Wednesday, June 8, 2005


(updated below)

So Apple has decided to ditch IBM and ally with Intel PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png. What's the world coming to? Has Hell frozen over PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png? It's going to be a tough transition PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png, regardless.

I'm not sure I have any new wisdom to add to what is said at the pages linked above, except to make a few minor points. (A lot of this is laid out very nicely in an (as usual) excellent Ars Technica article PastedGraphic1-2005-06-8-05-09.png. Takeaway quote: “It's yet another little thing that Macs used to do, if not always better, then at least differently than Windows PCs. Macs are now slightly less special.”)

  • Forget running OS X on Non-Apple PCs. It's just not going to happen, folks. At least not in a sanctioned way. Despite what some people have said in the past, Apple is not an OS developer that happens to sell computers. Apple's bottom line is and always has been mostly CPU sales.
  • The idea of being able to run Windows natively on a Mac is a neat idea, but ultimately mostly useless. Presuming the technical difficulties (motherboard differences, hard drive format, etc.) are overcome, all you've gained is a little cash and a little desk space (and, admittedly, a prettier office) over just buying a PC. And you lose the advantage of being able to use both at once.
  • What excites me more is the prospect of a really good Windows emulator on my Mac. Since no processor emulation is necessary, Windows apps should positively hum, making buying a separate PC pretty much unnecessary, even, hopefully, for games. And if you just have to have the latest and greatest game and it won't run fast enough under emulation, well, that's when you fall back on the dual boot model mentioned above. This might just work out really nicely. Especially for PowerBooks. Imagine being able to haul around one machine and run any program, play any game…this might be fun.
  • Neat as all this is, this is still not the CHRP PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png platform we were promised ’lo these many years ago. As I recall, CHRP was supposed to allow the running of multiple OS's simultaneously. But perhaps I'm misremembering. I do recall having great hopes for the CHRP platform, and am still sorry it died. Consistency has not exactly been Apple's strong suit. I could probably write a whole website devoted to promising technologies Apple has abandoned (oh, OpenDoc, I miss you so!).
  • I do have a couple of fears, however. As well as the Mac has been doing lately, I worry that Apple has been slowly watering down the distinctiveness of the Mac platform. For years now, Apple has been doing little things here and there to make the Mac more PC-like. You can trace it as far back as Apple changing floppy drive vendors so that the drive no longer sucked your disk out of your hand when you inserted it. OS X has several PC-like features in the interface, not least the requirement that all filenames have a damned TLE PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png on the end. And now Macs will actually have Intel Movie-5%252528dragged%252529-2005-06-8-05-09.png Inside Movie-5%252528dragged%252529-2005-06-8-05-09.png. At what point will consumers decide that it's not worth paying a couple of hundred extra for a PC with a prettier case? It's been really nice (especially since the G5 was released) gloating to all my PC friends about how much faster, particularly megahertz for megahertz, Macs are than PCs. I don't like having my gloating turned back on me. Could this trend lead to the homogenization—nay, the commoditization—of the PC industry? The prospect doesn't frighten me as much as it once did. Admittedly almost entirely thanks to Apple, Microsoft seems to have released its first decent GUI OS ever—Windows XP Pro. I've used it (though not extensively), and it's not half bad. Not good enough, no, but it seems consumers are finally starting to demand something resembling elegance in their mainstream OS's. Add that to the downright cool-looking boxes companies like Alienware PastedGraphic14-2005-06-8-05-09.png are putting out, and though I would still be crushed if Apple vanished or sold out, I would no longer see it as the end of the (computing) world.
  • My biggest fear, though, was summed up by phjones on MacFixIt [dead links]:
"Whilst I think Steve Jobs and the Apple crew would only act in the best interests of Mac users, I still have a knot in the pit of my stomach. From my point of view, the big question is whether Macintel machines will be able to run Windows at full speed. If they do, it's the beginning of the end for MacOS. At the moment, software producers have an incentive to produce MacOS-compatible software because it gives them access to a market that would be otherwise unavailable - admittedly some companies feel the market is too small but that's their decision. If Macintel machines are capable of running Windows, there will be absolutely no incentive for new companies to produce MacOS versions of their software: ‘Those Macies can just fire up Windows if they need to use our software. Ha ha ha (evil laugh).’ Inevitably, less new software will be written for MacOS and existing software will slowly drift away.

I hope this doesn't happen."

        So do I.

  • Lastly—there's something that has been bugging me for years. When the PowerPC processor first came out, basically the entire computer industry was saying that CISC PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png technology was dead. Intel was going to be able to crank out maybe a generation or two more by cramming circuits a little tighter and running a little hotter, but eventually was going to be forced to switch to RISC like the PowerPC or die. This apparently didn't happen. Does anyone know what actually did happen? Let us know.

Update: June 17, 2013

Updated or added few links, in particular changed the Ars Technica link back from to live—apparently they had taken it down, but have now put it back up. Sadly, they have removed the accompanying discussion forum PastedGraphic14-2005-06-8-05-09.png (that was still up after the original article was first taken down); there was a lot of good stuff on there, and only has the first page. Also: Ausmac PastedGraphic14-2005-06-8-05-09.png is dead? ☹

I have somewhat more to say on some of the issues raised in this post in Leopard=Windows? In particular, my understanding of Economics has matured.

1 comment:

Calion said...

This whole CHRP/Macintel thing deserves a little more comment. One of the things I was most excited about with CHRP was the ability to run Windows programs on the Mac. Not because I myself wanted to do so--I really didn't care--but because I felt it would remove a serious obstacle for PC users considering getting a Mac. They would be able to keep their often considerable prior investment in PC software, and still get all the benefits of having a Mac.

So what changed? Why is the thing I was most excited about with CHRP the very thing I am most fearful of with Macintel?

Well, "what changed" is the right question here. A lot has changed. First, the Mac was far more distinctive in 1995 than it is in 2005. Let's face it: Windows programs were downright ugly back then. Any user (I felt) booting up a Windows program on his beautiful Mac would have an immediate feeling of "ugh." This would demonstrate once again how much better and nicer the Mac is, and probably pursuade him to upgrade to Mac-compatible applications as soon as he could. But this is no longer true. Windows XP apps are, well, actually pretty in some ways, and interface standardization has improved drastically on the PC in the last ten years. Also, Apple has been letting its Human Interface guidelines slip. The current Mac OS (X) is no longer the most user-friendly OS in the world--that honor still belongs to Mac OS 9, although X is getting better. Add in often-ugly Java and UNIX apps and generic ports (Neverball is an excellent example), and the Mac no longer has the absolute purity of interface design that it once had.

Second, computers are a lot cheaper now. It's no longer a big deal to buy a second computer and hook it up to your current setup with a KVM switch. So while running Windows apps on your Mac might be a draw for some PC users, it is no longer the compelling motivator it once was.

So ultimately, instead of bringing PC users into the Mac world as I had hoped CHRP would do, Macintel threatens to water down the distinctiveness of the Mac still further, lessening its appeal for both developers and users.

Still, pretty much everything Jobs has done since he came back to Apple has worked, so maybe I should just have some faith.

We'll see.