Yes, another Apple/Intel Blog... and you want to read this one.
In his blog, John Kheit, gives us some very interesting points about Apple's switch to Intel. Most of the points are on the negative side (seems like he is hoping for the best as a Mac fan, but he is worried). There is something missing in his commentary: Fans of the Mac and the experience of the Mac.
Let's look at the fans first. My girlfriend's mother, Grace, is a Mac fan. John Kheit gives the impression that a switch to Intel will affect her. I can say in no uncertain terms that her iMac, purchased a year ago, will last her for at least 5 more years. John has pointed to software incompatibilities, support and other reasons why a consumer is going to be put into a bad place. Grace does not go to CompUSA or even Fry's. The only software she has purchased is a solitaire game. She may buy some Genealogy software soon, but it is difficult to see more than that. Is this a lost customer? Actually this might be an average customer for Apple. When we are 5 years down the line and Apple is end-of-life on this G4 computer, the children and in-laws will be helping her pick out her next computer (only because we want a faster computer when we visit). Simply, a new Intel based Apple will be purchased by this loyal consumer.
My girlfriend just got a new iMac G5. I bought it for her birthday. It replaced a 1/2 Ghz G4 that was on its last legs. Becky is an artist and also working on an online business. She uses web tools and the suite from Adobe. The G4 had a lot of OS9 applications, including Adobe. It is far better to run the new Adobe than the OS9 version for both features and speed. It seems strange to try running OS9 on OSX and I cannot see why any but those locked into a piece of software would want to. But back to Becky, she will only need an Intel Mac if this one catches fire. Within 5 years, she might get another birthday present with Intel inside. At that time, just like now, she needs to upgrade her software. Such is the computer business. Where is the trauma?
Now to myself. I am a developer and writer. I have a 1Ghz 17 inch Powerbook and a 2X2Ghz G5. I also have a 20 inch Apple Cinema Display. I am very very happy with the power of the Dual G5 and reasonably happy with the powerbook. I suspect the Dual G5 will last me a couple of years before I outgrow it. I will be laying down cash for an Intel Mac without even thinking twice when the high end is rolling out for the 2007 model year.
The Powerbook... I will dump it the moment Apple gets a significant upgrade. That Powerbook is indeed a risk to Apple. The current crop is not a significant upgrade for me. A better display, a couple tens of megahertz will not impress me. Apple must be aggressive to sell me. What will I buy? If Apple can get me a dual core G4, I am a happy customer. Who cares about Intel? Dual processors are one of the better ways to get power/heat performance for the notebook. Thoughts of a G5 Powerbook are just not worth my time. Dual processors seem to be better for your performance than the 64 bit bus. Look at the numbers and you will see I am right. Benchmarks of 32 verses 64 bit computing shows it is only marginally faster for the average application. What really counts is throughput. That means you need either megahertz or parallel paths executing multiple tasks. Sign me up for a dual core G4. I'll take a screamer Intel if Jobs can make it happen. I won't be switching to a MS notebook and will wait two years if I have to just to get that significant upgrade.
But what of my software? Hey, I write Java software. Java on Intel is a screamer and gets faster every release. I have no problems there. My other primary software is open source or supported by some of the larger companies in each of their industries. I do not fear obsolescence. In the next few years, and give the track record for laptop upgrades, a G4/G5 purchase tomorrow is not even close to an issue for this developer.
Now to that thing we call the Mac and the Apple experince. It is about the packaging and the operating system. In no way does switching out the engine going to change those two key features. I love my Mac. When you love something, you do not abandon it when things get rough. But as I have said, we just have time against this relationship, but a known time. I am happy to look at the goals of Apple and live with what I have. But is there really some moment where the Mac experience changes my experience? Is there a threat to our perfect love?
Let's look at a recent example, the move from G4 to G5. Where was the doom and gloom of moving from G4 to G5? The change included an almost complete design for ddesign replacement of the hardware. Was there a problem for those upgrading? There was not but a peep. Yes, faster and 64 bit, but the story was that we were sort of still on the same horse. To tell the truth, the move to Intel will NOT change the Apple experience. 99% of the Mac experience is the OS and the design of the hardware that surrounds the CPU - not the CPU itself. The only visible change we might have to live with an Intel Inside sticker and the reincarnation of Intel Bunny Man haunting TV commercials (the horror!).
So, are the points made by John Kheit inaccurate? No, but they apply to very few consumers and I believe to a few vendors. They are not loyal Apple fans. The reason there is no hew and cry against the trauma of change is that there is none for many of us. The only reason most of us are rather mad at Apple is that there was no super Intel Powerbook introduced at the same time. We are only mad because we have to wait for those new toys. Those that need a new Apple right now will be slow until the rumors confirm how far out the boxes are, but it should be minor. Given that packaging an Intel is simple and the G5 case seems to be compatible already with an initial version, we do not have long to wait. I'm sure Apple can sell a few more iPods to make up for the shortfall. This was by far the best time to do it while they are strong.
But I am also very happy for this change in another way. As was pointed out during the announcement, Java applications will run without change. That means that if it's Java, it is 100% insulated from the move (excepting the minor bugs of course). This also means that Apple can take better advantage of Sun's Intel version of Java. That's a good thing too! Better still, this is another reason to move to Java. Face it, this proves that Java insulates you from the larger moves in the market. Years ago when companies were faced with rewriting OS2 when IBM gave up on it, many chose Java rather than do more C/C++. The move there proved to be great too because Windows went through many changes from 3.1 to 2000 and now XP and someday Longhorn. After 10 years of writing Java, I still feel that I have made the right choice. No other language is as well supported in the community and in industry.
To summarize, go Apple on Intel. Java is ready and waiting!
One more thing, can we avoid putting an "Intel inside" logo on the Mac? I am happy to assume the "i" in iMac or rename the Powerbook to iPowerbook. The i stands for Intel - is that a plan?