In a previous post I thought the Intel-Apple talks were over XScale processors. I was wrong. As announced at WWDC this week, Apple is indeed going to be using Intel chips in their upcoming computers.
I think this is a bad move. Not because they’re using Intel chips, but because they’re using the wrong Intel chips. x86/IA32 is a dead-end road. Intel even admits that x86 is not the future. x86 is a 20 year old instruction set archiecture. No one respects it.
Going with Itanium/IA64 would have been a bit smarter. Intel could probably even produce a special line of Itanium chips that does microcode emulation of PowerPC, much like the line HP made that did dual IA64 and PA-RISC. I think that would have been much smarter.
I was also incredibly wrong when I wrote previously that developers would throw fits if Apple changed things up again. I forgot that MacOS X apps are compiled with gcc. Switching targets would just mean setting some compiler flags. -ppc vs. -x86. Since Apple evolved the magnificent Bundle format for OS X making applications “dual platform” would also be a snap.
The big unknown that’s left in my mind is: will the rumored “OS X 10.4.1 x86 Preview Edition” run on standard PC hardware, or will it require the “Developer Transition Kit?” If I could run OS X on cheap-o hardware I definitely would. I guess we’ll have to wait two weeks to find out, since that’s when it’s scheduled for release.
Actually, will Apple make OS X available for x86 on non-Apple hardware at all? Darwin x86 has been available for a long time. I predict Apple will probably do one of two things: a) build in some special hardware that OS X can use to identify the system as an Apple or b) write in some insane operating system copy protection much like Microsoft’s. Apple would be basically be killing off their hardware division if they released OS X for x86 without any kind of protection… or maybe that’s the plan… ?