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  • The Apple/Intel Report: A Secret Plan to Kill the Mac?

    July 16th, 2005

    The conspiracy theories abound and some of them are so far beyond the realm of logic that you have to wonder what the writers were drinking, smoking, or whatever. Some theories actually seem logical, although you wonder if the writers want you to believe they employ mind reading abilities to get their information.

    Without being too specific about which articles I’m talking about, since I don’t want to embarrass some writers any more than they embarrass themselves, let me just put a few of the claims to a reality check to see if they pass muster. Bear in mind that some of these articles purport to reveal information about secret negotiations involving Apple, so you may want to take a lot of it with a grain of salt.

    So what is responsible for IBM’s failure to deliver the processors Apple wanted? Some blame Apple, that it wanted the sun and the moon but was unwilling to reach into its huge war chest to help cover some of IBM’s development costs. So we are led to believe that IBM couldn’t deliver on promises for the G5 not because of development or production problems, but because Apple wouldn’t cough up more cash. Low power chips for the PowerBook? Well, didn’t IBM just announce those chips? But when will they be out in quantity and do they offer a genuine performance advantage over a similarly clocked G4?

    Did Steve Jobs really refuse to take calls from IBM, then leave them hanging until the last minute while firming up that deal with Intel? It appears that, when things don’t go quite as planned, it’s convenient to just blame Apple. After all, Apple isn’t to be trusted, right? Apple will eventually double-cross its suppliers. How can those suppliers be even partly responsible, when it’s so easy to portray Apple as the villain? In such a climate, how do you view the way Microsoft behaves to its customers and competitors?

    Oh, that’s different, right? Well, I won’t go there, because I’m not privy to the nuts and bolts of Apple’s negotiations, nor is any other writer who pretends to know what is really going on. Sure, some may claim to have a source or two at hand who knows the truth, but any source close to the executive suites at One Infinite Loop wouldn’t last on the job very long if that source continued to betray Apple. This is not just some developer or supplier spilling the beans about a new product. It’s far, far worse, and I fail to see evidence that such a thing is truly happening.

    What’s more, while Apple’s publicly-stated reasons for the big switch may include some degree of spin, it’s not fair to accuse Steve Jobs of lying, and accepting IBM’s explanation as the plain, unvarnished truth. IBM may just want to save face and pretend that it is, indeed, the injured party here. Why believe one over the other, when it’s possible to accept each explanation as having a grain of truth? Get out your crystal balls and let’s find out, or maybe try something a little more sensible.

    Yes, we do have a fact, and that is that Apple is switching to Intel processors. But what else is Apple going to be buying from Intel? Here the speculation begins to make some sense, and it’s not a secret plan to phase out the Mac or license the Mac OS to other companies any time soon. I feel that Apple has no immediate plans to ditch Macs and that if it’s in the cards, it won’t happen this decade. Look for a time when the PC is yesterday’s news, and that day isn’t here yet despite what some claim, and that takes us way beyond the potential convergence between the computer and home entertainment devices.

    Further, let’s not forget that Intel makes more than just Pentiums, and Apple makes more than just Macs. One report has it that Intel’s XScale chips may one day find themselves in a future generation of iPods, perhaps the infamous video iPod. It’s a sure thing that it’s coming, some day, when Apple finds a way to deliver a compelling solution. But the ARM chips that presently power the iPod don’t have the computing power to make it happen.

    Besides, wasn’t Intel left twisting in the wind when the game console makers went to IBM? Having Intel Inside an insanely great consumer electronics product from Apple, poised to equal or exceed the success of the iPod, would be a great consolation prize.

    Over the next few months, you will hear about every possible scenario about Apple’s secret plans, about how it screws its suppliers, about how it does everything wrong to create products that do almost everything right. You will hear that your present-day Macs will suddenly stop running when the new models with Intel chips hit the streets, or that they won’t be supported for very long. You will hear that and lots of other silly stuff that may sound appealing, at least as gossip, but that’s about it.

    Yes, the truth is out there, but it will probably unfold gradually, and turn out to be decidedly different from what those pundits predict, or what you expect.



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