The Sky Fell

In shocking news revealed a whole lot of other places on the Internet, Apple will start selling Macs using Intel processors. This is from the keynote speech by Steve Jobs at the 2005 Apple WorldWide Developer Conference. This is a major and important event!

Starting in 2006, Macs will start shipping running Intel processors, and provide a transitionary period for the whole product line. One can’t help to wonder about the “supercomputer” ads Apple ran a couple of years ago…

Several components make this possible:

  • Architecture-independent design. Apple’s OS X was designed from the beginning to be platform independent. Apple’s been doing this for years with Quartz and Quartz Extreme by moving functionality from the base computer to the video card, for example.
  • XCode. XCode is a cross-compiling IDE for Mac development. Apple’s been pushing the development to migrate from MetroWorks to XCode for several years.
  • Rosetta. Rosetta appears to be what Transmeta wanted to develop: a real-time usable binary code translator. According to the keynote, Rosetta will let standard (non-Universal Binary) Mac applications work on OS X-x86. A better solution, used by IBM in their iSeries line of business computers, would be to have a thin abstraction layer. This allowed IBM to change the underlying hardware of the iSeries without user code recompilation.

Does this mean you will be able to ditch Windows and run OS X on your current computer? No. Apple already has special developer editions of the PowerMac running the Intel processor. You must be a registered Apple developer and pay $1,000 for the machine and tools to develop for the new Universal Binary format. Steve mentioned in the keynote that Apple will receive back the machines. For all intents, Apple is keeping essentially the same hardware, but adding base support for the Intel processors.

At first I thought this was a bad move on Apple’s part. But, as long as Apple pledges support to current PPC Mac owners and foster a very smooth transition, things should work out well for them.