Apple's move to Intel?

Subject: Apple's move to Intel?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 08 Jun 2005 09:07:46 -0400

Chris Christner reports: <<As of next year, Apple will begin using Intel X86 CPUs instead of IBM PowerPC. One side-effect of this change will be that Tech Writers who are still using FrameMaker won't be able to run it on the new machines.>>

This is true so far as it goes (as you note, Classic mode won't be supported), but it doesn't go far enough. My prediction: Now that Tiger (OS X 10.4) already runs on Intel chips, you'll see a simple dual-boot utility released no more than 6 months after the release of the Intel Macs that lets you boot into either the Mac or Windows environment. For that matter, expect a Linux boot option too!

I won't be the least bit surprised if this software is ready before the new Macs are commercially available. In that situation, you'll simply run the native Windows version of Frame without emulation. To wit:

<<One possible workaround to this impending problem will be to run the Windows version of FrameMaker in emulation. Now that OS X will be running on Intel X86 processors, there should be very little speed penalty when running emulators.>>

Even brilliantly implemented emulation (such as Microsoft's Virtual PC) always imposes a huge speed penalty because each instruction for a specific chip and each call to the operating system API must be translated into the corresponding instruction for another chip or OS. Gross oversimplification: This typically doubles the execution time of the emulated software (makes it run half as fast) because you potentially add one or more translation steps for every instruction.

In reality, booting directly into Windows is by far the better solution. It's possible that Apple will use proprietary support chips for its motherboard, which would require someone to write emulation code to translate standard Windows calls to Intel's support chips into the Apple equivalents, but Apple would be stupid to adopt such an approach; it's cheaper by far, and far more robust, to simply use all the existing support chips that have already been engineered and optimized for use with Intel processors. If Apple does the smart thing, there'll be little or no need for any emulation software.

When Apple releases its first dual-boot system (with the Windows side probably provided by Microsoft in the form of a streamlined and rewritten Virtual PC), I'll buy it and sell my PC. I expect a price premium of ca. US$300, which will include both the Windows licensing fee and Apple's standard "Add $200 to the price of a comparable PC because we can get away with it" markup. <g>

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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