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Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006

    8 June 2005, late morning

Today, Apple put out a press release I never thought I would ever see: Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006. This is a big deal—but if you aren’t particularly geeky, you can stop reading now.

My first Macintosh was a Powerbook 5300cs, which ran on a PowerPC 603e. Apple had made a big switch from Motorola 68k chips to IBM PowerPC chips in the early 90s. Ars Technica has a great write up on the history of PowerPC chips at Apple for those who are interested in such things; the article also explains some of the advantages RISC machines have over CISC machines. Intel x86 computers are all classified as CISC machines. PowerPC based computers are all RISC machines. Intel and AMD are also basically the only compaines that still make CISC computers, as they went out of vogue in the 90s.

Back when I bought my Powerbook 5300cs, RISC chips were simpler, smaller, and more energy efficient than their CISC competitors. One big advantage RISC chips had over CISC chips was that the simple instruction set on RISC machines lent themselves to pipelining to speed up the processing of instruction. Pipelining involves having the processor work on several instructions at the same time.) Nowadays, the distinction between RISC and CISC chips is very subtle; modern Intel chips do things that were the domain of RISC chips alone several years back. For example, I think most modern CISC chips will break down a complex instruction into a series of smaller instructions suitable to be pipelined. In this way they behave very much like RISC chips. Mind you, I could be talking out of my ass here.

I’m not sure how Apple will spin the change. They have spent so many years touting the advantages of their hardware as well as their software over their competitors. Their hardware advantage hasn’t disappeared, but it certainly has diminished.

Update: I’ll post links to other sources of info as I find them.



  1. Oh my! What will we ever do?! :P

  2. Any confirmation on whether its a switch to x86 or some new Intel chip? Itanium is I believe RISC. But going to x86 seems going backwards.

    But on this historic day, I have placed an order for a 15” PB. Stupid huh?

  3. I don’t know if it is stupid, since the new computers are still several years away. That said, the notebook lines will probably be the first to change. They use the older G4 chips, which I imagine Apple would be most eager to replace. I think if you need to get a new Mac, you should get one that is built with a G5 chip. (Of course, new Apps are to be built so they run native on either architecture, so the PowerPCs aren’t dead yet.)

  4. A Centrino based PowerBook is not a bad proposition.

    And my fears about software are also misplaced. Once you have a basic set, do you really need the newer versions? But surely the newer, more substantial apps would be optimized for the intel chips, no?

    And most significantly, there is Linux. It runs on PowerPC.

    BTW Ram if you find any of the technical details about the ‘Apptel’ chips let us now.

    What amazes me the most is how prepared Apple looks. And most likely they will deliver. Considering that there are no hardware updates announced (yet), they know sales will be drying up. All the more reason for them to bring out the Intel based units soonish.

  5. Cringely rehashes the most convincing reasons behind the Apple switch. Basically its all upside for Apple.

    Check the links section. It has a benchmark for the dev IntelMacs that Apple is giving aways.

  6. I don’t see any of what he’s saying happening at all.

  7. Well Apple licensing OS X to companies such as HP or Dell is unlikely to happen. He is actually playing this off from one of the oldest rumors – Intel would buy Apple and screw Micrsosoft. Of course that is unlikely. Apple wants to leverage OS X to sell its own hardware.

    The whole HP rumor comes from the fact that Carly and Steve were good friends. But Carly is gone.

    But with Steve Jobs, the unexpected is the norm.

  8. How much would it cost Intel to buy Apple? Not much.

    is a very convincing point.

  9. John Gruber basically explains why Cringely is talking out of his ass in this article: Together We Can Rule the Galaxy.

  10. Alright, I haven’t read the article but let’s not give John Gruber oracle status just yet. He was wrong on the Mac mini, wrong on the switch to Intel etc. I know, so was everybody else as well but at least when Cringley is dead wrong, he comes out and says it unlike Mr Gruber who just spins it. When was the last time Gruber actually came out and said he was “dead wrong”? Not that I don’t appreciate his broad knowledge, his strong writing skills and Mac punditry. Heck he was responsible for me even considering a Mac and eventually buying it. But let’s not just read all his words as gospel. Not yet, anyways.

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