Apple on Intel is Official

By Blane Warrene
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Apple shook up the technology roadmap a bit today at the Worldwide Developers Conference by announcing a shift to Intel architecture in 2006. This has ramifications for users and developers alike.

Some longtime Apple analysts reacted negatively, but largely the rumor mill had been churning and most assumed something was brewing. Conventional wisdom would suggest this is an excellent move for Apple, opening up faster, more power-sensitive performance especially for Macintosh notebooks.

More interesting perhaps is the new universe this opens up for Linux developers who can now leverage the now mature OS X (and BSD Unix underpinnings) on a familiar hardware platform.

Engineers in Cupertino have put some thought behind this – having had several years to explore the Darwin core of OS X on Intel, and now planning a release of XCode, Apple’s programming environment for OS X, which will assist PowerPC developers in porting to Intel.

Having already been an Xserve user from a web hosting perspective, I am excited to have the capabilities and user interface framework of OS X server available at the blistering speeds of the Intel platform.

For the uninitiated, Apple has taken care to build configuration and management tools right into OS X server that utilize familiar open source tools such as LAMP, Postfix, Samba, LDAP and more for rapid deployment and reduced administration.

In some cases, an argument I have lost for several years (due to the differing hardware architecture) that Apple’s OS X could be the Linux desktop and server we have been searching for may now be a possible reality.

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  • Excuse my ignorance but does this mean that OSX will be available for me to run on my current Dell laptop or will it still only be available on Apple supplied hardware? Or is that more of a business issue than technology issue?

  • I think that the dust has not settled – however the demonstration at WWDC today was on an Intel machine. Thus – the current thinking is OS X will be loadable on Intel machines in 2006. That is obviously the smartest avenue as numerous non-Apple users would probably plop down $100 or so US to kick around OS X if they believe it will be beneficial for development, business, etc.

  • Pat Allan

    ccburns, from what I’ve read, it will only be on Apple hardware – although I’m sure it won’t take long for someone to find a way to use OSX on any x86 hardware.

  • We have to put away Windows?

  • Ryan Wray

    I think it would be great to have OS X on intel machines. However, the main benefit is seen if the OS X can be used on any intel processor (out-of-the-box), not only Apple hardware. Otherwise, we are still locked into having to use Apple made software to use the apple made OS.

  • Apple are a hardware company. Their software just helps them sell more hardware. They’re not going to commoditise OSX any time soon.

  • toyer90

    apart from the business side of it, I doubt apple would ever open the OS up to any hardware as thats part of the reason behind the ‘it just works’ mindset that apple users have. I don’t think i’d want some tacky-buggy driver-hardware messing up my stable mac – let apple test it and moke sure everything works.

  • Thirteenva

    The license agreement has not changed. Steve Job’s philosophy has not changed. OS X, will only run on apple supplied hardware.

  • That is on day one – the path to commoditized hardware is not far off. The value of dropping OS X on a desktop, laptop or server using Intel architecture is obvious if the only barrier is drivers. Look at Linux where driver issues are largely a part of the past in most cases from a mainstream perspective.

  • MiiJaySung

    This really doesn’t come as a suprise at all. It doesn’t take two and two to realise that Apple wouldn’t port an x86 version of Darwin for no reason, and the fact that Apple have openly been on the offensive with regards to IBM’s performance, along with sueing people who run sites that let trade secrets.

    There’s obviously no way Apple are gonna let anyone get Mac OS X and run it on any old PC. As someone pointed out, Apple are very much a hardware orientated company, so a movement like this will be taken with a lot of caution. Despite Apple being very hardware orientated, to many it is OS X and the simplicty of their products that sell their products.

    The other limiting factor is that there is no way Apple want to support loads of x86 variants. Obviously the archietecture will be modified in a way that this lock-in still remains, not to mention it will be needed to accmodate for support/migration of things like the Velocity engine blah blah blah.

    Apple are being very adventurous here, and certainly there is no doubt that this is a very interesting area in the industry to follow.

    I can’t see how the Intel platform will make things faster tbh. Their processors might be faster in certain directions, but it will be a while before apps obviously get compiled/writen to take advantages of the differences/changes.

    I also find it interesting when you consider that Intel laptops don’t seem to perform that well compared to AMD ones in terms of power consumtion + speed. This was one of the issues Apple had with IBM getting it’s chips to work on a laptop (tbh, I does seem a bit daft taking something based on the power4 series of CPUs which is what the G5 is based on. The Power4 series was designed for servers, so of course they are power hungry. Power hungry chips and laptops are not a combination that are expected to be a happy marriage). Anyway, I guess at least Intel’s p4 does work as a laptop albeit rather badly.

  • Wombert

    Uhm… ever heard of the Pentium M, MiJaySung?

  • I really want to remind everyone also that never has Steve Jobs made a strategic decision that was not at least looking three years out. When he announced OS X – most of the world scoffed and said – “Unix?! – from the Mac guys?”. And absolutely nobody saw the iPod coming – and it does affect web professionals through Podcasting and the like. There is more to this than meets the eye. Let it sort out and evolve and we all may be surprised.

  • Anonymous

    I’m mostly nervous about the move as a die-hard apple user, I’m concerned about quality control.

    If Apple can pull this off however, don’t look for OSX on beige-box PC’s, look for Windows on Apple hardware. That would be for me the ultimate dual boot.

  • JGoddard

    I think it’s genius.

    First they’ve built the iPod+iTunes brand so well, that all these people who had no clue what “Apple” or “Mac” was 3 years ago are asking about Macs, and OS X. Now these people won’t have to spend the big bucks to get a Mac, and it gives Apple a chance to gain quite a bit of marketshare on Microsoft… since there is so much hype about Apple now.

  • I love Mac, but my Mac is now quite old. To old to run OS X, and at the moment it’s not a priority to buy a new Mac. Imagine how great it would be if I could install OS X on my Pentium 4 computer, instead of having to run Windows XP. It will be exciting to see how this switch turns out.