What Does This Mean For You?
By Melvin Ah Ching
Apple CEO Steve Jobs dropped the big bomb on the Macintosh community on June 6 when he announced that the entire Mac platform will be transitioning from the Power PC microprocessor built by IBM and Freescale (formerly Motorola) to chips made by Intel.
The transition period will take 2 years to complete and will encompass the entire Macintosh line from the Mini to laptops to high end desktop and server machines. The change from Power PC to Intel will require a recompilation of most if not all applications built for Apple's OSX operating system.
OSX itself will undergo another major revision to accomodate Apple hardware that will run on both the Power PC and Intel architecture. The next release of OSX will be named "Leopard". The current version released on this past April is "Tiger."
Major technical details aside, what does the switch from Power PC to Intel mean?
Here are some of the major ways the switch will affect Macintosh users.
1. Most or all Mac OSX programs will have to be recompiled so that they can run on the new Apple Intel Hardware (being billed by some as Mac PC or Macintel). This means that you will have to buy new upgrades of software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop that currently run on your OSX Mac for Mac PC.
2. There likely will be an OSX "Tiger" version to run on Mac Intel not too distant future. Upgrading to Mac OSX now will ensure that you have a smoother transition to Mac PC when the time arrives.
3. Your present Power PC based Mac of G3, G4 and G5 will continue to be supported by Apple for a few years after the transition to Intel is done. Traditionally Apple has maintained legacy hardware for about 5 to 7 years before support is completely cut off.
4. It is suggested that you save money now for the purchase of a Mac Intel based computer as well as the software you want to run on it. Switching to Mac Intel will be almost like starting all over again with a new platform.
5. There will be no support at all for Classic mode in OSX. The switch to Mac Intel will forever shut the door to any support of any and all application programs that run on OS9 or earlier. That means users of Microsoft Word 5.x, Adobe Pagemaker and others will be completely out of luck in hopes of running any of these programs on an Intel based Mac.
6. One of the possible bright spots of Apple moving to the Intel chip is the possible porting of Microsoft Windows to the Macintosh platform. Apple has stated they will not support dual booting of Mac OSX and Windows.
They will not disallow the hacker community from building an emulator that will allow MS Windows to run at almost native speeds on your Intel based Mac. Current Mac users can run Windows using a software emulator running on top of OSX. The emulation slows down the Mac.
If your Mac will be able to run Windows, it is not out of the realm of possibility that a Mac PC will also be able to run a PC version of Linux.
These are some of the major issues that will impact Mac users once the switch to Intel starts and is completed.
The timetable for the switchover is 2 years. Apple plans to introduce an Intel based Mac Mini by June of next year and follow up with their low and midrange models, and transition both the iBook and Powerbook lines to the new chips by 2007 before finishing the year off by builing a new high end desktop machine to replace the current G5s.
It will be an interesting 2 years. Save your money, be prepared to spend.
Mel's Macintosh Universe Home Page
Copyright 1998-2005 by Melvin Ah Ching Productions. Last update: June 20, 2005.