Apple and Intel: A marriage of convenience

Apple and Intel - together at last. But dry your eyes and brush the confetti from your hair, there's more to raising a family than just getting hitched

The silicon that mattered wasn't even plugged in. In a civil ceremony on stage at MacWorld in San Francisco — the spiritual home of such things — Paul Otellini, head of Intel, turned up in his white gown to hand over a symbolic wafer to black-clad Steve Jobs, head of Apple; projected behind them like the coats of arms of two great medieval families were the company logos. With this chip, I thee wed. With my brand name, I thee honour. Your land is my land.

An Apple computer is an Apple computer because of the operating system, the industrial design and the badge on the front. Brand, not binary compatibility, matters — and that brand is where all the money comes from. That's why Apple is taking the technology but passing up the million dollar marketing dowry Intel has for co-branding: everyone else might have Intel Inside stamped next to their logo but Steve wants to make sure you don't have to slum it with hoi polloi. That's not what you buy Apple for. You're front of plane. You're Upper Class.

The odd thing about Upper Class is that you don't get where you're going any faster than the clods down the back. That's OK — as long as you don't get there any slower. For the sake of the brand, this was a transition that had to be made. The only serious development money for laptops and desktops is going into x86 systems: now, wherever the Wintel PC market goes with its technology Apple will be there too.

Forget about the name on the chip. It no longer matters — if it ever did. And forget about OS X becoming officially available for generic x86 computers, at least until Apple decides to get out of selling PC hardware. That's as likely as Virgin licensing the Upper Class brand to EasyJet. What matters is that Apple seems set to successfully migrate its fans and its brand to a sustainable, competitive hardware base, ahead of time and with little pain.

With the wedding out of the way, let's talk about children. We expect to hear the pitter-patter of major feats: a graceful young digital media strategy and something tomboyish to appeal to corporates would do nicely. Don't spend too long staring into each others eyes on that honeymoon, Paul and Steve. Get down to business.


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