The Null Device


Everybody, it seems, is now saying that Apple are about to dump the PowerPC architecture, and move to Intel. I'm hoping that it doesn't happen; technically, the main advantage of the Intel architecture (which includes AMD and other third-party processors) is backward compatibility with MS-DOS and Windows; for this, the CPUs pay a price in extra transistor count, power consumption and performance, which other platforms (such as, say, the PowerPC) do not incur. Given that Apple machines don't run Windows, there would be little point to doing this, unless to take advantage of these chips being cheaper due to their being manufactured in larger volumes. Given that Sony's PowerPC-based Cell architecture is on the horizon and promises to revolutionise computing, Apple jumping to Intel boxes sounds like a dead end.

Meanwhile, Alec Muffett speculates that the "Intel architecture" Apple might adopt may not be IA64 but rather the XScale, an unrelated architecture based on the ARM, and used in power-efficient devices such as Palm handhelds and Nintendo DSs. On one hand, it would be cool to see a Mac mini (or even a Mac Micro) based on an ARM chipset, drawing about as much current as a nightlight and offering a usable Macintosh-flavoured web-browsing/word-processing/communications/media-playing machine. OTOH, does the ARM architecture actually scale up to the higher ends of the performance spectrum? Would an ARM-compiled version of Photoshop or ProTools be able to run efficiently on tomorrow's high-end Macs?

And WIRED reckons that Apple's switch to Intel will be in order to add Intel's DRM technology to their hardware; i.e., doubly crippling their platform to please Big Copyright.

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