Caution: Bumpy Road Ahead (6/6/05)

Geez, ain't it always the way? We take a little time off to lug a 400 lb. dentist's chair across town for use by a demon barber and then wire two dozen strings of Christmas lights to three huge columns covered in perforated plating and fresh flowers, and blammo, all hell breaks loose. Not that there weren't storm clouds gathering ominously on the horizon as recently as a couple of weeks ago, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was in the early stages of ditching our ol' friend the PowerPC and betting all its moolah on a mass migration to Intel chips. At the time, of course, we laughed it off as nothing more than the perennial reappearance of a rumor so old it makes dirt look shiny by comparison and so ludicrous it's typically ranked a 7.0 or greater on the "Just Darn Goofy" Scale. Honestly, who could have guessed that this time some rain might actually fall?

See, it's gone rather further than the Journal's mutterings about the say-so of "two industry executives with knowledge of recent discussions"; faithful viewer Daniel informs us that CNET now cites the Big Guns™, i.e. "sources familiar with the situation." (It just doesn't get more ironclad than that.) And faith 'n' begorrah, these sources are insisting that Apple is indeed "scrapping its partnership with IBM and switching its computers to Intel's microprocessors," and that "the announcement is expected Monday" during the WWDC Stevenote. If that turns out to be true, here's hoping that Steve has fresh D-cells in his Reality Distortion Field generator, because we expect that Mac developers have enough headaches without a "phased transition" to a whole 'nother processor architecture. Indeed, long-time Mac developers who already slogged through the 68K-to-PPC switchover last decade are likely to suffer that uncomfortable malady known as "Imploding Brain Syndrome" when they realize they've got an even more annoying transition ahead of them.

Assuming, of course, that the reports are accurate. There's no doubt that Apple is probably a few degrees shy of ecstatic about its PowerPC situation; after years of Motorolan heel-dragging and a deep-seated inferiority complex instilled by the widening Megahertz Gap (which, at times, was more appropriately classified as a Megahertz Vast Yawning Chasm), IBM gave us what appeared to be the architecture's salvation: the G5, a chip so blindingly fast it allegedly made Intel's fastest processors weep quietly and soil themselves in a corner. How sad, then, that production problems made the G5 both late and scarce, that fabrication issues leave the promise of a 3 GHz chip still dangling in limbo a year after its expected appearance, and that the prospect of a G5 that can actually be wedged into a laptop remains the pipe dream of wistful road warriors currently fitting themselves for weightlifting belts and asbestos pants.

For what it's worth, the Journal has confirmed CNET's report, so for the sake of hardware performance parity with the Wintel world, maybe Apple really does consider the buttock-clenching inconvenience of a major processor migration to be a risk worth taking. When said transition is complete, people will no longer be able to differentiate Macs from Wintels by the numbers before the "GHz" in a Sunday circular, and then they'll have to fall back on making a purchasing decision based on the user interface and end-user experience-- you know, the stuff they should have realized mattered all along. It could be nifty... if the developers don't all shoot themselves first. Tune in tomorrow for tales from the Stevenote-- and the official body count.

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The above scene was taken from the 6/6/05 episode:

June 6, 2005: The evidence mounts; will a Mac-goes-Intel announcement come today? Meanwhile, Apple's stock drops because of the iPod amid class-action concerns and reports of slowing sales, even as Apple announces a recycling program that even grants discounts on replacement units...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 5253: Turncoat! Traitor! NAUGHTY! (6/6/05)   Interestingly, rumors of impending Intellitude once again appear to have given Apple's stock price a bit of a boost-- albeit all too briefly, which is a shame, because boy howdy could AAPL use it after last week's sudden overnight tanking...

  • 5254: Good; We've Got A Sack Of 'Em (6/6/05)   There was actually one other bit of iPod-related news right at the tail end of last week, but we doubt it contributed much, if any, to Apple's little stock dip. What's the number one complaint among iPod owners that isn't related to battery life?...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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