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Apple’s Talks with Intel

My opinion piece on the WSJ’s report that Apple is in talks with Intel over plans to use x86 chips in the Mac is up at eWeek.com. Assuming the reports are true (and this is the WSJ, so I don’t doubt them) I suspect that some of the assumptions that people have made about what the companies are up to are well wide of the mark.

First of all, I don’t think the assumption that Apple is overly concerned about the pace of upgrades for the PowerPC 970 (G5) are accurate. Since mid-2003, the G5 has moved from 2GHz to 2.7GHz, which, while missing the promised 3GHz mark, is better than Intel’s work on the Pentium 4, which has gone from 3.2GHz to 3.7GHz in the same period. Yes, it would have been nice – at last – to have equivalent clock speeds to Intel, but they’re close enough to make little different, and in terms of performance, the G5 is a close match to the Pentium 4.

What has been disappointing has been the lack of a low-power G5 for use in portables, and I think this is the area where Apple has been working with Intel. PowerBooks are a huge revenue stream for Apple, second only to the iMac (and possibly better, given that the “iMac” heading bundles in both eMac and Mac mini sales). With G4 at a dead-end, the only game in town is Intel – and the company’s specialization in mobile chips also explains why Apple is talking to it, rather than AMD, which would, as my colleague David Coursey notes, would be a much better fit for Apple on the desktop side.

Then, of course, there’s the possibility that the story has something to do with the infamous Apple Tablet PC. Either way, it looks like the next few months could be very interesting.

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  • http://www.nomorestars.com/ra30/archives/2005/05/eh_apple_going.html Random Access 3.0

    Eh? Apple going Intel? I think not.

    (Take 2, internet hiccup wiped my first posting. Make sure I use a posting client from now on) So, now it’s been about 24 hours since all the fervor started regarding Apple talking to Intel about Chips (Thanks WSJ) Which…

  • John Konopka

    I’m deeply skeptical that Apple would do that except under dire circumstances. More likely they are talking to Intel about the ARM processor for an upcoming iPod with video capabilities.

  • Electric Monk

    Using the two processors would be just as bad as switching everything over to one. While OS X and (possibly) some of Apple’s own apps could be ported over fairly easily, most of the independent developers would not be willing to support both PPC and x86. Intel would not be good thing for Apple.

    As to the rumor, Apple uses Intel chips in other things (Xserves) and Intel makes chips other then x86’s – ARMs for example.

    If Apple needs a new laptop processor (and they do) a PPE or two off the Cell/Xbox 360 (Cell uses PPE’s and SPE’s, but is really all about the connecting bandwidth – lots of different pieces can be used. The Xbox 360 uses 3 of the Cell’s PPE’s with better VMX but probably uses a regular ElasticBus to connect everything) would do nicely.