 manhours per major third-party application - will initially cancel out the initial savings of using a less expensive processor and logic set). So why move?

I believe Apple is positioning themselves to actually compete with Microsoft. Yes, I assume that OS-X will be locked to Apple hardware initially, but it won't last. Jobs likely knows this: Within a week of the first release of OS-X, x86 edition, there will be a patch that will allow a user to run OS-X on arbitrary x86 hardware, with full driver support.

My guess is that it'll be just a little more complicated than swapping out the OS-X kernel for the Darwin kernel - just like that which has been done in order to run OS-X on arbitrary Amiga hardware.

Darwin, being open source and meant for consumption computers, has a range of device drivers rivaling that of linux, which is to say, incomplete, but only slightly.

Jobs will appear, then, to "give in to the masses" and release x86 for the generic PC, using the Darwin driver set.

Why go through all this trouble?

A couple of reasons. One, Apple is trying to sneak up on Microsoft. MS is a behemoth, and can and will crush Apple with any number of false accusations, surreptitious lies, supposed patent violations, and about as much legal crap as they can land on Apple. If Apple is to compete with Microsoft, they have to sidestep into a position where it's feasible.

Second, Apple does NOT want to leave it's loyalists in the cold. If all else fails, they need their 16% install base. Rest assured, OS-X and the applications you love will not stop being built for PowerPC just because they're finally releasing Marklar. (Yes, Marklar. It was the code name for OS-X x86, and if you didn't know that, it would explain why you're scared.) Apple also doesn't want the purchasers of its hardware to think they've been gypped as PC users just plop OS-X on their bad-ass $1100 PCs. The way Apple's doing it, the bad-ass $1100 Mac will be availble before OS-X for the generic x86 is availble.

Anyways, thank you for not paying attention, as is the wont of these forums.
Posted by (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
On the lighter side...Hopefully this won't herald
Hopefully this won't herald the start of apple ads with the annoying
intel tune, or the bloody blue man group and no intel stickers or
start up logos on my mac please. Actually this move is pretty smart
especially since intel do make good mobile chips (and notebooks
are becomming really popular) and we can now get better graphics
cards too. Once all the work is done and intel and apple keep on
progressing this will be a golden age.
Posted by Filip Remplakowski (91 comments )
Reply Link Flag
X86-based Mac = Windows on Apple?
If Apple switches hardware and OS architecture to X86, doesn't that mean I will be able to install Windows on the new Macs (and Powerbooks - hmmm, will tehy change name to Intelbooks or Pentibooks??). Vice versa, wouldn't the Apple OS then run on any PC??
Posted by HanSolosdkjfdsklsjfldsjf (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Apple had no choice
Apple had no choice. Not if they didn't want to fall further and further behind in speed.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
it's about time
It's about time Apple went this route. There were a lot of rumors about this when they switched to OS X since the base system they started with was actually an x86 core... More importantly, we will finally be able to do actual head to head speed tests instead of Apple's knowingly falsified speed tests.
Posted by sutai (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple's turned back to tech leadership
In 1984 my Apple Lisa sported a true 32-bit processor (as did every Mac, subsequently.) Intel's state-of-the-art chip was 16-bit and many 8-bit "Intel-insides" were still around. Then the Apple's graphical interface and 16-times faster processor and the bundled Office-like software suite blew everyone else away and Microsoft's only today catching up, reliability-wise.
Yesterday's announcement that Apple would switch to Intel chips hid the bigger, gloomier message--Apple was spurning AMD's 64-bit retail leadership as well as Sun's rock-solid, Unix-proven 64-bit technology.
Today's gloomy for tech-heads but it looks like the marketing fluffers will be busy massaging the truth out of this story in their special way.
Posted by kroebling (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
can't we all get along?
Mac and Windows users have been arguing for years over which system is better, and this debate is only going to get worse once they are both running on the same processor where you can really do head to head competitions... But regardless of your preference, the switch to Intel will make it better for Apple to compete and possibly grab more market share. Switching to Intel should also drop costs significantly for the end user. It will also help developers because they will be able to unify their code base giving both platforms the latest and greatest. Apple is still Apple... OS X is still going to be OS X. All that's changing is what's under the hood. This should actually be a pretty smooth transition.
Posted by sutai (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I wish they went with AMD
I actually wish Apple went with AMD because that would have brought both companies together to fight the Windows and Intel dominance...
Posted by sutai (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.