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Apple-Intel: Winners and losers

commentary Every few years, technology companies reinvent themselves. Some businesses do it to survive; for others, pushing the envelope is simply in their blood.

commentary Every few years, technology companies reinvent themselves. Some businesses do it to survive; for others, pushing the envelope is simply in their blood. Apple Computer is one of few which belong to the latter camp.

So when ZDNet Australia's&nbsp sister publication CNET News.com broke the news of an imminent marriage between Apple and Intel -- at the expense of IBM -- my reaction was "it's about time!"

Since 1994, Apple has used IBM's PowerPC processors which Apple CEO Steve Jobs described as having a road map that could only deliver about a fifth the performance per watt as a comparable Intel chip.

Finally, Apple has gone straight for the jugular and the move will inevitably result in new victors and casualties in the desktop battlefield. Here's a sample.

Winners (in no particular order):

  • Apple: Market share is meaningless if not translated into profit. Apple has always held this view. But now, the timing is just right to drop IBM.

  • Intel: Pulled off what AMD couldn't. Should rejuvenate its business.

  • Microsoft: In 1997, Microsoft announced its US$150 million investment in non-voting Apple stock. In the short term, if Apple wins, Microsoft wins.

  • Computer users: More choice can only be a good thing. The icing on the cake will come when the cost of a Mac is comparable to a Wintel machine.

    Losers:

  • Linux vendors: What a dampener on the Linux-on-all-desktops vision. The common enemy has always been Microsoft. Could Apple pose a new threat?

  • AMD: It could have been wonderful but alas, beaten to the punch by Intel. Actually, according to Jobs, Apple has been developing all versions of OS X to run on both Intel and PowerPC chips since its inception five years ago.

  • IBM: Does Big Blue see this announcement as a loss?

    In limbo

  • Sun Microsystems: OpenOffice already runs on Mac OS X. When will StarOffice catch up? Also, Sun President Jonathan Schwartz has invited Apple to "adopt Solaris 10 as the underpinning technology of the next generation Mac". Let's see if Jobs bites.

  • PC makers: In future, will Apple allow other manufactures such as Dell to sell Intel-based Macintosh computers?

  • Software vendors: Some of these players will be assessing Apple's move in detail. The possibility of running applications -- including enterprise-class software -- on a new platform should whet their appetite provided it makes business sense.

    If anyone is wondering why it took Apple so long to move into the Wintel space, it's simple: timing. The resounding success of iPod and iTunes has proven that when done correctly, Jobs and the Apple engineers can turn old ideas into a gold mine.

    Did we miss other winners or losers? E-mail us at edit@zdnet.com.au&nbsp or talkback below.

    Fran Foo is ZDNet Australia managing editor.