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IBM on Apple/Intel and the G5

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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On September 11, IBM published a story on their intranet promoting their Technology Group and their relationship to Apple with regard to the PowerPC 970. This story has been made available to MacRumors.

The item offers some unique insight into Apple, and their relationship with IBM as well as Apple's thoughts on the alternative.

Of particular interest are some comments on Apple's situation and decision to use IBM's PowerPC 970 processor. According to the report, amidst the speculation that Apple would move to an Intel-based processor, Apple felt the transition would be too difficult:

While Intel is aggressive in achieving its performance and speed goals, Apple believed that using Intel would deeply affect its current customer base. Using an Intel architecture might solve Apple's short-term megahertz dilemma, but customers would have to suffer through a slow transition from PowerPC over the long term. Every existing Mac program would potentially have to be recompiled to work on an Intel platform. These massive software changes were something that Apple wanted to avoid, and IBM had the solution."

IBM's Technology Group took on the task for Apple and developed the PowerPC 970 in a 12-18 month timeframe. Beyond the PowerPC 970, IBM is committed to a long-term technology roadmap. According to the report: "IBM has committed to provide several generations of processor development to Apple over the course of five years."
 

spinner

macrumors regular
Jan 16, 2002
203
0
South Dakota
Perhaps this will finally put all of that Marklar crap to rest once and for all. Its nice to have a plan b, but intel based Macs are not going to happen.
 
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Doraemon

macrumors 6502
Aug 31, 2001
487
2
Europe (EU)
WOW.

So there was a plan to switch to Intel processors.

I mean, it made sense that Apple considered the options, but I sort of doubted that they would seriously consider moving to Intel CPUs.
Fortunately, "IBM had the sollution"!

:)
 
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Powerbook G5

macrumors 68040
Jun 23, 2003
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St Augustine, FL
I personally believe that IBM is a much more developed and technologically crucial player in the industry than Intel, anyway. I seriously cannot think of any other processor company out there with as much R&D and resources capable of giving Apple the kind of options that IBM can.
 
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Mudbug

Administrator emeritus
Jun 28, 2002
3,847
1
North Central Colorado
wow - so they did think it through...

Interesting to note the 5 year timeframe - that's good news for the solidity of the PowerPC architechture for Apple, and should dispell the rumors of Apple on Intel for a while at least.
 
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whooleytoo

macrumors 604
Aug 2, 2002
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Cork, Ireland.
Every existing Mac program would potentially have to be recompiled to work on an Intel platform.

This bit's odd. A re-compile would be the best case scenario; most software would have to be, partially to entirely rewritten, depending on whether it was Carbon or Cocoa etc.

Mike.
 
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suzerain

macrumors regular
Oct 5, 2000
196
0
Beijing, China
gee...

...nice to finally see the obvious pointed out like that. All the 'switch to Intel' idiots fueled the fire so much that this became a story, when any sane Mac watcher knew moving to Intel was pretty much out of the question.
 
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cc bcc

macrumors 6502
Jul 3, 2001
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On September 11, IBM published a story on their intranet promoting their Technology Group and their relationship to Apple with regard to the PowerPC 970. This story has been made available to MacRumors.
The item offers some unique insight into Apple, and their relationship with IBM as well as Apple's thoughts on the alternative.

Can you post the full article or is this all?
 
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Makosuke

macrumors 603
Aug 15, 2001
6,327
593
The Cool Part of CA, USA
Assuming that is accurate, I guess it answers once and for all the debate over exactly how easy a PowerPC to x86 transition would be, and it sounds like the doubters were right this time.
 
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daveL

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Jun 18, 2003
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Originally posted by whooleytoo
This bit's odd. A re-compile would be the best case scenario; most software would have to be, partially to entirely rewritten, depending on whether it was Carbon or Cocoa etc.

Mike.
Why? Just because you go to a different CPU doesn't mean you have to throw your frameworks out and start over. Apple would have (and actually did) gotten OS X and the UI framewaorks re-compiled and running on Intel. At that point, the same APIs would be available for Mac applications, which would also, obviously, be re-compiled. That's not to say there wouldn't have been some other changes involved, but certainly not an application rewrite.

Sun's code base for Solaris on Intel is identical to the Sparc code base, except at the drive/HW layer. Getting a GNU app running on both CPUs under Solaris *is* simply a re-compile.

None of this is to say that I think Apple should have gone down that road, because I absolutely think staying with PPC is the right way to go, especially now that IBM is on the scene.
 
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MadMan

macrumors member
Aug 25, 2003
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An agonizing choice...

With Moto failing to deliver on desperately needed improvements and speed ramps, it's no wonder Apple looked for alternatives. They (Apple) were getting their clocks cleaned performance wise and regardless of the "Mhz Myth" , there was no or very little movement in speed increases for Apple.

So I can see why they looked at Intel.

AND, if IBM hadn't been able (or willing) to do the 970 and future families of chips, I'd bet we might have seen a much different "G5" chip (Intel, not IBM). Because at this point, Moto is basically out of the high-end chip business.

What would our world look like then?

I'm just glad there was an IBM there, willing to do so:)

Long live the PowerPC!!

:cool:

MM
 
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Thirteenva

macrumors 6502a
Jul 18, 2002
679
0
Originally posted by daveL
Why? Just because you go to a different CPU doesn't mean you have to throw your frameworks out and start over. Apple would have (and actually did) gotten OS X and the UI framewaorks re-compiled and running on Intel. At that point, the same APIs would be available for Mac applications, which would also, obviously, be re-compiled. That's not to say there wouldn't have been some other changes involved, but certainly not an application rewrite.

I'd be careful saying with much certainty that OS X and its UI frameworks are fully functioning on an intel box. There are reports of a marklar project, yes. And even assuming this to be true, we do not know that it took a simple recompile. If apple says the transition to intel is not worth it, i trust that they've tested the possibility fairly thoroughly.
 
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freundt

macrumors member
Apr 8, 2003
87
0
Seattle
one thing to remember:

Motorolla also had a 5 year plan with the G series.... and look what heppened to it.

But then, Motorolla is not IBM.

_F
 
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DeusOmnis

macrumors 6502
Jul 22, 2002
258
0
Ann Arbor, MI
IBM and Apple are very similar in the way they treat R&D. Also, IBM takes pride in being able to create excellent solutions for clients. They know their name is on the processors and the success of Apple hardware will directly reflect on them. IBM will not blow off Apple, they are as concerned about the outlook of Apple as Apple is.

Intel is not Apple's *enemy*, they are just hardware makers. If Apple moved to Intel hardware it wouldnt be traitorous or anything, it would just be a good solution to Apple's hardware issues. Apple will get more attention from IBM than they would have from Intel, and IBM will create better solutions for them. Also, I think IBM may actually beat out Intel in those next 5 years as far as technology since Intel's business strategy is more short-term than long-term.

The next few years are going to be very exciting for mac users everywhere.
 
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JoeRadar

macrumors regular
May 28, 2003
153
0
Originally posted by Doraemon
So there was a plan to switch to Intel processors.
Of course. As we can all see now, especially wrt to the powerbook problems, Motorola has really dropped the ball. If IBM was not there to rescue Apple, Apple would be hard pressed right now not to switch to Intel (or AMD).

I think Apple could introduce an Intel-based system in a stealth mode (e.g., only for educational purchases, no advertising), and then after about 2 years most developers would have compiled applications for both hardware platforms. Remember -- switching from OS 9 to OS X was probably more difficult than staying with OS X and switching CPUs.

However, with the re-emergence of UNIX (Linux) apps (which the Mac can run, with a recompile :)), the release of the G5, the positive press from VaTech supercomputer, and IBM's POWER 5 waiting in the wings, I think there is much less pressure for Apple to devote many resources to an Intel-based system.

Apple is in a sweet spot in the development cycle right now, and it would be foolish to confuse the consumer by introducing a different architecture.

Thank goodness for IBM.
 
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tduality

macrumors member
Mar 11, 2003
86
0
Zurich, Switzerland
Originally posted by freundt
one thing to remember:

Motorolla also had a 5 year plan with the G series.... and look what heppened to it.

But then, Motorolla is not IBM.

_F

Most likely any company in hitech business has (or should have) a long term roadmap. It's just that there's hope that IBM once committed to something will do what it can to deliver.
 
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MadMan

macrumors member
Aug 25, 2003
77
0
Thank goodness for IBM.

I just thought of something...

Now I can root for my favorite football team (American Football, that is) and my NEW favorite CPU manufacturer all in the same line:

Let's go BIG BLUE!

:cool:

MM

PS: FYI - That's the NY (Football) Giants, just in case you were wondering ;)
 
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whooleytoo

macrumors 604
Aug 2, 2002
6,584
671
Cork, Ireland.
Originally posted by daveL
Why? Just because you go to a different CPU doesn't mean you have to throw your frameworks out and start over. Apple would have (and actually did) gotten OS X and the UI framewaorks re-compiled and running on Intel. At that point, the same APIs would be available for Mac applications, which would also, obviously, be re-compiled. That's not to say there wouldn't have been some other changes involved, but certainly not an application rewrite.

It depends entirely on the app, and how abstracted from the hardware it is. Could you emulate an AltiVec unit using SSE2? As I understand it, SSE2 and the FPU can't be used simultaneously, whereas the PowerPC FPU and Altivec can, how would you get around this?

I'd expect that performance critical apps (such as games) would require substantial re-writes, since any optimizations for Mac hardware would no longer be valid.

I'd imagine many Cocoa apps would be close to just a straight recompile, but I wouldn't be so sure about Carbon apps.

Mike.
 
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mmontano

macrumors newbie
Jan 31, 2003
3
0
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Originally posted by JoeRadar

I think Apple could introduce an Intel-based system in a stealth mode (e.g., only for educational purchases, no advertising), and then after about 2 years most developers would have compiled applications for both hardware platforms. Remember -- switching from OS 9 to OS X was probably more difficult than staying with OS X and switching CPUs.

Apple is in a sweet spot in the development cycle right now, and it would be foolish to confuse the consumer by introducing a different architecture.

Thank goodness for IBM.

Apple/NeXT/IBM has gone through the changes numerous times. Funnily enough, Microsoft is about the one who hasn't.

I used to run like many others, the pre-cursor to the Cocoa side of Mac OS X on Intel/HP-Risc and Motorola 68040. It was called NeXTStep.

NeXT even had many parts of the predecessor to Cocoa frameworks running under Windows NT of all things!

Apple and NeXT learned their lesson many years ago; as a result, the OS has essentially been divorced from the hardware for a long-time.

It just happens, as the article noted, that at this time the IBM 970 offers the best hardware proposition.

Matthew
 
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daveL

macrumors 68020
Jun 18, 2003
2,425
0
Montana
Originally posted by Thirteenva
I'd be careful saying with much certainty that OS X and its UI frameworks are fully functioning on an intel box. There are reports of a marklar project, yes. And even assuming this to be true, we do not know that it took a simple recompile. If apple says the transition to intel is not worth it, i trust that they've tested the possibility fairly thoroughly.
Whatever. I didn't say OS X on Intel was a simply re-compile, I said there was no reason applications would be much more than a re-compile. Obviously, the OS has to deal with all the underlying hardware differences, which extend beyond just the differences in CPUs.

OS X is based on the Mach micro kernel and FreeBSD, both of which already run on Intel. FreeBSD, in fact, has a reputation for being very easy to port to new hardware due to its clean hardware abstraction layer.

Even with all this said, it's still a big deal to tell all your developers, who just went through the 68k to PPC transition several years ago, that they have to move (which includes testing and distribution, not just re-compiling) their apps to yet another hardware platform. Not to mention, for some lengthy period of time, they would have to maintain PPC and Intel versions.
 
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sedarby

macrumors regular
May 29, 2002
223
0
Dallas, TX
Originally posted by daveL
Whatever. I didn't say OS X on Intel was a simply re-compile, I said there was no reason applications would be much more than a re-compile. Obviously, the OS has to deal with all the underlying hardware differences, which extend beyond just the differences in CPUs.

OS X is based on the Mach micro kernel and FreeBSD, both of which already run on Intel. FreeBSD, in fact, has a reputation for being very easy to port to new hardware due to its clean hardware abstraction layer.

Even with all this said, it's still a big deal to tell all your developers, who just went through the 68k to PPC transition several years ago, that they have to move (which includes testing and distribution, not just re-compiling) their apps to yet another hardware platform. Not to mention, for some lengthy period of time, they would have to maintain PPC and Intel versions.

Not to mention the PR nightmare of embracing Intel who they showed in an earlier ad campaign to be slow and cumbersome.
Intel would have to be a last resort. I'm not sure how fond Steve Jobs is of eating crow.

Granted the chip used could quite possibly not be a Pentium 4 but a PowerPC compatible with enhancements thereby alienating the MS loving faction.
 
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