So we can finally put an end to the rumors and start looking at the impact: Apple, in a move that has been rumored for a long time, has announced that it would start using Intel processors beginning in 2006.
The 5-years outlook
The interesting thing is the timing of the move, a bit over 10 years from the move from 680x processors to PowerPC and a big over 5 years from the transition from MacOS to OSX.
In 1994, the company decided to abandon some of the more proprietary components of its hardware architecture and move to a more “open” hardware architecture, using models similar to what was then available in the PC world. At the time, the transition was largely seen as just a processor transition but it was a much larger move to more open hardware architectures.
Then, in 2000, the transition started from the proprietary MacOS to a more open Unix-based operating system. Once again this was seen as an Apple only move and mostly seen as a simple migration.
Today, the company announced that it was moving from PowerPC to Intel-based x86 processors, a move that leaves open more questions than it answers.
However, it shows a clear trend in the company’s approach to change: Every 5 years or so, the company makes a move towards more openness. I’m assuming that, at this rate, Apple will make a decision to either move to a more open platform (notice in today’s announcement that they did not announce they would be available on hardware beyond Apple’s own hardware) or ditch the operating system and work on being a hardware company with a few Windows-based (and/or linux based) software products. This decision, in my view, will be announced in either 2010 or 2011.
The short term outlook
I would say that, short term (under 5 years), the move will be towards introducing an Intel-based laptop running OSX. Basically, the G5 laptop is not just not happening this year, it’s as dead the famous Monty Python parrot. However, the Apple Intel laptop is coming and it will probably be one of the first item they introduce under the new line.
The next thing that we’re going to see is a new price drop in some of the hardware. Expect more of the iMac line to trend down price wise. I suspect Apple will use the iMac line as a value line with prices ranging from $399 to $1000 for desktop and from $999 to $1500 for laptops. However, they will probably bring to market a higher end line of pro (or prosumer) devices. This strategy might help them grow their marketshare.
Third, expect Motorola/Freescale to be the first one to suffer. The transition, on the desktop, will probably start with the G4 line and then be followed, later, with the G5.
Fourth, expect Apple to announce a new version of their server and a new version of OSX running on either Intel x86 processor or Transmeta chips (technically, one could assume it’s possible).
And what about the lawsuits?
A few months ago, some blogs leaked information about upcoming Apple products and Apple filed suits to find who their sources were. Last week, the Wall Street Journal and Cnet leaked info about this move to Intel and… well, I guess Apple must have decided to stop suing people or maybe they are just reserving lawsuits for bloggers.
: A helpful reader pointed out that I had argued in favor of the switch last year.