Why the move to x86?

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by howesey, Dec 4, 2005.

  1. howesey macrumors 6502a

    Dec 3, 2005
    Being in contact with a lot of developers from companies such as Intel, why has Apple decided to migrate to the x86 platform?

    Speaking to some computer technologists, x86 platform is finding it hard to develop any more. Pentium is at its limits, pretty much like G5. Intel is busy developing new platforms, as they know x86 cannot go any further. Intel almost never released the Pentium 4 as they thought it wouldn’t work. Why is Apple going to take a gamble into an aged platform?

    Why not look into things such as Cell like the new PS3. It is based on PPC line in some respects, and made by IBM.
  2. kronos2611 macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2004
    I suspect it's along the lines of Apple's continuing transition from 'different' to the norm. PCI, USB, IDE then S-ATA have all been a step towards making the Mac platform as similar to the Wintel platform as possible. So far, it's been great and meant cheaper components for us without any great loss.

    At the end of the day, if the platform is made cheaper then that can only be a good thing (so long as there is no loss in quality or performance along the way!)

    The cost to developers - now that could be a different kettle of fish all together...
  3. Dont Hurt Me macrumors 603

    Dont Hurt Me

    Dec 21, 2002
    Yahooville S.C.
    Not another Mac/Intel switch thread! Arghhhhhh!........................
  4. Eluon macrumors regular

    Apr 14, 2005
    Spring, Texas
    While agree another intel/powerpc debate thread is exhausting, please note the OP rank and amount of posts. He/she may not know anything about the forum features and methods.
  5. aquajet macrumors 68020

    Feb 12, 2005
    I recall Jobs mentioning something about this, but decided against it because the Cell wasn't really suited for usage in a personal computer.
  6. xinxin macrumors member

    Apr 13, 2005
    Melbourne, Australia
    Apple is not the single one change to x86

    Sun system already shipped both sparc CPU machine and x86 based machine.

    The question is, will apple make both CPUs? or they will abandon PPC one day?:rolleyes:
  7. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    yes jobs already said that the tranistion would last up through 2007 and then be complete sometime that year. so they will be dropping the PPC chips in time completely.
  8. Lacero macrumors 604


    Jan 20, 2005
    The WWDC 05 Keynote pretty much laid it bare. Apart from the fact the PowerPC chips from IBM couldn't get past 3.0 ghz and running too hot for laptops, Apple saw Intel's roadmap and knew it was the future.

    Had to do something with performance unit per watt, something Intel excelled at. Plus, being able to run Windows software makes a Mac more attractive to a switcher and is part of Jobs' grand plan to crush Microsoft.

    Here's to the Crazy Ones [​IMG]
  9. steve_hill4 macrumors 68000


    May 15, 2005
    NG9, England
    If intel make a transition of their own away from the traditional x86 processors, Apple could now follow, (even if that did mean yeat another upheaval). By sticking with PPC, they would have been placing their future in the hands of a processor that seems to have stagnated completely. The intel roadmap looks promising, but is obviously not guaranteed.

    Apple may have taken a gamble, but they aren't stupid. Intel are slowly switching to 64 bit and dual/quad and more cores than you could shake a banana at. Apple obviously saw their development as the one which fit their future plans the best too. Remember, Steve Jobs mentioned he had considered both AMD and Cell, but AMD was too power hungry and Cell was too specialist and not suited for home or mobile computing. He chose the best of what there was out there, and the one with the most promising future.
  10. savar macrumors 68000


    Jun 6, 2003
    District of Columbia
    There are lots of reasons. First and foremost is IBM. The whole industry is at a roadblock, but IBM hit it about 2 years ago. It was particularly embarassing for Apple because Jobs promised 3 Ghz G5s and they never came around. Even today they still aren't making them. And Apple doesn't think IBM has the roadmap to put things back on track.

    You're right about x86. Intel is also at a roadblock with x86. However, Intel has finally decided to drop the "megahertz myth" and focus instead on maximizing performance per watt. Apple has looked at their roadmap and decided that they are going to be shooting past IBM in the near future. (Ie. 2006). I think Intel has some great stuff in the pipeline.

    Another factor, as somebody else pointed out: not being "different" anymore. By using an industry standard architecture, Apple weathers semiconductor industry storms the same as any other computer manufacturer. But with a Motorola (now Freescale) or IBM, if either of these niche companies has a hiccup, Apple sees red. Its happened quite a few times over the last 15 years: supply constraints, lagging technology, etc. In this new scenario, if Intel has huge problems then sure Apple may still suffer, but at least they're suffering right beside Dell, HP, Gateway, etc.

    A very limited factor is also binary compatibility. They will probably sell a lot more machines (I'm thinking especially laptops) if there is a compatibility layer for running Windows applications. I don't think Apple cares much about this (they are a hardware company after all, the OS is just intended to help sell hardware), but I think a decent chunk of their consumers do, and so that certainly doesn't hurt them.

    As for the Cell, its really not a general purpose processor. In order to cram a bunch of cores onto one die, they took out a lot of the stuff that makes a modern processor "modern". The cell doesn't support out of order execution (OOE), for example, which is where a processor takes an incoming instruction stream and reorders the instructions so that all functional units are kept as busy as possible. In the cell, the onus is moved to the developer to keep all functional units busy by writing their code as such. (Actually, the onus is hopefully shifted to the compiler...this will be part of the test for how well XBox 360 and PS3 succeed: how well do the compilers hide the processor idiosyncracies from the developers?) The cell also has poor branching speed -- not sure why exactly but I think it has to do with the multiple caches. The cell should be great for certain kinds of software, however, kind of a like a souped-up MMX or Altivec. Video encoding/decoding, mathematical transforms of huge models, real-time filters/effects, etc. should run really nicely on Cell. Its not far fetched to think that in a few years PCs will have something like a Cell on board to use for operations like that. But the Cell won't be the CPU either.

    Also, I don't believe the Cell is based on PPC, nor is it manufactured in large part by IBM. It's a Sony design. IBM is making a specialized PPC multi-core for the XBox 360...is that what you're referring too? It suffers from the same performance caveats as the Cell and is not a general purpose CPU either.
  11. Meyvn macrumors 6502

    Feb 3, 2005
    Additionally, using the same processing architecture may serve to finally put Apple into perspective as a HARDWARE company. If they ARE using the same hardware as all the MS/Linux powered computers (and are CAPABLE of running Windows, even), I think it may finally serve to put this ridiculous "we're at war with Microsoft" idea to rest. Apple is a hardware company. It's one hardware company. Of COURSE its market share is going to be significantly smaller than Microsoft, because Microsoft allows any manufacturer in the world who springs up to use their Operating System, and they like it that way. Apple is a competitor for Toshiba, Sony, and Gateway, not Microsoft. OS X is a selling POINT, not the item meant TO sell.
  12. londonweb macrumors 6502


    Sep 14, 2005
    I don't know whether or not this is true, but I heard that one of the big reasons was that the G5 processor runs very hot and requires a lot of cooling- they tried and just couldn't find a way to make the things work in notebooks- anyone who's been practically scalded by the bottom of their powerbook will know that they can't afford to let them get any hotter than the G4 already does. Apparently Intel are streets ahead in terms of mobile processing, and that's why we'll be seeing them in powerbooks first and foremost...
  13. Mikael macrumors regular

    Aug 4, 2005
    Gothenburg, Sweden
    Apart from the obvious advantage of faster and cooler mobile solutions, there's another huge one aswell:

    The x86 CPU market is very competitive between AMD and Intel, which means that the hardware evolution never stagnates. This will ensure a constant stream of new and faster products, which has not really been seen recently in the Apple camp.

    The move to Intel also, indirectly, give Apple another large source for chips, namely AMD. Even though I'm sure Apple will keep to Intel for quite some time, they'll atleast have the possibility to drop AMD chips in their computers whenever they feel like it. And that's a good thing.
  14. maestro55 macrumors 68030


    Nov 13, 2005
    Goat Farm in Meridian, TX
    This is moving forward to Apple, but for those who say that Apple is a hardware company and that OS X is not the big selling spot for them, I have always thought otherwise. OS X is a great operating system, and I think a lot of people paid the extra bucks for the PPC hardware in order to run OS X. The switch will be a great marketing move for Apple, but I still have my doubts. There won't be much after this that sets Apple apart from Toshiba, Gateway, and Dell. It will be the OS that sets them apart, and we can only hope that it the OS that is selling.
  15. Mikael macrumors regular

    Aug 4, 2005
    Gothenburg, Sweden
    The CPU is transparent to the end user anyway. What matters is performance and there shouldn't be much doubt that this move will be good for Mac performance.
  16. portent macrumors 6502a

    Feb 17, 2004
    Summarized version:

    PowerPC: Good performance on the desktop (G5) but weak mobile/low power offerings. "Mobile G5" no faster than G4.

    Cell: Not optimized for general-purpose computing. No mobile option.

    SPARC: No serious mobile option. Throughput good, but compute performance middling.

    MIPS, PA-RISC, Alpha: Essentially dead.

    Itanium/IA-64: No serious mobile option. Requires sophisticated compiler optimization to achieve competitive performance.

    AMD x86: Excellent desktop and mobile chips, but company lacks the resources of Intel. Will be trivial to adopt once transition to Intel x86 is complete.

    Intel x86: Strong mobile chips. Company has extensive research into compilers, optimization, "platforms" and supporting chipsets, large manufacturing capacity, and name recognition.
  17. ll350 macrumors member

    Oct 23, 2004
    Chapel Hill, NC
    I think that it was a mutually benefical deal

    For Apple, they get a steady supply of cutting edge chips at reasonable prices.

    When I say cutting edge, some people may say, "They're no longer cutting edge, cause AMD is faster, cheaper, etc." Well, I think that Intel has always been more interested in adding new and innovative features to their hardware, that a lot of people have seen as marketing gimmicks, since the performance has fallen behind AMD recently.

    For example the new Viiv technology, their virtualisation technology, etc.

    So what exactly is Intel going to get that it won't get from any Upscale PC models like Dell XPS, or Sony Viaos? Well, I think that Apple's software will finally give the intel chips the chance to shine. I mean, Microsoft's software, while it has been optimized primarily for Intel chips, it has had to preserve compatibility with old chips and hardware, as well as support AMD and other competitors CPUs. Since Apple's new hardware will only be running on Intel's newest technology, it would be possible to optimize the software to run very well using the specific technologies Intel uses.

    Good bye headlines like this:
    AMD annihilates Intel in dual core benchmark tests
    Hello headlines like: "Mac-Intel platform best computing setup EVER!!!!"
    "Combination of Apple elegance and Intel Horsepower Blows away competition" (note: Those were imaginary headlines)

    Intel was fooling the PC buying public for years by selling ships with higher Megahertz/Gigahertz ratings than AMD's CPUs but after using this trick for at least a decade, in the last year AMD has been outselling Intel repeatedly, with the most recent reports in November stating that AMD outsold Intel again. All this despite the fact that AMD had few deals with Computer Manufacturers like Dell to include their CPUs in the Computer they built.

    Until last month when this happened:
    Dell is selling AMD chips. But why?

    I'll save you the trouble of having to actually read: The answer is simple, Customer Demand. People have finally started realizing that Intel technology was *effectively* inferior. The one thing that has been helping Intel out so far has been the popularity of the Centrino Mobile computing platform, since it finally allowed PC laptops to have run times that were competitive to Apple *books.

    It almost seems like a side effect, but the Pentium M's also perform about as good as the Pentium 4 Desktop Chips. So Intel Decided to abandon the Pentium 4 Netburst Design and throw all their effort into the creating a Desktop Chip from the Pentium M, one that they hope will be able to make people forget about AMD.

    Since Apple only has to optimize their code for the current generation that Intel is bringing out, I think that people are going to be very surprised at the outcome.

    I know it may seem that I'm saying going with intel was a bad decision, but I don't mean to imply that Intel Chips are inferior to AMD's. Maybe they are, maybe not. But Intel has been wandering in the innovation wilderness for a while now. Like everyone else in the PC world. Microsoft hasn't put out anything revolutionary for Consumers in a while. I'm sure they have some good ideas floating around their campus, but they're lacking a good implementation. And while Apple may be known for their innovation, they are really masters of implementation. The Intel decision allows them to continue that process, and it's in both Apple's and Intel's interests that the new Intel Macs are the best computers available. With Intel they get cutting edge technology, just like IBM, Except now they don't have to worry about supply shortages or the problem of hitting performance targets. If IBM didn't get the G5's to 3 GHz, small problem for IBM, BIG problem for Apple. If Intel doesn't get their processors to 3GHz, BIG problem for Intel. It'll be a problem for Apple to, but nothing they haven't dealt with before. Oh wait, what's that over there? It's a bunch of better performing x86 chips in the AMD product line? Problem Solved.

    I honestly don't think IBM is even remotely concerned about losing Apple's business. IBM is making the Chips for All Three Video Game Consoles. That would have dwarfed the number of chips sold to Apple anyway, and I think Apple, rather S. Jobs knew that he'd have to spend another few years explaining why the Power Macs hadn't hit 3 Ghz yet, especially since IBM is Making Multi-Core 3.2 Ghz chips for Microsoft's Xbox 360.
  18. Morn macrumors 6502

    Oct 26, 2005
    I can quite easily see why Apple picked Intel, one word, Yonah, a low power dual core CPU!
    The AMD Turion 64 though stands up well to the Pentium M for typical useage due to AMD's excellent power idling technology even though on full load it uses more power, but it's a single core chip and I'm not sure what AMD"s short term plan for a laptop dual core chip is, Intel will have Yonah ready for start of 2006. AMD is still a year or 2 away from having a true Pentium M killer, but it's in their business plan. For now they dominate the performance on desktop chip, Athlon X2 is the fastest CPU around, with Intel probably 3rd behind G5 dual cores. But the switch is not about desktop CPU's, the G4 desperately needs replacing, and to get the G5 down to the power levels of the G4, makes it actually perform no better than the G4.
    G5 is a good CPU that effectively keeps up with x86 chips though nor does it offer any advantage over them. It's about laptop chips though, or as Jobs says power per watt, Apple needs fast powerbooks. Intel switch will bring them up to the performance level of a powermac. And the powermacs are going to be running conroe CPU's probably, Intel's replacement for the Pentium 4 which should be really competitive with AMD.
    Aside from factors of x86 simply being much more attractive to potential switchers. I mean, the thing about typical pc users is the way they tend to think is that if it's not x86 it's not a computer.

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