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Apple to Intel move no threat to Linux

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John C. Dvorak's recent Marketwatch commentary, 'Linux is likely the big loser', is completely off base. His fundamental mistake is to assume that 'the X86 platform' is more appealing than the freedom of Open Source and that the x86 processor is the important consideration for development:
It's likely that developer interest will wane when Apple is fully engaged on the X86 platform. While Apple ran on the PowerPC chip the amount of developer effort in the Open Source camps was nil. But now that Apple is using the same processor as everyone else, targeting the Macs will now be an easy decision to make. This will be at the expense of Linux.
No, the Apple announcement doesn't mean that you'll be able to run OS X on a Dell. In the unlikely event that the Intel-based Macs are insufficiently different from PC's, Apple will build in additional hardware security features. Mac OS X will check for these features and will refuse to run in their absence.

Realistically, Apple will not make generic PCís nor will the upcoming Intel version of Mac OS X run on non-Apple hardware. The new Apples will be just as proprietary as the PowerPC-based Apple hardware -- and just as distinct from the generic 'PC market'.

Above all, Apple is still a hardware company and a switch to commodity hardware -- or even making their new computers PC compatible -- would be a far more dangerous business risk than simply switching CPU architectures. Apple is not changing their business plan. They are changing their processor architecture and supplier only.

Try as they might, even Microsoft canít stop Linux. And Apple isn't even trying.

The Apple switch to Intel processors is quite simply irrelevant to Linux.

Meanwhile, Apple's move makes sense from a market perspective. And it's not about clock speed or raw performance as some have suggested -- although those considerations are important. The obvious reason that rules out performance as the overriding consideration is simply that they didnít choose the AMD Opteron for the Power Mac.

Rather, it appears that this strategic shift is (almost) all about laptops (and perhaps Mac Minis -- which technologically are just battery-less laptops in a new form factor). Laptops are now outselling desktops -- and that trend will increasingly drive hardware makers' profits. And at Apple, that trend may be even more important than in the general PC market. If this were about performance and price/performance at the high end, the partner would be AMD. This move is primarily about power-per-watt at the low end, hence, Intel.

Of course, we mustn't forget that the high-end systems will be migrated last, possibly more than two years from now. That gives Apple plenty of time to add a second partner if Intel's vast resources are unable to rein in AMD on the performance front. And, obviously, a move to AMD at that point would be a small technical task compared to the PowerPC-to-Intel switch.

With some luck and continuing success at the high-end, AMD could still get a major design win out of this transition.
mail this link | score:8876 | -Ray, June 9, 2005 (Updated: August 1, 2005)
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