Tue 7 Jun 2005
After yesterday’s announcement by Steve Jobs that Apple would switch to using Intel processors in its future computers (and maybe other products) the whole Internet is buzzing with commentaries. As an example the Slashdot post about it received more than 2500 comments, which is a huge number even for that site.
I think this is a very good move on the part of Apple. The fact that analysts are generally positive and the outcry of die-hard Mac fans simply didn’t happen shows clearly that Apple’s main selling point is now not a particular hardware architecture but rather OS X and the user experience it delivers. This user experience, whose main points are stability, security and ease of use is what brings so many new converts to the Apple’s camp. It doesn’t rely on any particular hardware – it’s foundation is a good operating system running on a hardware platform that is predictable and stable.
The most wise decision to base their new OS on a modern Unix variant now pays off for Apple. Porting a well designed system to a new processor architecture so that all that has to be done to get apps to run is recompile them is a breeze. In fact, as Jobs revealed during his keynote, they have been making Intel builds of their OS for the past four years just to be sure it is still portable enough. When IBM hit the technology barrier and it was obvious they won’t deliver G5s suitables for laptops anytime soon Apple could easily move to a different platform.
Now, I wonder how Microsoft is going to react. Of course, during the Apple’s conference they said that they will ship Office for new platforms as well and that their relationship with Apple remains strong and positive. However, in the long run cheaper and faster Apple computers (BTW – with same processors comparing performance would be far easier than now) mean less customers for Microsoft Windows. And Intel, who has been Microsoft’s ally for a long time, may now be seen as loosening its ties with the Evil Empire. One of the reasons behind it might be that they are tired of being associated with computing experience that average users perceive as a series of crashes, virus infections and other issues.
Despite the fact, that Apple says it has no plans to ship OS X for other computers than their own it would be far easier to get it to run on a commodity PC when it would be available for the same processor architecture. I predict that software packages that would allow just that would appear shortly. And, unless my financial situation changes, I just hope they would be cheap.