Sunday, June 05, 2005


Mac OS X on Intel, and Emulation

The Internet is abuzz with "confirmations" that Apple will announce tomorrow that it is dropping IBM's PowerPC chips and switching to Intel's x86 chip family. The theories about the reasons for switching are that Intel can get them a better price than IBM, IBM has a history of not delivering chips on time, and Intel's chips are getting faster than IBM's.

Something I haven't seen anyone address is the possibility that moving to an x86 processor would make it possible to run Windows applications at near-full speed within OS X. Right now, we have Virtual PC and VMWare, two emulators that let you run Windows on a Mac, The emulators work, but they are very slow because they must translate x86 code to PowerPC code. If a Mac had an x86 under the hood, then the emulators could run substantially faster.

So maybe this is Apple's real goal: create machines that can run OS X and Windows applications side by side. This would eliminate one of the big two reasons consumers cite for not switching to Macs: lack of software. I'm not sure that it does anything for the other big reason—Macs are more expensive than commodity PCs—but switchers may be willing to pay more for a better machine.

This was just a stray thought I had while driving home from the grocery store. But if it turns out I'm right, you can tell everyone you read it here first.

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