No, The Sky Is Not Falling....


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 12, 2005
Oh, I love a good frenzy!

There is also this thread on the subject, but my own analysis follows.

The recent Macintel debate has gone perfectly mental, and I have to say I'm not surprised. If there's one thing Steve loves to do, it's scare the willies out of people and get them talking... advertising is expensive these days, even if apple's white background saves on ink.

Some perspective I think is in order... there are a number of mindless zealots scampering around venting their objections and fears in the disguise of valid opinion, and there needs to be a bit of a slap about to calm everything down.

Mind you, most people I think are happy with this and can see where this is going, but if you can't see past your nose, I thought I might spell it out.

1. The BIOS thing.

NOBODY KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO DO!!! But being Apple, you can kind of add 2 and 2.

For me, even though I know that under the hood, all computers are bit pushers, the thing that sets the tone for a session sitting at a mac is the experience. The experience is programmable, and it wouldn't matter what Apple choses to sit at 0x00000, it will pretty much be configured to set the tone for a mac experience. This means that it will chime, it will show a logo, it will detect the monitor and it's available scan settings, it will REMEMBER what resolution the monitor was last set at, and it will shower you with the love, affection and self affirmation that open firmware has faithfully serviced us with.

The first commercial macintel will probably not have either open firmware, or a standard plastic fantastic golden dragon bios... but something new from intel.

Cmd-Option-P-R will still "zap the p-ram".

2. It will just be a standard Intel PC

They will have a lot in common with standard PCs, but different types of Macs are designed for different types of applications, and each application has certain requirements which dictate what the market considers to be an edge. Apple kind of has the crown for the best video editing platform, but once upon a time SGI held that crown.... in fact in the high end they still pretty much do. The reason for this is that SGI have always had a superior architecture when it comes to moving data in huge wads to various subsystems, particularly texture mapping and other bitmap buffers.

There are a number of architectures present in current PCs AND Macs which hold them back in this respect. PCI is one of them. Blah, blah, blah, PCI Express, blah, PCI-X blah.... but in the long run it's just not going to cut it, because all these technologies are intended to do is hold out until the next generation interfaces arrive.

These interfaces will not be shared bus technologies, but based on a switched interconnect fabric... and will make a whole range of tasks damn near affordable, probably quite simple, and very, very quick.

The new generation Macs will over time incorporate these technologies in such a way as to make sense to the Apple user-base. Apple users (particularly in the high end) need more than gamers. Video is a big, huge, thing, (literally) and the next generation machines will need to accomodate a whole new subset of accelerated and distributed APIs for media production.

Remember, SGI have been making a linux machine called the Altix for some time now. It's based on Intel, but it's anything but a PC. NASA has a few... they're pretty.

3. RISC is better.

Not when it's more expensive/slower/hotter/non-existant etc.

There are ideals, and there is reality. I can totally relate to the orgasmic performance of a dual 970 machine (and the religious zealotism that goes with that - you have to justify the purchase somehow), but if it were a choice between that and a quad IA64, I know where I'd rather be. The first machines we see might even be PowerBooks, and they will probably be Pentium-Ms.

Anyway... when was the last time you fired up your Athlon, IA64 or P4 and thought, y'know, this just doesn't feel as smooth as my RISC based machines? For me it was 1995.

4. Transition worries.

I really don't think that Apple would get this wrong a second time. In Steve's keynote, he was pretty acidic about the transition to PPC, and I have to totally agree with that sentiment. I still have my Quadra - just in case.

This transition has been pretty much planned from day one as an option, and the writing would have been on the wall the day Steve came back from his 40 days in the desert. One could argue that the writing was on the wall way before then. Anyone remember the Rhapsody x86 version? This is not new.

I think if you look at what's been going on behind the scenes, Apple have probably wanted to do this for a while, but their hardware engineers have probably a lot more invested in PPC than warranted the change, and to change BOTH the OS and the hardware at the same time would have had him impaled.

Rosetta is the key, and probably the last thing they needed in order to make the transition possible. People need to know that they can have at least some kind of smooth transition.... there will probably be some Altivec problems, but hey, if you're relying that heavily on Altivec based optimisations, chances are you have a pretty current app, and will have a universal binary ready before you can sing "a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down".

Benchmarks aren't really going to give an indication at the moment of what's going on with these machines. Pretty much all the software you're going to run is eventually going to be universal binaries, and even if Rosetta has to be called for PPC binaries, most of the native API stuff won't actually be emulated anyway.


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 12, 2005
5. Markets, markets, markets.

This is all about moving boxes. Most mac users THINK they're going to hold off for the moment, and some may. But in the long run, these things will rush out the door. In the short term, most people that really want a Mac will get one, regardless of the chip it runs on.

There are a number of reasons for this, primarily, the rest of Apple's technology assets. Recently I fitted out a few video edit suites, and I thought that there was no way in hell I could afford Macs... but actually, because of the leveraged prices of Apple's video applications, (not to mention some kick ass 3rd party video boards), they turned out to be the cheapest turnkey solution by a mile.

It's no secret that most people buy a Mac not because of the box but because of the OS and the applications. In many sectors this is true, but I'm betting Apple could do with more markets.

Even if you do buy a DP G5 two days before the 2007 WWDC (you goose!), the multiple target environment courtesy of gcc means your PPC will be able to run universal binaries years in the future... even if the developers haven't seen a PPC mac in years. In the unix/linux world, cross platform compilations and even distributed cross platform compilations are commonplace.

6. OS X on Dell/HP/Asus/Tyan(ooh) etc.

Never say never.

Most people in the industry know that a good pirate software community means sales down the track. Windows would not be where it is in the marketplace if it wasn't so unbelieveably obtainable. Neither would Linux, and the success of both in the desktop and server markets respectively is due to just that... obtainability.

Most succesful applications on the market have managed to gain a foothold because they are pretty much obtainable for non-commercial/educational use illegally or even legally at no cost. When purchasing time comes around, the applications which win are the ones that people are familiar with and trust.... this is the law of the jungle, love it or hate it.

The buzzword for this decade is "Developers". Developers decide things... because the investment we make in an architecture (and all the related libraries, toolkits and gizmos) has to usually last a very long time. It's no surprise then, that the first pretty open offering of Apple's Intel product goes to developers. If all accounts are to be believed, then this developer box (which will be nothing like the real thing) is just a vanilla Intel PC.

Why would they take the risk?

There is probably a modified BIOS, which contains some secret (i.e. written in neon letters 40 meters high) nugget that the 10.4 builds check will for. Will it be possible to download a torrent version, and with a small patch, run it on some standard intel hardware??


Microsoft's entire office suite, including SQL Server 2000 and Server 2003 are available in 6 MONTH enabled evaluation licenses. You do the math... Steve might have well said "over the top boys, for god and country!".

In one foul swoop, Apple has just pretty much granted a renegade developer license to anyone with access to an affordable (albeit pretty specific) PC. Suicide on the one hand, but sheer genius on the other, and pretty much the move most people with a clue were expecting.

This is probably a temporary grace though. Once the commercial Macs appear, the protection will probably become harder to bypass as it will undoubtedly be tied to some specific Intel jiggery pokery. Enough time for the industry to do some navel gazing and increase their emotional attachment though.

It will probably not run on AMD though... if for no other reason other than very few AMD boards will have the right video chipsets.

The future is unclear as to how Apple will handle the OEM situation. It is likely that this is what it has in mind, however it needs to make sure it has enough of the OS market secured before it can sacrifice it's own hardware sales. The PPC cloning experiment was handled exceptionally badly, and Apple needs to have tight control over who makes legitimate machines for its OS.

The "Apple is a hardware/software company" arguments really depend on the weather (they are in fact a "Technology" company), but consider why it is that Microsoft's business is so profitable. It sells a 25c CD and a 10c printed booklet for a few hundred bucks. Apple on the other hand sells brushed aluminium custom architected machines with cutting edge technology and a wicked design ethic to a select few for a few thousand.... an undesireable model I'm sure.

It's more complicated than glossy widgets of course... there's the whole ecology of developer tools (Java and SWT in particular), 3rd party tools, databases, O/R mappers, media libraries and god knows what else to factor into the strategy. The more OS X environments Apple has in the hands of developers, the more these tools will begin to work together to help development decisions to fall in their court.

OS X was designed to work on everything. Steve's keynote statistics on market share was there for a reason. iPod market share is dominant, and the message is clear. Apple indends to position the OS X market in a similar way.

Imagine a world where Dell/HP and yay, even IBM machines are actually modelled after an Apple boilerplate? I mean, it's what I think the world should have looked like a decade ago, but when I boot my PC I still get a beep, 5 pages of 80x25 and a boot screen that makes me want to puke.

We just got one step closer to that world.... woot!

7. Apple/Intel will Merge

Cringely is a loon. The soul of Apple is Apple... I doubt it's for sale (unless maybe they offer a doughnut).

Cringely is right about one thing though... this is squarely a tactic from Apple and Intel aimed at Microsoft. You can do your part by bying one ;)

the future

macrumors 65816
Jul 17, 2002
Great summary. I agree with everything. This should be a sticky, or an automated response to every "the sky is falling" post on macrumors.


macrumors 603
Jul 17, 2004
The Rosetta info was interesting, but I wonder: Does it go PPC->x86 and x86->PPC or just one way? I'm not sure and I don't want to spread FUD.


macrumors G5
Jun 6, 2003
Solon, OH
This is excellent work - I agree 100% with what was posted. It's about time we got some sensible information. It's even more amazing (to me, at least) that this came from a member that's relatively new to the forums.


macrumors G4
Mechcozmo said:
The Rosetta info was interesting, but I wonder: Does it go PPC->x86 and x86->PPC or just one way?
From what I've read, it's one way PPC -> x86

Presumably partly to encourage developers to create universal binaries rather than Macintel only with a 'rationale' of 'well, you can't expect an older machine to meet all the system requirements' and encourage new hardware sales.

Sun Baked

macrumors G5
May 19, 2002
By the way the "sky isn't falling"...

According to Altivec developers, it's either a blue ice storm or a piano. :p

But they'll either get over it, or port over to Linux for the G4 white box market.


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 12, 2005
Applespider said:
From what I've read, it's one way PPC -> x86

Presumably partly to encourage developers to create universal binaries rather than Macintel only with a 'rationale' of 'well, you can't expect an older machine to meet all the system requirements' and encourage new hardware sales.
The technology on which Rosetta is based is actually a universal translator called QuickTransit. It is available on Itanium, x86, Mips and PowerPC, and native binaries from any of those to be run on any of those ;)

Apple may very well impliment both translations... I would assume that if some developer only did an x86 port of an application, a G5 user would want that binary to run, with a message box telling them to send a rotting fish to the developer for not creating a universal binary.


Moderator emeritus
Jun 15, 2000
llamatronique said:
I would assume that if some developer only did an x86 port of an application, a G5 user would want that binary to run, with a message box telling them to send a rotting fish to the developer for not creating a universal binary.
lol if a developer makes an Intel-only build of their program, they should seriously go get some counseling. ;)