May 23, 2005 11:44 AM PDT

Apple to Intel: Some advantage, lots of risk

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Will Apple Computer go to Intel? It's easy to think about but tough to do, warn analysts.

The two companies have met recently to discuss an alliance that could lead to Apple computers running processors from Intel, according to the Wall Street Journal. While the idea has been floated for years, this time there appears to be a little more impetus for Apple to convert.

Apple also needs a low-power chip, similar to the processor in Intel's Centrino bundle, for the growing laptop market. IBM currently supplies processors for Apple's G5 desktops, but the chip runs on a maximum of 100 watts--quite a bit of power--and dissipates so much heat that laptops employing the chips haven't emerged.

But now comes the tough part. If Apple did port its OS and other applications so that the software would run on Intel chips, it opens the possibility that hackers and clone manufacturers could assemble their own Mac PCs with cheap, generic hardware and store-bought copies of Apple's software.

Apple's hardware is typically more expensive than the machines from rivals because it insists on unusual design twists, such as LCD screens (on the second iMac) that have a viewing angle of almost 180 degrees, which adds cost. Clones could undercut Apple easily.

Accepting clone manufacturers and selling them software would allow Apple to begin to make money off licensing, said IDC analyst Roger Kay. However, Apple CEO Steve Jobs doesn't like clones--he made the decision to snuff out a budding clone business after he returned to the company in 1996, according to several sources.

Stopping uninvited clones, meanwhile, could be tough. One anti-clone method could involve designing a BIOS--a piece of software that links the hardware to the OS--and programming it so that it recognizes authorized hardware. Unfortunately, such a setup could, and would, be spoofed.

"The cost (of spoofing the BIOS anti-clone system) would come to having a grad student stay up all night," said Kay. "The company might be successful in the short term, but in the escalating war of hackerdom it would be a never-ending job."

Apple could also get around the clone problem by devising its own chipset, said Kevin Krewell, editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report. But chipsets are expensive and complicated and almost as difficult (but not nearly as profitable) as microprocessors to develop. Most PC and server makers cut back on developing their own chipsets years ago.

Then there is the problem of porting all that software to work with the Intel chips. The Mac OS X is based on Unix, which runs on Intel chips, but bringing everything over would require time and expense. It is also unclear if Apple could port the Altivec processor instructions, which handle multimedia functions on IBM Power chips. Instead, Apple would likely have to find similar functions in Intel's multimedia instructions, or suffer a performance hit.

Krewell added that Apple machines wouldn't necessarily perform better on Intel chips. IBM can produce dual-core chips for Apple--it just produced a three-core chip for Microsoft's upcoming Xbox. The design of the Xbox chip, partly conceived by Microsoft, is owned by the software giant, but IBM could spin a similar chip for Apple. It also built the Cell processor, a Power processor with eight helper cores, for the PlayStation3. Both of these chips run at more than 3GHz, close to Intel's current speeds.

Low power is also something IBM likely could conquer, said Krewell. If it has to, IBM could license technology to make it happen. Sony, for example, licensed energy efficiency technology from Transmeta for Cell. And IBM actually had a license for some Transmeta technology for years.

A switch to Intel also would raise cultural issues for Apple, which for years has maintained that the PowerPC architecture is better suited to the graphics-intensive tasks performed on most Macs. Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller has done many Macworld demos showing Photoshop and other programs running faster on a slower-clock-speed PowerPC chip than it does on a top-of-the line Pentium.

Most likely, the leak over the negotiations is a bargaining ploy by Apple, Krewell said.

"Apple is feeling ignored and feeling that IBM is paying too much attention to the gaming guys," he said. "This is just a maneuver by Apple to whack IBM. Do you know how you can tell that Apple isn't serious? Has Apple sued the Wall Street Journal for releasing trade secrets?"

Earlier this year, Apple sued a blog site for reporting product information before the product came out.

CNET News.com reporter Ina Fried contributed to this article.

57 comments

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MAC OSX ON 64AMD/INTEL? MAYBE...WITH V-CHIP.
MacOSX86:
First it would have to be with an AMD64/Intel64 bit chip system to operate like it does on the IBM PowerPC 64 bit G5 chips on Macs.

Second, WHAT IF Apple manufactured the PC Box with a proprietary V-Chip from Apple WITH a PC-64?
Apple could quality control the box,QC testing, install high end graphics cards, use 8 MB RAM,install all the drivers needed for PC devices (USB2/FIREWIRE) from a large variety of vendors (like they do on a MAC)so plug&play works right out of the box. Apple Monitors already work with Wintel PCs.
High end Industrial Design for box, etc.

MAC-G5 computer with MacOSX Tiger & 64 bit PowerPC, PLUS MAC-86 computer with MacOSX86 & V-CHIP. MacOSX86 only works if V-Chip is installed on an APPLE-PC (i.e. not Dell/HP/Gateway PCx86)

Apple sells software & hardware to Windows/Linux people, in ADDITION to Mac base.

Third: What if this was like the Mac Mini? A AMD64/Intel64 bit chip based Mini with Tigerx86 + V-CHIP?
Use any Monitor/Keyboard/Mouse/external devices that you want OR already own.

iPods work on Macs / Mac86 / Wintel PCs.

Win/Win for all...!

If Apple can "switch" to a UNIX based 64bit chip/OS system in just a few years, they can do this too.

It has been rumoured (not confirmed) that deep in the vaults under Cupertino IS a version of Mac OSX that can run on Intel/AMD/x86 chip as a "plan B". NeXT was UNIX platform that ran on Intel chips, & this was a Jobs Project too PLUS NeXT was integrated into MacOS to create Mac OSX/UNIX...

Just a thought...
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
v-chip???
The v chip is for TV Not Computers Dumb a**!!
Posted by (17 comments )
Link Flag
No Way Apple Would do this
Apple spends too much money on their own designs they will more
likely go back to Motorola before going to intel.

Yes Intel clames it is faster than AMD But bench marks are faster
on AMD Mayby Apple could talk with amd who has a 64bit
processor for any thing from a thin laptop to a 8 way processor
Server. and intel is yet to release a consumer 64bit Processot wile
you can find a amd 64 bit laptop for $600. If any one from apple is
reading this Talk to AMD NOT Intel!!!
Posted by (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple
Oh yeah almost forgot Umm lets see WWDC2005 is June 6 lets see
if apple found a G5 low power Processor sure may be around 1GHz
but still its 64bit. I know that they claim they have not found a low
power processor but IBM probably made one for apple before PS3
and Xbox360. Cant wait till June 6!!!
Posted by (17 comments )
Link Flag
Make no assumptions...
Why does everyone assume that if Apple sources CPUs from Intel
it means that Apple is necessarily going to step backward to the
x86-type architecture?

What is to stop Intel, under contract from Apple, from
developing its own version of the PowerPC CPU? Or from
developing a new Apple-specific architecture for high-
performance, low power, and Altivec compatability?

Most manufacturers, last time I checked, would design and build
pretty much any product a customer wanted, if they wanted the
customer badly enough!
Posted by RideMan (81 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Duh...
Duh... Apple relies on IBM for Power PC technology. IBM owns all rights for this and therefore virtually owns Apple, for purposes of this discussion.
Posted by 1btb (19 comments )
Link Flag
Motivation
Why would Intel want to do a POWERPC chip? They already have a high end server chip (Itanium), a standard server chip (XEON), a soon-to-be-phased out consumer line (P4), a mobile-but-soon-to-be-desktop chip (P-M), a ultra low power chip (XScale)..... Why would they want to add another to this collection for Apple? It is not like Apple ship in volume.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
What About Software?
Stories like this always seem to ignore one simple fact: Applications built for PPC/OSX will not run on Intel/OSX.

Porting OS X to Intel/AMD would be easy. Even porting iLife and iWork would be easy. But convincing 10,000 application developers to port their products to a brand new platform? That would be hard.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Won't happen. Macs already cost less.
Unfortunately, articles that claim otherwise usually ignore software/hardware included on the Mac.

Go to dell.com and select their cheapest box. Add Firewire and a dedicated graphics card. Then add Windows Profession SP2, an "iLife" type suite, and a "Works" type suite. Add Quicken. Also add virus software and a couple games.

The result will cost far more than a Mac Mini.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Reply Link Flag
not really
Add a proper amount of ram to the Mac Mini, add a screen, keyboard, mouse, dvd burner and the cost is way more than a cheapy Dell box.

However you get what you pay for.

If you don't need games, quicken, firewire (nice but completely unnecessary - even Digital Camcorders come with usb 2.0 ports these days) then you have cut a most of the baggage out of these unnecessary bundles.

As for iLife, totally unnecessary unless you intend to do more than copy a few home movies to dvd - easily done with Movie Studio 2.0.

DVD burners come with the software needed to make DVDs, and if you're really into the movie editing thing, then you'd buy a dedicated package anyway.

No for $500 I got a 2Ghz second hand Dell box for my kid, complete with DVD Combo drive, 512MB Ram, WinXP Pro, 15" LCD screen, optical mouse, mcafee antivirus and no other useless software.

Downloaded Open Office for free - and for that matter I could have cut off another $100 gone with XP Home - the pro version has nothing of use to anyone with less than 5 computers in the house - or got Linux.

The intel graphics chipset is as good as any $100 video card - which is all the Radeon 9200 is, same applies to the integrated sound - which is 7.1 channel compatible.

The educational software we needed would have to be bought on either platform for the same cost.

I've nothing against the mac, and did give it serious consideration, but it did work out to be around $200 more for the same thing without a screen, do decent office software - Open Office is as good as MS Office Standard - and enough ram to make the machine run properly.

I don't really see what advantage going intel would do, except enable Apple to sell probably around 2 or 3 million copies of OSX to people who want to run multiple OS's - say Linux and OSX for some decent software.

And that seems to be the real issue. They could easily make money selling millions of software licenses, but they'd lose around half of their new computer purchases.

The ipod has shown that people will buy hardware for stupid amounts of money for a walkman - but will they do the same with a computer, if they can buy a cheap dell box, a copy of OSX and have a slow, but workable mac?
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Link Flag
Well
All dell pc's come with Microsoft Works, which is a scaled down office, with still mroe than you would need.
For antivirus, AVG free edition is nifty. And why would a home user need XP Pro? SP2 is free with XP... (Unlike Mac OSX upgrades)

And firewire cant be added to the low end, but the cards are what, ~$20?
And why would the user need firewire? Even Apple is turning to USB 2.0 now, the ipods use it. PLus everything else uses USB.

And dont forget the Mac Mini is only the Mac Mini.
This $300 Dell also comes with 17 inch monitor, speakers, and keyboard/mouse-
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www1.us.dell.com/content/products/features.aspx/cto_dp_dimen2400_1?c=us&#38;cs=19&#38;l=en&#38;s=dhs" target="_newWindow">http://www1.us.dell.com/content/products/features.aspx/cto_dp_dimen2400_1?c=us&#38;cs=19&#38;l=en&#38;s=dhs</a>
Posted by wazzledoozle (288 comments )
Link Flag
no.
mac mini is lacking in everyway, especially power. why don't you go online, find an AMD duron with little to no ram, hd space, video memory, etc... then make the price comparison. Of all the things MACs are, cheap isn't one of them.
Posted by mortis9 (370 comments )
Link Flag
Apple's Power Move
I highly doubt Apple will jump ship to Intel only CPU instead of IBM PowerPC 64 Bit chips.

With the 9-nano chip from IBM on the horizon &#38; WWDC coming very soon, THAT may be the "and one more thing" from Mr. Jobs' Keynote.

OR PowerPC Dual Core Chips OR the ability to have 4 PowerPC chips in PowerMac &#38; up to 8 PowerPC chips in XServe/RAID...

This would only make sense IF Intel is secretly developing a NEW MAC OSX 64-bit compatible (Alti-Vec Engine) chip... (MI-6: McIntel-6 for Macintosh Computers) that runs Mac OSX applications.

Who knows?

Maybe IBM has been secretly developing the PowerPC high speed "gaming" chip for Apple to use in their PowerBooks or PowerMac dual processors?
XBox will not be out until Christmas &#38; LonghornOS...? 18 months? 2 years (full version)?

Funny, MS going to PowerPC &#38; Apple thinking of Intel?

MacOSX Tiger &#38; Apple Apps are HOT, why would Apple put the brakes on their momentum?

Maybe this is Jobs &#38; Co's diversion tactic to keep the "misguided rumors" flowing, while they are preparing to pounce at WWDC!
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Been doin some thinking
Maybe apple is saying that to make us think they are further behind
than they really are for example

Say they are going to release a G5 powerbook Mayby they dont
want a macmini problem to occure where everyone predicted it was
coming out here there will mostlikly be a HUGE supprise on june 6
Posted by (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Frankly...
Frankly I could careless what Apple does with the processors in their computers. If Apple was smart however, they would port OSX over to the PC and start raking in the bucks for that. I think Windows user's would jump ship so fast it would cause major problems for Microsoft.

PC's could easily rule the computer world, that is far more than they already do if we had a better operating system. And, don't bring up Linux, Linux isn't worth beans for Joe or Beth consumer.

Robert
Posted by (336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What would people use for software?
Remember, OSX/Intel would be a completely new platform, which
means virtually no software and no installed base. So consumers
have little reason to buy (except OS X and Apple's apps), and third
party developers have little incentive to port.

It simply won't happen IMHO.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Link Flag
PC users can already use Linux/KDE
It's pointless to talk of porting OS X to the Intel/PC platform. Simply install Linux and choose KDE as your prefered desktop and you'll have 90% of everything that is OS X.

And has been correctly pointed out, the missing 10% would require 3rd party software vendors to recompile/port to the new platform (including Apple.)

And your futile slight against linux clearly shows you are a typical ignorant mac cultist with zero knowledge of software engineering.
Posted by Richard G. (137 comments )
Link Flag
I don't think that would change much
Unless you could somehow get it to be compatible with the software library and games that Windows has, I'm unconvinced that a hardware change would change much for Apple's market share.

Now, if you can get me the games I need, switching is only a matter of time.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Link Flag
With Cell in the pipeline
An Apple box with Cell in it would blast the Intel and Microsoft platform way off scale.
If you see what Sony is getting with the PS3...

Wouldn't solve the portability though...
Posted by Steven N (487 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pretty OS X on Intel ?
I wonder if there is more to it than simply porting OS X onto Intel, guys &#38; gals ! My bet on Steve's idea of talking to Intel would be to create a media center headless item (much like a set top box - modeled after the Mac mini ?) that would be cheaper to market and attract mass volumes in deployment. I really doubt seriously if he would be upto replacing PowerPC with Intel inside the mainstream Macintoshes. Also to use in devices like MIDI synths, camcorders etc. - I know my imagination runs wild - but fantasy is part of technology, people !
Posted by BlogManiac (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh my God
The same inovation crap from Apple. And ofcourse, MS which stole it.
Posted by orfeu_niko (104 comments )
Reply Link Flag
not linux, so maybe osx
i don't care what is said about linux: it'll never work for the bulk of pc users. the gpl may be fine for certain situations, but not for most casual users - too many constraints on software intermingling; software that most pc users use. the only way, in the forseeable future, that redmond can be toppled is if steve jobs steps down from his high horse and allows an x86 version of osx to come to market. if people had a choice, i'm sure all would benifit. microsoft's customers would benifit from the increased competition (hence more rapid development) and apple would benifit from it possible user base increasing 50x. Quality control or not, apple's shareholders need to demand the release of an x86 version of osx... they stand to benifit the most, so why aren't they insisting??
Posted by mortis9 (370 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Won't happen
What does GPL have to do with anything? It affects developers,
but they're free to use other models. It doesn't affect the end
user at all, except for the lack of constraints.

Even if Apple were to move to x86, they wouldn't be producing a
version of Mac OS that would boot on a Wintel machine. It
would only run on an Apple machine. To do otherwise would be
to change Apple from a hardware company to a software
company, and that's a huge risk. If they were to remain a
hardware company putting out Wintel machines, they'd be
competing with both Microsoft AND Dell on their own turf.

Without any third party software to run on it, it would die very
quickly, and Apple would be left with nothing. Wine would be a
partial solution, but there wouldn't be any reasonable solution to
running existing Mac software (the 68K emulation in the Classic
environment would actually be the thing that would be degraded
the least).

Companies that want to sell to the Wintel world are already
doing so. Companies that sell to the Mac world don't want have
to support two architectures (making the decision to come out
with 64-bit-only software for the G5 is going to be hard
enough).
Posted by ygtbfkm (29 comments )
Link Flag
It would...
Well the port of the OSX interface would of course run Windows software or hell even Mac software. It wouldn't really much matter which way they went. Windows offer's more software variety, especially in games.

It could be done. I don't know about easily, but it could be done. And, it would land Apple a major amount of money. Myself I would say F off Microsoft and install OSX in my PC in a heart beat. However, I am not willing to move to a Macintosh computer. Too many limitations and I am not thrilled with Apple's attitude towards third party software vendor's. They are causing the loss of too many programs on the Mac side by doing their own applications.

In many ways Apple is far more of a monopoly than Microsoft. They control the hardware and are slowly pushing out software vendors like Adobe. The difference between the two however is that Apple has such a small market share that it doesn't really matter. They can be all of the monopoly they want and get away with it. If they had 80% of the market they would be in as much trouble and as loved as much as Microsoft.

Robert
Posted by (336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But it would not...
...run most software, because neither Mac apps or Windows apps
would run on this new platform. So you would have the worlds
best OS on Intel hardware without any software. What good is
that?

...cost any less. Intel chips and PowerPC chips cost about the
same, a small portion of the total cost.

Apple is not a monopoly ... just another company with a
proprietary product. Big difference. And the Mac software
market is thriving again thanks to OS X. Apples developer
conference is just a few days away, and itll probably be the
biggest one ever.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Link Flag
Oxymoron
A monopoly with such a small market share it doesn't matter.
Say what!?
Posted by ygtbfkm (29 comments )
Link Flag
Ridiculous.
I can believe rumors of Apple talking to Intel to use their chips.
Just not their microprocessors. Say, wireless chips.

Not using a G5 for a laptop because it uses too much power and
produces too much heat doesn't point towards using Centrino!
That would only start to make sense if those low power chips
were as fast as the G5. If not, why wouldn't Apple just stick with
the G4? Or did Intel come out with some 64-bit super-fast
chips as part of their Centrino line?

The comments about "stopping uninvited clones could be tough"
is just nonsense. If it were true, there would be clone Macs
being produced right now - it's not like the PowerPC processor
is super-secret or something. Replacing the PPC with an x86
chip wouldn't change that Apple will design the machine to their
own specs, which is also why replacing the processor wouldn't
lead to any significant price differences. All you'd see is Open
Firmware ported to x86, a few support chips change, and
otherwise it would be the same Macintosh.

Unless there was a SIGNIFICANT price/performance difference
with the Intel chips, across the line (low power mobile, high
power desktop, server), it makes absolutely no sense to lose
compatibility with all existing Mac software. Sure, for most stuff
it will be a check for endianness issues and a recompile, but
each company will have to do that for each program, then do QA
and bug testing - it will be quite expensive. An emulator is
simply not practical, the situation going from 68K to PPC was
quite different.

The reason that Wintel PCs are so cheap is because everyone
makes them. Apple would not be making a Wintel PC. "Intel
Inside" wouldn't be any advantage. It won't boot Windows, it will
require a different version of Linux (though that effort will be
relatively painless).

Over at money.cnn.com, they were also suggesting that
businesses would be more willing to buy Apple machines if they
had Intel chips inside, because businesses "don't like proprietary
solutions." The PowerPC is no more proprietary than x86.
Windows is at least as proprietary as Mac OS.

Another argument is that naive computer buyers are looking for
"Intel Inside" stickers, as if the Apple brand name is any less
recognizable. Naive computer buyers are looking for a Windows
machine, not an Intel machine, Blue Man Group notwithstanding.

The most ridiculous argument I've heard is that the developer
base for x86 is so much larger. Please! 99% of all programmers
never develop in assembly language, so the only difference
would be in endianness and very low level esoteric code such as
stack sniffers. Coding for Mac OSX/Cocoa on x86 would be no
different than coding for PPC.
Posted by ygtbfkm (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Amd should just go away and hide somewhere
Intel is the leader with over 80% of the buisness market and they
keep growing, intel is stable, cool, and just plain reliable. Not to
mention there excess of speeds for today's computer
enviroment, they have so many new features that are just so
powerful and can be used in the computer technology area, that
they have not even used yet.

Intel is the chip king, the thing that apple needs to do is to hire
intel to build chips for them, but to stop clones they need to
create a intel chipset that only works with mac software and
needs some special power connector or bios or something
different that only apple can license the use of. IF they want it
apple will find a way.

Email me Brian2005@gmail.com with any comments, if you send
junk I'll just trash it, any normal converstations I would love to
hear.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
blue man hype
Amd does suffer from credibility problems, but for pure performance they continue to be the industry leader. Unfortunately(for AMD) the public is easily won over by advertising hype and slogans.Intel continues to sell more processors with their huge advertising power and exclusive marketing practices offer large kickbacks to companies that agree to use their processors exclusively. I think AMD should stick to what they do best and create superior processors and innovations and success will catch up with their superior product.
Posted by rob tomba (3 comments )
Link Flag
 

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