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Apple Hedges Its Bet on New Intel Chips 334

Corrado writes "The Mercury News is reporting that Apple is still planning to use PowerPC chips well into 2008 for its low end and portable systems. Does this increase the "warm fuzzes" for the Intel move? More information from TheStreet and lots more links from Google News."
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Apple Hedges Its Bet on New Intel Chips

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  • Support? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oculus Habent ( 562837 ) * <{moc.liamg} {ta} {tnebah.suluco}> on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:46AM (#13427871) Journal
    Has anyone ever heard of support? Apple may need the occasional extra lot of processors for years to come to support their existing support contracts.
    • killjoy. (Score:5, Funny)

      by tubbtubb ( 781286 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:54AM (#13427971)
      Of course, but you're missing the point.

      This is a perfect opportunity to blather on with uninformed speculation, rumors, pipe dreams of dual core Antaries laptops, etc. . .
    • Re:Support? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:55AM (#13427983)
      Of course I know what "support" is. After all, my company pays a whole lot of money to have Microsoft tell us to call Dell, and Dell tell us to call Microsoft...
    • Re:Support? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Saven Marek ( 739395 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:55AM (#13427985)
      > Has anyone ever heard of support? Apple may need the
      > occasional extra lot of processors for years to come to support
      > their existing support contracts.

      That is one possibility. What is annoying is that the slashdot summary says this:

      The Mercury News is reporting that Apple is still planning to use PowerPC chips well into 2008 for its low end and portable systems.

      when the article actually says this:

      Freescale agreed to supply PowerPC microprocessors for orders placed through Dec. 31, 2008 -- a year beyond Apple's planned transition to the Intel chips.

      and from apple & freescale itself:

      "Freescale (is) to fill any orders Apple places over the next three years. Apple is under no obligation to purchase Freescale microprocessors other than work in progress that was in place at the time the agreement was executed."

      So suddenly "freescale is bound to fill any orders apple may or may not need to place over the next 3 years" becomes "Apple will be making G4 laptops until 2008"

      Rubbish as spculation gets piled on top of speculation. It stinks something bad when basic reporting gets errors confounded one upon top of another
  • What? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by doormat ( 63648 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:47AM (#13427888) Homepage Journal
    Steve said low end items were the first to go (mini, iBook, etc). What the hell are they talking about.
  • by boomerny ( 670029 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:48AM (#13427896)
    Apple is just covering their bases. This is merely a safeguard, not an indication that the move is behind schedule.
    • by mattyohe ( 517995 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .ehoy.ttam.> on Monday August 29, 2005 @12:17PM (#13428152)
      Exactly.. People are still buying computers with a 3 year coverage of apple care... They are indeed covering bases...
    • come on down! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by itomato ( 91092 )
      They need a piece of news to keep people interested in PPC Apple products.

      Been to Fry's since the announcement? No electricity in the air.. Just a bunch of high-priced, under-equipped machinery.

      Those G4 iBooks won't sell themselves, especially not when they are presumed to be the last of the breed. Who wants that?
  • by tubbtubb ( 781286 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:50AM (#13427916)
    Why doesn't apple just continue to use both architectures?
  • Warranty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rainbird98 ( 186939 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:50AM (#13427923)
    This has nothing to do with the change over to Intel. Apple needs to support the warranty its existing base of G4 Macs for at least three years.
  • by bstarrfield ( 761726 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:50AM (#13427926)

    Entirely outside the ADC NDA...

    If you take a look at Apple's developer tools [] - specifically, XCode 2.1 and above, you'll find that building binaries for both platforms is fairly easy. I think that Apple not only wanted to allow developers to build binaries for Intel and PPC, but to allow itself some time for the transition. Apple hasn't locked itself into a position where it must switch to Intel on a certain date. This is a good thing.

    Really, if we can consider Mac OS X as simply OpenStep 4 (or whatever), then the CPU - to a very large extant - becomes just another part of the machine. With the exception of low level hardware driver experts, do you really care what bridge / Firewire / USB chip is used? Think the same way about the CPU, and you have Apple's apparent perspective on using Intel chips - the OS is fairly independant from the CPU, the developer tools can target multiple platforms, and consumers really won't have too much to worry about.

    • That's not what the deal is. Apple isn't hedging its bets. From the various articles: " Apple Computer Inc. said it has an option to keep buying microprocessors from Freescale Semiconductor Inc., three months after saying Macs will switch to Intel Corp. chips next year." Apple has negotiated for an option to buy the processors, and there is no set number of processors they will buy. Freescale just agreed to supply whatever Apple orders for the next three years. Apple could order 0. Apple could order
    • "If you take a look at Apple's developer tools - specifically, XCode 2.1 and above, you'll find that building binaries for both platforms is fairly easy."

      If you don't feel the need to do testing on both binaries...
  • Hello bloat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:51AM (#13427927)
    So presumably we will again have an extended transitional period where Mac binaries have x86 and PPC code rolled together. I wonder how big an OS X Office install will be now.
    • I would expect that software makers should provide universal binaries for several years because the Macs currently being sold still need updated software from time to time. It would be silly for the third party publishers would require a switch to a new machine arch just to use the latest version.

      Maybe the smarter installers will install only the necessary binaries.
    • Re:Hello bloat (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hunterx11 ( 778171 ) <> on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:58AM (#13428001) Homepage Journal
      Hard disk space is cheap. RAM is less cheap, but having twice as much code and then only loading half of it into RAM doesn't increase bloat at all.
      • Re:Hello bloat (Score:5, Informative)

        by nsayer ( 86181 ) <nsayer AT kfu DOT com> on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:03PM (#13428495) Homepage
        twice as much code

        Actually, since we're talking about CISC vs RISC architectures, you should find that the x86 binaries will be a bit smaller than the PPC ones. So perhaps the code portions will wind up being 175% the original size. But a sizable portion of a typical Cocoa app consist of the NIBs and other non-executable resources, so you might find that a fat executable may take only an additional 50% or maybe even 25% on the disk.

        Of course all of this applies only to Cocoa (will they even support Carbon-based Intel binaries? I believe they've already said they won't support Classic on Intel). Java apps won't care at all what CPU is running them.

        • Re:Hello bloat (Score:3, Informative)

          by dgatwood ( 11270 )
          Carbon != Classic. Classic is an environment for running old apps that were never made fully Carbon compliant. Carbon apps run natively without that virtualization environment.

          And yes, Carbon-based binaries are supported. Did you think Photoshop was magically rewritten in Cocoa for the demo? :-D

    • Hey codemonkeys, here's a fun project for you. Put together a couple of fat-strippers - progs that'll remove either the PPC or x86 code from fat binaries.
    • Re:Hello bloat (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mrchaotica ( 681592 )
      I wonder how big an OS X Office install will be now.
      Not much bigger, because the actual binary is only a tiny fraction of the install. Most of the space is taken up with other stuff like images and templates and whatnot.
    • In my Office 2004 install on my Mac the Microsoft Word file is 17069566. That's about 16 MB. This means that at worst, Word will use about 16 more MB on disc. Not RAM mind you.

      In fact, the size is probably smaller since only the TEXT segment is going to be duplicated. However, I'm not sure how to check this for a PEF executable.

    • Re:Hello bloat (Score:3, Informative)

      by jcr ( 53032 )
      I wonder how big an OS X Office install will be now.

      Based on how it was in NeXTSTEP, approximately 30%.

  • by bad_outlook ( 868902 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:51AM (#13427928) Homepage
    Will this be a problem for support? They'll now have to support this much more hardware, and will have to have a fork of their OS X code; or will all code be done for Intel procs now, and 'just work (tm)' via the rosetta on powerpc procs? I think they'd have to do this, but still, I think it's going to taint the marketing a bit. Still, this hasn't been done before, and it's in sits like this that Apple usually does well. As long as production can keep up...
    • or will all code be done for Intel procs now, and 'just work (tm)' via the rosetta on powerpc procs?

      I think you might have that reversed. Most Devs don'te even have a Mactel to work on. I'm sure most current stuff will still be compiled for PowerPC, and then run on Intel via Rosetta.

    • OS X has always run on x86 and PPC--it is no more "forked" than NetBSD.
    • Will this be a problem for support? They'll now have to support this much more hardware, and will have to have a fork of their OS X code; or will all code be done for Intel procs now, and 'just work (tm)' via the rosetta on powerpc procs?

      I doubt very much there is a fork in OS X. Much more likely they keep the code that absolutely must know things like sizeof and endianness to an absolute minimum, and just use utility routines to convert architecture dependent data formats to platform independent formats

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:51AM (#13427937) Journal
    I've not R'd TFA (reg required, and all that), but this sounds a lot like the news on Think Secret [] a few days ago. In short, they have signed a deal whereby FreeScale are required to supply PowerPC chips to Apple until 2008, but Apple are not required to buy them.

    Apple have stated that the low end will switch to Intel first, so I don't really know what the basis for this `story' is. It seems much more likely that, if they are extending their purchasing options for G4s to 2008, they will stop selling G4s at the end of this year. This would then give them a supply of G4s to use in replacements until the end of the 3-year AppleCare period for the last G4 units sold.

  • Good, because (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:51AM (#13427940)
    Good, because I just plain don't want an Intel chip. I don't care if it's the future of Apple's support, I want to keep buying PPC as long as I possibly can. I don't care if you think I'm crazy or stupid. Personally I just have a whole bunch of personal Altivec code and I don't want to have to rewrite it.

    Posted as AC because every time I express that I do not want to be forced to use Intel chips in order to continue using OS X, I get screamed at for being a "zealot". I find it a bit funny that disagreeing with Apple gets you branded as an Apple Zealot now, but there it is.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I know, it's so hard to stand out and be different when Apple moves to using a mainstream CPU.

      I suggest you die your hair purple or wear a shirt with a crazy logo to assert your individuality now.

  • This is not news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MouseR ( 3264 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:52AM (#13427943) Homepage
    Apple did say the transition would take a couple of years.

    It's obvious that after the Intel bomb shell they dropped that they now need to secure supplies of current processors until the entire line has moved onto Intel.

    This is common sense. (But you don't have to expect this from news sites that report, even, that Apple might be back-tracking on the Intel switch.)
  • by autojive ( 560399 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:53AM (#13427951)
    Google Link [] and just click on the url that shows up on that page. Worked for me :)
  • by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:55AM (#13427984)
    Intel has made their whole company strategy around low power high performance chips. That was the stated reason for moving to Intel. Therefore, I would think that Portables would be the first thing to move. For example, there is no G5 portable and we've been waiting a long time for a portable with a better chip than the G4. My powerBook is getting long in the tooth, but I won't replace it with another G4 powerBook - what would be the point? - unless it quit working.

    The G5 desktops are still very fast and I could see staying with PPC there for a while, but not on portables.
    • I think they were talking about the iBooks other then the power books. If my Powerbook died right now I would probably just save some cash and switch to an iBook. But if they were a G5 or Intel based PowerBook I would go with that. The Power Book line is starting to really drag.
  • by standards ( 461431 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:57AM (#13427993)
    When an auto manufacturer ships a new engine, they don't immediately halt production of the old ones that it is destined to supplant. A phased transition is simply a reality of the manufacturing business.

    Apple doesn't have to rush out an entire new line of units in one big bang. Good engineering and facility planning take time.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      According to slashdot conventional wisdom, all car analogies suck.
      Therefore, your post sucks.
      Just kidding.
  • Lawsuits and Stuff (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Umm, for like no money, they've secured access to a chip. If they hadn't, they'd be liable to lawsuits for not securing chips in case there is a problem with the transition. CYA material, plain and simple.
  • Supply for support (Score:5, Informative)

    by Novajo ( 177012 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @11:57AM (#13427997) Homepage
    Apple has to support current computers with their Applecare program. Applesinsider has discussed that these go into 2008. So really, this is probably nothing more than the winding down period. []
  • Superb (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ericdfields ( 638772 )
    This is welcoming news to a new Powerbook owner. I needed a highly portable laptop for this upcoming semester (and into the future), and have wanted a Mac since OS X 10.0, but I was cautious about purchasing an apple product knowing that the future was headed toward intel. No one really knows how long they will keep support and software coming for PPC systems, but eventually, they will be phased out. I know people who have had their G3 and earlier Apple laptops and can still run newer software, oftentimes i
    • Much longer (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Monday August 29, 2005 @12:38PM (#13428325)
      Apple will support PPC macs in OS X probably about seven years after the last one is sold.

      That's based on older models that OS X supports today, every release it seems like back support from OS releases is about five to seven years.

      We know that not all mac will switch at once, say high-end Intel macs start coming out the year after next. That's 2007, which means there will be solid PPC support from Apple until at least 2012.

      WHat about software vendors? Well you can imagine they would have strong motivation to keep software working well on PPC macs until the percentage of Intel macs is a lot higher than PPC macs. But that will take some time, so I think in the end you'll see universal binaries from just about all Mac software makers until at least 2012 - and it costs them nothing to keep making the universal binaries if they decided to drop testing support for PPC versions, which could extend it out longer.

      In short, buy the powerbook.
  • Wrong (Score:3, Informative)

    by andyring ( 100627 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @12:02PM (#13428034) Homepage
    No, Apple does not plan to keep using G4s in the lower-end stuff. It'd make no sense. Apple is likely securing this contract so they have a supply of G4 chips for product repairs for the next three years, as AppleCare is a 3-year agreement.
  • Slightly OT (Score:5, Informative)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @12:03PM (#13428043) Journal
    But I'd like to give the /. ed's kudos for including a link to google news.

    Its amazing how most news articles will not give you the full story, or worse, you get their slanted version of events.

    Reading multiple articles (not something /.'ers are likely to do since we can't even get them to RTFA) lets you get all the facts so you can draw your own conclusions.

    Just my 2 pennies

  • Apple is not only extending the line for compatibility. If the Cell proves to be a sucesefull processor i think Apple will probably look into IBM for a nice chip contract. This way, what Apple is trying to secretly doing is to decide wich chip will target the high segment and wich one will remains for lower budget machines. Just my 2cts
  • Makes Sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @12:09PM (#13428094) Homepage Journal
    This move makes sense from the standpoint of smoothing the transition to Intel chips. It may mean additional challenges for Apple's support personnel, but the bottom line is that Apple's typical customer doesn't care what chips are in the box as long as Macs act like Macs and iPods act like iPods, etc... Apple managed the transition to PPC pretty well, so there is a good chance that they'll be okay going to Intel, afterall, there isn't any big rush to do this that I've heard about.
  • Was that not the entire point of switching? That Jobs was not pleased with the PPC options for portables?

    And what does he mean by 'low end' ? Does that mean as better PPC chips come out ( like the G6 ) they will just be ignored?

    This whole thing is rather confusing now.

    Personally, im glad to see the PPC will still be around in Apple products for a while longer, but gheesh, lets make a decision and stick with it...
  • My initial reaction to this was... Hmmm, maybe I can go ahead and make the plunge to buy that new G4 iBook

    But has anyone thought that this may have only been done to generate that very reaction. I have been holding out on purchasing an Apple because of the upcoming Intel switch. I will, again, have to wait to see what Apple is going to do...

    Note that the agreement does not require Apple to buy any addtional G4 chips

    Apple is the best computer I almost bought!

    Caveat Emptor, I say.
  • by Been on TV ( 886187 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @12:26PM (#13428220) Homepage

    Well, this is not so much about Apple hedging its bets, as it is about timing. A lot of folks anticipate an announcment of new hardware at MWSF in January. It ain't gonna happen!

    Having now seen last weeks Intel announcement, it makes me believe it is unlikely they will launch Intel based Macs with 32-bit processors. Both iMac, Pro Mac and XServe are already 64-bit and they will stay that way. Anything else would be seen as a complete failure by the market.

    For the mini and portables, the picture is a bit more tricky. From what I can gather from the latest announcements from IBM and Freescale, what I think will happen is that Apple will introduce a mini with a dual core processor from IBM perhaps even in September at MacWorld Paris, and follow up with similar announcements for the rest of the product line. Exception is of course the portables where they for thermal reasons have to stay at G4 until the switch to Intel, hence the agreement with Freescale.

    I have a little more detail about this in an article [] I wrote a couple of days ago.
  • Apple used to make and sell an Apple //e emulation card for 680x0 macs with PDS slots when they were trying to transition schools and final hold-outs clinging to old Apple II hardware to something they were more willing to produce and support.

    It appears likely that having a chip supply would allow Apple to make a G5 plugin card for new Intel Macs if some high powered hold-outs demanded G5's remain available.

    I see no concern about purchasing chips for a tech Apple claims it's dumping. It actually makes i

  • by coinreturn ( 617535 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:46PM (#13428812)
    1. Produce an Intel version of OS-X
    2. Make a pretend announcement to change over to Intel
    3. Leak the Intel version of OS-X
    4. Let Windoze users salivate over OS-X.
    5. Change back to PPC.
    6. Windoze users buy PPC Macs.
    7. PROFIT!!!
  • Apple CYA (Score:3, Informative)

    by Capt_Troy ( 60831 ) <tfandango@ y a h o> on Monday August 29, 2005 @01:59PM (#13428914) Homepage Journal
    This story is just an artifact from the announcement that Apple contracted Freescale until 2008 to provide processors. This may be simply a CYA manuver in case something goes south with the intel deal (be it delays etc).

    So I'm not sure that this means you won't get your portables until 2008, just that Apple has a backup plan in case, with intel portables in 2008 as a longest possible estimate.

  • by Enrique1218 ( 603187 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @02:32PM (#13429252) Journal
    Apple will be transitioning all their G4 product beginning in 2006. They contract Frescale till the end of 2008, which 3 years - the length of a typical applecare extended contract. So, I guess they only intend to sell these systems till the end of this year. Given the recent announcements of Intel processor lineup, I guess Apple will release new Powerbook, iBook, and mac mini's along side Intels release of dual-core and single Yonahs.
  • by Fuzzle ( 590327 ) on Monday August 29, 2005 @03:05PM (#13429606) Homepage Journal
    Ars [] has a much more thorough and thoughtful take from someone who actually follows Apple and has some common sense.

Neutrinos have bad breadth.