Bruised Apple?

So the big news today is that Apple is going to move from using PowerPC processors to Intel processors – the processors used by every Windows PC out there. And since everyone has been weighing in on this topic over the rumor-filled weekend, I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring as well.

On the whole, I’m not so sure this move is the best Apple could be making at the moment. With the recent push to get more switchers, it seems telling all those folks the new Mac mini or iMac they just bought is not the future of the company is a bad move.

It’s true new Apples will not be sold running Windows. They’ll be running OSX. The same operating system the Apples run now. The general buying public, however, does not understand the differences between processors or even operating systems, so Apple will have an even tougher row to hoe convincing buyers that the Apple computer running an Intel processor is different than the Dell computer running an Intel processor. On the other hand, the whole GHz to GHz comparison will now be a moot point. You’ll literally be able to compare Apples to … hmmm … let’s go with lemons.

You see, it’s not the processor that makes the computer useful, friendly, safe and secure. It’s the operating system. And, whether OS X is running on an Intel or a PowerPC, it will still be infinitely more powerful and secure than anything running Windows.

And that’s what is really bothering me.

Should Apple decide to make their computers capable of running Windows as well as OS X, we’ll have a whole lot of people who slap Windows on it just so that it’s “more familiar” rather than run the much better OS X. And then, my friends, the same issues plaguing commodity PC users running Windows today will plague Apple computer users running Windows tomorrow.

Even if Apple says “No way” to running Windows on their hardware – which is unlikely – there will still be some enterprising hacker who gets Windows to run on it anyway.

What should Apple do?

Apple already invests heavily in the open source community. I’d like to see Apple really dump a ton of cash and development time on the WINE project. Wine is an environment for Linux desktop computers that allows them to run Windows applications without running Windows. Cool huh? You bet!

If Apple were to put its development muscle behind the project, they might be able to create a nice, Windows compatibility layer for OS X Leopard on Intel (a la Classic mode in OS X) that would allow folks to go ahead an install most of their Windows applications without needing Windows itself. And then, with that capability, if they further “sandboxed” those apps to keep them from interfering with the core OS, they would have a KILLER combination on their hands!

In the mean time, we have to wait until 2006 to see a bigger glimpse of what Apple has up their sleeve.

*ASIDE: Undoubtedly there are a couple big motivations for Apple to move from the PowerPC platform. One is cost. Intel chips, by the nature of their production volume, are much cheaper to procure than PowerPC chips.

The other is technology. Currently Apple is having trouble bringing their notebook line to the G5 processor and their desktop line to the 3 GHz mark. By moving to Intel, they could achieve this goal right now.

But what does that do to their arguments that the PowerPC processors are superior to the Intel processors? Have they been lying to us this whole time? Definitely not. The PowerPC processor IS better … for now. But Apple’s question to IBM is, where will the PowerPC be in two years? If there is an answer, it’s surely one Steve Jobs didn’t like.

With all the pros and cons of moving to Intel aside, my question to Apple is, “Who’s going to buy a PowerPC Mac in the next 12 months knowing that the Intel Macs are coming out so soon?”

(Republished from ESC!Webs Blogitorials, June 2005)