Holy yikes, someone throw us a rope-- reports from anonymous WWDC psychics are flooding in from all sides! Yes, that's right, we said psychics; you don't expect actual attendees to violate their NDAs, do you? So instead, psychics the world over are channeling thoughts and feelings from all those developers at Moscone and projecting breathless second-hand impressions of specs and performance of early MacIntel development hardware directly to us here at the AtAT compound. Good news: if you're still apprehensive and you can't help feeling that this processor-migration undertaking sounds like something out of a 1960s beach movie with Elvis and Gidget getting up to wacky shenanigans at a clambake to save the local orphanage, most developers actually seem pretty darn cheerful about the whole thing.
For one thing, most people who've gotten to poke at the prototypical MacIntel hardware that comes with the $999 Developer Transition Kit project overwhelmingly positive vibes about the speed. Based on the specific wavelength and amplitude of said vibes, it seems that native apps running on the kit's 3.6 GHz Pentium 4 apparently manage to crank out performance on par with that of, say, a 2.7ish GHz G5; not bad for an early effort. We're also sensing lots of warm fuzzies about Quartz Extreme and the user interface, so they probably scream on the development hardware. Incredibly, existing PowerPC software running via the Rosetta dynamic translation layer sometimes fares almost as well; the least-positive psychically-relayed impression we received pegged performance about as good as that of maybe a dual-800 MHz G4. Since that's the hardware we happen to be using right now, we personally have little reason to complain.
So what about downsides? Well, there's all the stuff that Steve conveniently forgot to mention during his keynote, such as that, as reported by eWeek, MacIntels won't run Classic. That only makes sense, of course, because if Apple had enough spare man-hours to build a PowerPC emulator for Intel that neither runs slower than a one-legged donkey on NyQuil nor steals code from another emulator that runs slower than a one-legged donkey on NyQuil, we'd surely be running Mac OS X 10.9 Grey-Tufted Ocelot by now. Unfortunately, lots of individuals and businesses still rely on Classic (including us, actually), and finding alternatives to older PowerPC apps may be a hassle and/or expensive. Schools, in particular, may feel the pinch.
Oh, and (for now, at least) Intel-based Macs can't boot from a FireWire drive, can't run PowerPC software that's Altivec-enhanced, and don't have Open Firmware-- they have a BIOS. Eeek.
But like we said, most developers seem happy overall. (Well, at least the ones using Xcode, anyway; the ones using Codewarrior are giving off vibes so dark their heads are in danger of collapsing into teensy localized black holes.) There's still a year before the first Intel-based Macs will ship, so any of the current stumbling points may well be ironed out by then; meanwhile, the speed is great, the ease of porting (for most) is decent, and the prospect of Apple actually being able to get chips whenever it wants is, quite frankly, pants-wettingly exciting. So let's just see what happens, shall we?