That’s right, folks. In the words of a famous intergalactic travel guide: DON’T PANIC.
In a year from now, there will be Macs for sale with Intel inside. (Does that mean they will be forced to sport an ugly “Intel Inside” badge on their otherwise sleek and attractively designed cases? I doubt that Steve Jobs or Jonathan Ive would consider that for even a second. Have any recent Macs had any kind of IBM logo on their exterior?)
In two years from now, all new Macs will be running on Intel processors. (Does that mean you’ll be able to buy and install OS X on any Intel-based PC? Well, not officially. In fact, while it will no doubt be technically possible, I suspect it will remain very, very difficult for all but the geekiest geeks.)
During the next two years, anyone in the business of creating software for OS X will, at the very least, have to recompile their code to get it to run on the new Intel-based hardware. Even if they don’t, a translator called Rosetta will attempt to make PPC-designed code work transparently on the Intel chipset. Cross-platform ‘fat binaries’ will allow developers to create apps that run on either chip.
Anyone who thinks Apple is full of moles should think again, because there have been x86-based builds of every single OS X release for the last five years. They’ve been working on Rosetta and on the Intel transition kit for a long time. None of this stuff got leaked until the very last moment, when C|Net scooped us all last week. Even then, details were thin and speculation was allowed to go crazy over the weekend.
Apple’s been preparing for this for five years. That’s contingency, people. That’s planning ahead. That’s Steve Jobs all over.
Yes, there will be problems for sure. There’s bound to be fat binaries that won’t work on one, or both chipsets. There’s bound to be third-party hardware, software and hackery that goes haywire. There’s bound to be a lot of moaning and complaining, some of it justified.
Three thoughts lurking in my head this evening:
- Does this mean the current G4 laptop line gets no significant processing boost at all until next year?
- What does the “3.6 GHz Pentium 4 Mac” offered in the new developer kit look like? Is it just a Power Mac with different insides? Something completely different?
- No-one at Apple seems to have answered this question: “Why should I buy any Apple hardware between now and 2006?” Is a G4 or G5 worth the same sort of money now?
- I’m not worried. I’m not in any kind of panic. I’ve never felt any kind of loyalty to the chip, only to the computer as a whole. To my own surprise, I’m curious. I want see OS X for Intel at work. I can’t wait.
Go crazy, now’s as good a time as any