Apple on Intel x86 wrap up
Apple has decided to switch their entire hardware lineup to x86 based CPUs from Intel (currently). This It looks like Apple has decided that they won’t go bankrupt by going with option 2) from my blog entry yesterday.
According to Jobs between now and next WWDC we will see x86-based systems for sale to the general public. Between now and Dec 2006, developers will be able to rent a $999 3.6ghz P4 based system with an installation of Mac OS X86. Basically, unless you want your Mac-specific software to run under emulation (which didn’t seem that bad in the demo) you will need to recompile it as a Universal Binary (formerly known as fat binaries). If your software is in Java or is a Dashboard widget, you won’t need to do anything like that. This just nails my point home from a previous entry that the Mac should have moved to the Java VM as their universal application execution engine.
Even though I don’t know the full specifications on the $999 box I went ahead and put in my order, hopefully it has at least 1G of RAM and a decent graphics card. It will be interesting to see how long it takes someone to take what comes on that system and port it to a whitebox PC. My bet is that it will be running under something like VMware in no time flat and it will probably be put on bare metal in either a week or 6 months, probably not between. The difference in difficulty could be great depending on how much time they put into protecting it. I’ve also seen that they are not using OpenFirmware. I’m assuming though that they aren’t using a regular BIOS either so that will be another thing people will have to reverse engineer. There will be so many brains aimed at it though I can’t image that it won’t be done. If I were Apple and I wanted to stop it from happening I guess I would try and watermark the OS image since it should be easy to do for each machine they are sending out.
Update: The DVDs had no watermark and it took about 1.5 months to bypass the protection that Apple put in the system.
I am fairly disappointed that I probably won’t be using my hardware discount before I need to renew it. Buying a PPC based system at this point seems like the wrong thing to do, at least for me. I hope I can last on my Powerbook G4 1.5 for the next 8 months or so.
I still think that Apple should make a go of it as a high-end, high-concept PC manufacturer, license their OS to select vendors with approved designs, and sell the OS separately along with hardware requirements to end users. I’m sure that is a day that Microsoft dreads more than most.