Apple dumps IBM for Intel. Why and what's next?

Summary:While Apple and Intel CEOs Steve Jobs and Paul Otellini took the stage at Apple's WorldWide Developer Conference to make their partnership official and to discuss just exactly what the future holds, the blogosphere and the analysts are all abuzz with the analyses of what went wrong between Apple and IBM and what, if anything, will change significantly for current and future Apple customers.

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While Apple and Intel CEOs Steve Jobs and Paul Otellini took the stage at Apple's WorldWide Developer Conference to make their partnership official and to discuss just exactly what the future holds, the blogosphere and the analysts are all abuzz with the analyses of what went wrong between Apple and IBM and what, if anything, will change significantly for current and future Apple customers.  Russell Beattie, for example, thinks that by announcing a switch to Intel (and needing a year before any systems ship), that Apple is going to kill the demand for its PowerPC Macs.  That's certainly a good question? If you were on the verge of buying a Mac today, and then woke up only to learn that this news wasn't a dream, would you move forward with a PowerPC-based system or would you stick it out until the new Intel gear comes?

The move raises other questions.  In our podcast coverage of the news (available as an MP3 that can be downloaded or, if you’re already subscribed to ZDNet’s IT Matters series of audio podcasts, it will show up on your system or MP3 player automatically. See ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in), News.com reporter Ina Fried reports from the event and tells ZDNet editor-in-chief Dan Farber that IBM was coming up short in two areas that were critical to Apple: power consumption (particular for notebooks) and performance. 

Among the many questions raised by IBM inability to satisfy Apple's appetite on both fronts, why did Apple pick Intel over AMD? Despite the fact that AMD's dual core chips appear to be running circles around those from Intel, could Intel's offerings be fast enough and could its deeper penetration into the mobile computing markets for notebooks, tablets, and handhelds (way deeper than AMD) be signalling Apple's future aspirations? Fried has the scoop for Dan.  Speaking of Intel's nemesis, Jonathan Schwartz, president and COO of AMD-bedfellow Sun, didn't waste anytime chiming in with his blog.  As long as Apple's Jobs was reconsidering underlying hardware platforms, Schwartz suggested he might want to take another bold step and reconsider the underlying software platform as well.  Today, Apple's OS X operating system is based on Darwin which itself is based on BSD Unix.  So, how trivial would it really be for Apple to port all of its extensions and graphical user interface elements over to Sun's Solaris 10? If it ever thought about moving, Apple would get the benefit of the huge amount of development resources being poured into Solaris 10 while at the same time further consolidating Microsoft competitors around fewer total operating systems (the other being Linux).

Here, with time codes, is the edited list of questions that Fried fielded from Dan Farber:

  • 01:24 In the bigger picture, what's beneath that broad statement of moving to a new hardware platform?
  • 02:02 Is the issue around providing a laptop processor?
  • 02:16 Will sales of PowerPC-boxes be hurt in the interim?
  • 02:52 Is the promise of a binary that will work on both platforms (Intel/PowerPC) somehow going to ameliorate that problem? (Apple has promised to deliver an emulation layer that allows PowerPC-binaries to run on the Intel hardware)
  • 03:28 Apple made it clear that it would be possible to run Windows on an x86 Mac but that Apple wasn't about to allow the Mac OS to run on non-Apple x86 systems.  What's behind that?
  • 04:28 But doesn't it seem to not be in Jobs character to not have control over both the hardware and software so he can deliver the perfect experience?
  • 05:03 Will there be an impact on pricing?  It was able to get a low price from IBM and Freestyle for the PowerPC.  Was Jobs able to beat down Intel and extract a lower price from it as well?
  • 05:57 AMD is also in the x86 space.  Why wasn't AMD considered given that it has a lead over Intel in performance?
  • 06:49 What does this mean for IBM in the bigger picture?
  • 07:19 Why is taking so long -- a year -- before Apple will have its first product on x86?

Topics: Apple

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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