Sunday, June 05, 2005

Apple to ditch IBM, switch to Intel chips | CNET

I'll be watching with interest on Monday to see if CNET is correct that Apple plans to switch to Intel chips . But I think people are overestimating the difficulty of this move. It wouldn't be anywhere near as difficult as the transition from Motorola's 68K processor to the PowerPC. Apple's software is now based on an open source operating system, which happens to already be available on Intel's processors.

It won't be dead simple, and Steve Jobs will have a challenge to keep people like me (who planned on buying a Mac as soon as possible) from just waiting, but for most application developers it will be a relatively easy switch. They'll have to recompile, test for endian issues and rewrite any very low-level hacks. That's not anywhere near as bad as last time, when programmers were moving to a new operating system at the same time.

What's very interesting about this, if true, is that Apple is about to put the business value of open source to its first big test. The company is in its best position in a decade to take on Microsoft directly, as the behemouth makes a difficult transition to Longhorn, the next version of Windows. Because Apple built its crown jewel (Mac OS X) on an open platform, the company is able to maneuver quickly, arriving at Longhorn's destination before Microsoft.

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