Mac’s have been on PowerPC chips since the early 90’s. Prior to that, they ran on 68000 chips from Motorola. The PowerPC chip architecture was a joint Apple, Motorola, and IBM venture. Motorola was the main supplier of chips for Apple until the late 90’s, when they began to have problems with chip yield and in boosting the operating frequency of the cpu’s, namely the G4. At this point, IBM was brought in to start developing the next step processor, the G5, which is a derivative of IBM‘s Power cpu’s.
Even though the future looked bright with the G5 and IBM, in the past year, there have been significant delays and problems with G5 production, and I guess Apple finally decided to switch to Intel chips.
I’m not going to comment much on it, since there are much better writers who said more interesting things yesterday, but I do want to make a couple quick points.
I agree with what many others have said about the Mac platform losing something with this transition. The PowerPC chip did set it apart from Intel-land, but ultimately, I use the computer as a whole, not just the cpu. I’d much rather have an Apple Intel computer than a Dell PowerPC computer.1
As far as Apple shooting themselves in the foot sales-wise since people will hold off on machine purchases (who is going to buy a new mac now – why not wait?), this has always gone on in the world of Apple. Heck, I waited 6 months before buying my laptop because I wanted the new design Powerbook which was “rumored” to be coming. Sure, they might have some slow quarters, but with the way iPod sales have been going, I’m sure they will survive.
I think its great that Mac OS X is portable enough that it can run on 2 chip architectures. I hope this is something that isn’t lost. I also think it speaks highly of Apple that they’ve transitioned from one chip architecture to another, navigated a massive change from OS 9 to OS X, and they’re going to do the chip thing again.
Ultimately, I look for a couple things in my computing experience, and these things have kept me on a Mac, and will most likely continue to.
- Menu bar at the top of the screen, not at the top of each window.
- Unix command line (new addition with OS X)
- Launchbar (OS X)
- The Omnigroup (OS X)
- General ease of use (this has certainly evened out with Microsoft in the last 5-6 years).
I want my next computer to run OS X. Who cares what chip is in it?
1 I guess it’s kind of like an RX-8 and an S2000. The fact that the RX-8 has a rotary engine certainly is cool, especially since it goes to 9000 RPM. The tech nerd in me can appreciate the fact that while 99% of cars on the road use piston engines, here is a car that uses something different and as a result, is able to do something pretty impressive. Of course, the S2000 engine isn’t a rotary, goes to 9000 RPM, and gets better mileage. If my goal is to use the oddball technology, then I’d go with the RX-8, but if it’s to have a car that I can abuse the engine up to 9k on the tach, then maybe the S2000 is a better idea with it’s superior mileage. For me, I just want OS X.