Apple turns to Intel

Bill Gates once described it as “like putting lipstick on a chicken” but Apple has made up its mind: last week CEO Steve Jobs said the company is switching from IBM microprocessors to put Intel inside its machines.

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By  Peter Branton Published  June 12, 2005

Bill Gates once described it as “like putting lipstick on a chicken” but Apple has made up its mind: last week CEO Steve Jobs said the company is switching from IBM microprocessors to put Intel inside its machines. Jobs made the announcement at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, US, last week. In his keynote speech he revealed that Apple has actually been working on this for the past five years, with all versions of OS X having been developed to run on both Intel and Power PC platforms. “Mac OS X has been leading a secret double life for the past five years,” he told the audience. Among other reasons, a lack of performance from the Power PC platform for notebooks was cited by Jobs as to why the company was making the switch. Apple had promised when it launched the first G5-based PowerMacs that it would have a 3GHz PowerMac within 12 months. Two years later, it still can’t deliver on that promise, Jobs pointed out, nor has it been able to introduce a G5-based notebook. Looking at IBM’s roadmap for the PowerPC, Jobs said that it would only deliver about a fifth the performance per watt as a comparable Intel chip, claiming this would hold back a number of products that Apple is planning for the coming years. Having spent years battling against the Wintel alliance, Apple’s move is likely to raise strong emotions with its user community worldwide. The company has been using IBM’s PowerPC processors since 1994 but the relationship has had rocky patches, with Apple unhappy with chip delivery problems. An architecture change is an enormous effort however, requiring rewriting of many applications to allow them to run on the new architecture. Apple has introduced a transcoding tool, Rosetta, which will allow most Mac OS X applications to run on Intel-based Macs, but Jobs admitted that “every application is not going to be universal from day one.” The deal also raises issues as to whether Apple will allow future versions of its OS X to run only on its own products, or any competitor machine, which would be a huge shift in strategy for the company.

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