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©Copyright: 2005
Steve Kirks

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  Monday, June 06, 2005

Open Firmware is dead

Apple's Universal Binary Guidelines (PDF): "Macintosh computers using Intel microprocessors do not use Open Firmware. Although many parts of the IO registry are present and work as expected, information that is provided by Open Firmware on a Macintosh using a PowerPC microprocessor (such as a complete device tree) is not available in the IO registry on a Macintosh using an Intel microprocessor."

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Doc Searls: "The economics of CPUs require really immense volume sales. Millions of them wasn't enough for IBM. And maybe IBM doesn't really want to compete with 'tel any more. So, it's like the end of the Soviet Union. There's only one superpower left: Intel. Apple is complying with the realpolitik of semiconductors."

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Apple+Intel Post Annoucement Second Thoughts

OK, so with the planned leak, the keynote wasn't a blow but a confirmation. What is everyone watching this really missing? The lack of surprise by developers. Not in the switch to Intel, the lack of surprise that Apple has been planning this for some time. Most competent developers would have known deep down that Apple would plan do this at some point. The best part is Apple did what they do best: sweat the details.

Need an IDE for this transition? No problem! That Xcode you've been using (wait for it) we've just enabled the magic Intel compiling bit. Clean up your code to use the correct API calls (which you should have been using anyway) and recompile!

So Jobs sold Next to Apple with the knowledge that they can hop to Intel architecture at any point. Once you get the first release out the door (10.0), you focus on every release being compatible. I'd bet by the time that 10.2 came out, the major issues were done.

What's shocking? Well, like Perry Ferrel says "Nothing's shocking."

Apple has spent the last 5 years transitioning from a very proprietary OS and API structure to one that's easily adopted by the Linux generation. They picked now to do it because they've got some market play with the iPod, a revenue stream that has nothing to do with OSes and momentum (no spyware, no viruses).

Step Two: get a DVR/set top box in the house and make Apple the trusted brand to run your personal media and entertainment. Once they have your trust and loyalty, out trots the MacOS for non-Macs.

Wow, what a home run.

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Apple+Intel Post Annoucement First Thoughts

Off the top of my head:

--don't care about brand of processor

--I care about the UI, features, speed, integration with home media

--Xcode 2 is already good and now they add (free!) the compile features for Intel, a good move

--Real business users won't care who makes the chip except that they chips come sooner and go faster for less money.

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It's official: Apple is moving to the Intel processor architecture

Overheard at the WWDC, 10:25AM Pacific, Apple is moving to Intel processors...

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Watching WWDC Coverage

I'm in three different chats watching coverage of the WWDC in San Francisco. Favorite so far from MacMerc:

"01:06 PM - Fashion note: Steve is wearing dark pants, not jeans. It's also snowing in hell. "

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Alvy Ray's Pixar Page

While looking for random Steve Jobs photos, I stumbled across this:


Alvy was one of the original founders of Pixar and a recipient of some nice leather-bound documents as part of the process. Items of note include images of the five million dollar check Steve Jobs paid to Lucasfilm for the core technology of Pixar, a list of the 40 founding members of Pixar and the original business plan.

Stunning what you can find on the web....

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More Apple+Intel Opinion by Me

Like a rabid animal, I've senselessly plowed through web sites for most of the last 12 hours trying to get a jump on this Apple+Intel thing. I've seen several discussion group posts and some are littered with people saying that a switch to an Intel processor is a "slap in the face" to the Mac user and people will leave because of it.


I've used plenty of machines over the years: SGI, Sun SPARC, POWER systems from IBM, all of the Apple products (all) and various brands of x86-powered machines. It's the *software* that I like.

Sure, speed rules, but a well-designed piece of software will make any machine more usable and valuable in the user's eyes. Good disk, video and network drivers will make your processor type transparent. When was the last time you sat in front of a computer reading a web site and thought "Gee, this PowerPC G5 makes this website much easier to read!"


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Ric Ford and MacInTouch's Apple+Intel Summary

Ric Ford and company have a great summary (not a permalink--get with it Ric) of the Apple and Intel partnership (pre-WWDC keynote). It's the best written version so far, debunking some of the rumors. I've reproduced some of it here since I don't have a direct way of linking. The quoted text below is copyright Ric Ford and MacInTouch:


Apple's PowerPC contracts with IBM and Motorola aren't public, and it's not clear what Apple could do with whatever PowerPC intellectual property it owns as an original partner in the IBM/Motorola/Apple PowerPC alliance (now defunct). Even if Apple has the rights to have Intel manufacture PowerPC CPUs, it seems entirely impractical from an economic viewpoint, given the mammoth costs of chip fabrication and the minimal market Apple enjoys.

Apple has led personal computer manufacturers in a market swing from desktop to portable systems, with the overall ratio now more than half laptops. In this situation, a problem getting high-performance, low-power processors from IBM - such as a special new version of the "G5" - could be critical. Intel, meanwhile, has made great progress on low-power processor technology, an effort that will continue to be funded by its near monopoly on the personal computer market. IBM and Freescale (the Motorola spin-off) have no equivalent source of sales to fund such massive investments in chips, assuming that Apple can't use the same Cell technology IBM is producing in great quantity for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo game consoles.

As noted here earlier, Steve Jobs has already made this transition in the past. He successfully moved NeXTstep, the foundation of Mac OS X, from Motorola to Intel (and other) hardware, giving up on his own NeXT computer systems, which were a financial failure. The technical transition doesn't seem to have been terribly traumatic. It has been widely reported that Apple has maintained x86 versions of Mac OS X, and Mac OS X's open-source "Darwin" core has long been available in x86 code.

A wild card today is the magical, and so far untapped, potential of Transitive Corp.'s QuickTransit technology, which is supposed to provide transparent processor emulation with minimal performance penalty - a lot like Mac OS "Classic" running under Mac OS X....

While the x86 and PowerPC architectures are very different, the differences mostly impact low-level programming - programs that control hardware and programs that are timing- or performance-sensitive. This encompasses all critical operating system functions, including networking, printing, data storage, user interaction, etc. "High-level" or "application" programs that go through standard operating system "APIs" (programming interfaces) should have an easier porting path. We can see examples of this issue in the simple transition from "Panther" to "Tiger", which involves minimal hardware changes but a lot of low-level programming.

Today's Mac is far, far closer to a PC than past Macs, based on the same standards for memory, networking, data storage and peripherals (USB, PC Card, DVI) and using a lot of Unix code that also exists on x86 (e.g. Gimp printing, Apache, BSD libraries).

There's a big media angle to the story, which may or may not play out today. With Apple now in the music business (despite the direct conflict and lawsuit with the Beatles), and Steve Jobs in the movie business (with Pixar), going to x86 architecture may be a critical factor for participating in content-control systems that dominate the future."

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