tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Apples goes Intel for Macs

As mentioned all over the place (e.g. news.com) Apple is doing a deal with Intel to use Intel's processor chips in Macs from mid next year onwards.

This has caused quite a bit of fuss with some people. Lots of people seem to think this means OS X will run on any PC. This ignores quite a lot of the difference between a PC and Mac. The Mac has a different motherboard, and it can continue to have a custom motherboard in the future, including chips that OS X will need to be there before it will work.

One of the great advantages to owning a Mac is that it is a locked platform. When I was younger I thought this was a disadvantage, and it was. I could mix and match parts from many different manufacturers to get the cheapest deal possible and still get a modern PC at the end of it. Macs all came from one manufacturer, which meant the maker could keep the price relatively high.

But once I could afford one and tried it, my attitude changed somewhat. A locked platform means no real driver problems - the people writing the drivers know exactly which hardware (or range of hardware) is inside the box. They don't have to support dozens of different chipsets, they only need to handle two or three. The programmers creating the operating system know exactly what to expect as responses from the hardware, because they know what it's going to be. You can control the quality of the various bits of hardware, which should mean a more stable computer.

I don't think Apple will want to give this advantage up. It's part of what brings the stability to their system - majoritively they control what's in the box, so they don't get to driver conflicts. They can continue to do this in the future by requiring custom motherboards only they make, which means basically the world doesn't change much. Future Intel Macs will be quicker than Apple think future PowerPC Macs would be, and that's about it.

(Of course, if OS X can be run on any old Dell or white box PC in a couple of years, I'm going to look back on this post and groan.)

[Update:] I seem to have leapt straight to stage five.
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