crypto and public policy

Place Your Bets…

Filed under: General June 6, 2005 @ 1:02 pm

Alright, everyone is talking about Apple supposedly switching to Intel chips. There’s no doubt that this could be a big deal, if it is what it sounds like. There are potentially far-reaching implications to the processor platform wars, in particular what the future of computing looks like and whether users still control their own machines or are cripled with DRM at every step. Or maybe this means nothing, and it’s just a Mac enthusiast frenzy over an inconsequential decision. We’ll see.

I figured I might as well place my bet. I agree with Daring Fireball, I think the situation will turn out to be something along the lines of Intel offering a PowerPC chip, or Apple having some kind of technology up their sleeves that negates the need to port applications to the x86 platform altogether. I will be very surprised if Apple actually expects developers to recompile their code to the x86 platform.

Of course, Intel offering a PowerPC chip is not exactly trivial, given the engineering challenges and the patents IBM probably holds. On the other hand, if emulation is involved, the business situation is interesting. Microsoft is building the Xbox 360 around an IBM chip, and Intel can’t be super happy about that. Moving one giant step towards having OS X as an alternative for Intel hardware is a strong counter-punch that could scare MS a bit.

Whatever happens, this is fascinating. My bet is that the “Apple switching to Intel” rumor is only half the story, and that the other half is going to be much more interesting.

UPDATE: Looks like I was mostly wrong. Apple is indeed expecting developers to recompile their apps to x86. They claim it will be fairly easy. They have commitments from MS and Adobe to port their apps over. I am quite surprised. However, I suspect that, once again and against all odds, Jobs will pull this off.

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