Friday, June 10, 2005

All of That Foreboding Doom Stuff
Posted by Sam at 11:17 AM

I was without internet for so long during the move. It was a sad, emotionally trying time for me. No email. No news. No connection with the outside world... unless I wanted to actually venture into the outside world (*shudder*). It was painful, especially considering the bombshell that Apple dropped on Monday at the WWDC. Intel processors in Macs by 2007? WTF? And I didn't even find out until the following day. I'm slipping in my elder years. It's tragic really. But, I digress...

How do I feel about this? I'm not really sure yet. Betrayed at first. Then confused... remember when Apple bombarded us with all of those megahertz myth stories? "A 1.2 ghz G4 is just as fast as a 3.6 ghz Pentium because... velocity engine, alti-vec, blah blah blah..." So, what does that mean now? Were you lying to us, Apple? No. I don't think that I could believe that. The G3/G4/G5 versus a Pentium chip is like comparing Apples and oranges (I do have to say though, it seemed a little sketchy at the time. But, we all know about my unnatural and undying love for this product. And thus, I am more than willing to give my favorite hardware/software company the benefit of the doubt). Now that Apple machines and Windows machines will be running off of the same CPU, the playing field will be level. This will allow OS X to really shine without any uncertainty encouraged by hardware differences. Or, to be fair, maybe Windows will be the one to shine? Hahaha! Oh my... Hahaha!!! Ok, ok. Sorry... I couldn't say that one with a straight face.

I guess, as far as the Mac as a product is concerned, I am pretty excited about this. The only thing that was holding back this entire computing experience, is speed. The OS rocks. The hardware rocks. But sometimes, during certain processor intensive tasks, this machine can be a slug. Conceivably, this processor switch will solve everything.

So, it's all good, right? I'm not quite sold... yet.

Will we be able to run OS X on any ol' beige PC box? Apple says no... but it will happen. Maybe it won't be an Apple authorized thing, but it will happen. It's just a matter of time. The main hurdle in the way of migrating OS X to the PC platform is the difference in processor architecture (from my understanding, anyway). If Apple does this for us, whatever transformation is left will be easily hacked....

And this, is what I'm frightened of.

One of my favorite things about the Mac, is that Apple is the hardware and the software manufacturer. They build their components with the entire package in mind. The hardware is made for the software, and vice versa. This is so important for what makes the Mac such a solid computer. This is what makes it such a good computing environment. Everything just works. There are no surprises because Apple knows what the machine is going to be. I never boot up my Mac and find that the sound card isn't recognized, or that I don't have the right drivers for some integral piece of the system. Again, to be fair, Windows has advanced by leaps and bounds in this category... but still, there are millions of components out there whose combination makes a functioning PC, capable (in theory) of running Windows. But will it successfully? Will this motherboard be happy with this video card running this version of Windows? When I buy a Mac from the Apple store, I don't have to think about this.

I believe that this is one of the foremost contributing factors to the friendliness of the Apple experience... the idea that one buys a Mac, boots the Mac, and everything just works. I'm afraid that OS X on any self-built, beige box, PC is just going to dilute this ideal of quality.

Remember the clones (you may be too young... I am just barely old enough). For a few years in the mid-ninties, Apple licensed out their OS for use on clone computers (the companies that I can remember were called PowerComputing and Umax. This was during the time that our fearless leader, Steve Jobs, was away from Apple). Anyway, the clones sucked. They were buggy and suffered from constant driver mishaps. I remember updating the OS on a Umax machine from Mac OS 8.1 to 8.5 and rebooting only to find that NOTHING WORKED ANYMORE. The hard drives were not recognized, the cd-rom was not recognized, smoke was billowing from the back of the machine... the only thing that worked was the floppy drive. Yee-haw! I'm afraid that this is what our future will bring. (That and legions of cyborg zombies thriving in a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter... but that's a different fear for a different future.)

It really doesn't make sense for me to worry about something like this though. OS X on a generic PC box is not going to be Apple authorized... so why even fear its potential? I don't know. I just don't want my (future) Mac taken away from me.

Having said all of that foreboding doom stuff, I think (hope?) that this will actually be a good move for Apple. A faster Mac is a better Mac. If nothing else, Intel is dedicated to constantly making their chips faster and better. Apple having access to that can only be a good thing... right?

I'm curious to know what your thoughts are? Intel inside... a Mac? Good? Bad? Not really an issue?

(Also, If anyone wants to fact check this post, that would be awesome...)

Comments: 4 | Post a Comment | Permalink

Sam,
I am happy to read this post I was on vacation while this story was breaking and I was very curious to see what you thought. I am relieved by your take on the scenario, maybe I can lessen my blood oath to purchase a Mac before 2006.

Comment By TheDarkLordDerfla on June 10, 2005 12:56 PM

I would be quite happy to run osx on my pc. Well, probably dual boot until people bother bringing games over to osx. Might happen faster since it's on same platform, but even linux isn't really boomin' in the game market. There are games, but not nearly as many. Especially not native ones.

Comment By Blackwatch on June 10, 2005 2:19 PM

Could you really not expect me to weigh in on this matter...

Anyway, here's the deal. He said it'll run on Intel processors. Please note the vagueness. He's not saying we're taking the Pentium M-class I've got in the pc laptop I'm typing on right now (work gave it to me...I know, I know, but I need to access MS Project which is PC only. But I digress.)

Now with that in mind, one of the biggest steps for Tiger was the 64-bit-ization of the OS layer. The G5 is a 64 bit chip. This is why they had to release a special build of 10.3 for it. The pentium-class processors that Intel produces are all 32-bit chips.

So if this was on the roadmap for a while (these decisions take time, they wouldn't have made it in the time since Tiger was released), why would they bother moving more and more of the OS into the 64-bit land?

I feel the answer to this question is they are either going to be using some as-of-yet named Intel 64-bit chip, or will be using a more purposed version of the Itanium, Intel's semi-failed 64-bit processor entry (AMD is literally HAMMERing them with their 64-bit Opteron.)

Why does this matter? Well, even with the speculation of some smart hacker putting together a white-box PC capible of running Mac OS for Intel, I feel that will be a lot less likely of a scenario without some hardcore software emulation.

Apple still "owns" or contributes to a lot of key hardware technology their platform is based on. OpenFirmware is their BIOS system, on top of which allows their kernal to boot. Dollars to donuts says this is not going to be replaced with 1984 technology PC BIOS (which is a piece of shit in a modern computer.)

And you also have to remember, another large push in Tiger was the stabilization of the Mac OS API. In the previous versions, a lot of the internal API for the OS was altered between versions. Software vendors would pick apart the non-public interfaces and use them in their software to add additional functionality. This caused the software to be tied to specific versions of the OS. Tiger remedies nearly all of those issues by finally providing a stable API to abstract hardware calls to developers. This was obviously made in light of this architecture move. By giving developers near-complete hardware abstraction (CoreImage, CoreVideo, CoreAudio, CoreData) they can change the underlying frameworks and libraries allowing cross compile as a matter of a checkbox in your application. IE: Mathmatica recompile for OS for Intel.

Additionally, I think the 64-bit Intel chip option is more likely due to the Rosetta software. By creating a PPC software emulator, they're going to require more processing power to achieve decent speeds. I believe one of the ways they'll be able to obtain this is with a 64-bit chip like the Itanium and use of SSE3 (which is 100x better than AltiVec) and other processor instruction set extensions.

That's all for now!

Comment By Dr. Kennedy on June 11, 2005 11:37 AM

Wow I guess the Doctor is in!

Comment By TheDarkLordDerfla on June 11, 2005 12:25 PM

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Sam is an amazing and humble guy. Once, he rushed into a burning building, up six flights of stairs to save a kitten from certain death. He speaks eight languages, has mastered three varieties of martial arts, is a wine expert, and is a pulitzer prize winning author. Sam is an international heart-throb who prefers a quiet evening at home knitting afghans for the homeless, to the go-go, glitz and glamor of the party scene. I think the day he won the silver medal for ballroom dancing at the 98 olympics was the happiest of his life. Pretty impressive for a guy who never finished the 8th grade. - Carrie, 04
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