Back in June, when Apple boss Steve Jobs announced the platform change to the x86 architecture, some Apple-watchers could not believe their ears. Had Jobs not preached for years that Intel's architecture was much too slow? But Apple's slogan is not 'Think Different' for nothing. Its decision to support the x86 architecture lies in the unsatisfactory performance of the incumbent PowerPC processors -- particularly in the lucrative and growing notebook market, where the IBM/Motorola-designed PowerPC chips clearly lag behind Intel's CPUs.
Mac OS X will not be available on any old x86 PC, though, as Apple wants to retain control over its hardware platform. From the company's point of view, this is an understandable position, as the margins on Apple-branded computers are much higher than is usual for standard x86 PCs.
Were Apple to put the x86 version of its operating system on general release, Dell would begin to manufacture Apple clones. This would put enormous pressure on the price of Apple's own computers -- something the company is naturally keen to avoid. Apple would prefer to manufacture and sell its own high-margin Macs, while denying companies like Dell the chance to endanger its hardware business. This is the motivation behind Apple's decision to restrict the x86 version of Mac OS X to its own hardware.
When Steve Jobs announced the platform change, he publicly demonstrated Apple computers with Intel processors running an x86 version of Mac OS X. The OS is bound directly to the hardware by a special security chip. However, some developers have succeeded in circumventing this coupling, allowing the operating system to be installed on any x86 system, as this test report shows.