LinuxInsider: Apple ‘needs to hop into bed with Sun’

“Just recently Steve Jobs has had to apologize to the Apple community for not being able to deliver on last-year’s promise of a 3-Ghz G5 by mid 2004. IBM promised to make that available, but has not done so,” Paul Murphy writes for LinuxInsider.

“A lot of people have excused this on the grounds that the move to 90-nanometer manufacturing has proven more difficult than anticipated, but I don’t believe that. PowerPC does not have the absurd complexities of the x86, and 90-nanometer production should be easily in reach for IBM.
my belief is that IBM chose not to deliver on its commitment to Apple because doing so would have exacerbated the already embarrassing performance gap between its own server products and the higher end Macs. Right now, for example, Apple’s 2-Ghz Xserve is a full generation ahead of IBM’s 1.2-GHz p615, but costs about half as much,” Murphy writes.

“For the last three weeks I’ve been talking about the impact the new Sony, Toshiba and IBM cell processor is likely to have on Linux desktop and datacenter computing. The bottom line there is that this thing is fast, inexpensive and deeply reflective of very fundamental IBM ideas about how computing should be managed and delivered. It’s going to be a winner, probably the biggest thing to hit computing since IBM’s decision to use the Intel 8088 led Bill Gate to drop Xenix in favor of an early CP/M release with kernel separation hacked out,” Murphy writes.

“If… Apple bites the bullet and transitions to the cell processor, IBM will gain greater control while removing Apple’s long-term ability to avoid having people run Mac OS on non-Apple products. Either way, Apple will go away as a competitive threat because the future Mac OS will either be out of the running or running on IBM Linux desktops,” Murphy writes. “So what can Apple do? What the company should have done two years ago: Hop into bed with Sun. Despite its current misadventure with Linux, Sun isn’t in the generic desktop computer business. The Java desktop is cool, but it’s a solution driven by necessity, not excellence. In comparison, putting Mac OS X on the Sunray desktop would be an insanely great solution for Sun while having Sun’s sales people push Sparc-based Macs onto corporate desktops would greatly strengthen Apple.”

Murphy writes, “Most importantly, Sparc is an open specification with several fully qualified fabrication facilities. In the long term, Apple wouldn’t be trapped again, and in the short term the extra volume would improve prospects for both companies. Strategically, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Full article, with much more, here.

MacDailyNews Take: An interesting read with lots to think about. What’re your impressions?


  1. I had thought about this some years ago but didn’t think it would float with Steve. And I still dont think it will. There isn’t enough room for two egos.

  2. I still feel that the main reason why Microsoft is using PowerPC in their next-generation Xbox is just to delay the processor delivery by IBM to other vendor(s) [read Apple].

  3. Looks like one more “expert” advising Apple on how to commit corporate suicide.

    The accusation that IBM is deliberately witholding faster chips from Apple doesn’t hold water. The East Fishkill plant is publicly acknowledged as operating “in the red” due to REAL production difficulties. I would suspect industrial sabotage before jumping into bed with a conspiracy theorist.

    It is also very unlikely that Sun would buy that much market penetration for Apple. Most analysts are busy forecasting Sun’s demise, which may eventually become self-fulfilling prophecy; leaving Apple in another dead-end arrangement.

    The best thing for Apple to do, is to continue to push ahead with OS development, adding tighter security and the enterprise features required to compete in FUTURE markets. The current market situation is due for a major shakeup, and to go chasing after some strategy that might have been effective last year is folly.

  4. I thought that the top of the article was very interesting, and made a very good point about IBM competing with itself in regard to what it was delivering to Apple, and it’s own product. I could very easily believe that a bigwig at IBM said
    “Hold on there! we have to gain control of Apple, before they leave us in the dust!”
    Unfortunately for Apple, their reliance on 3rd Party chip manufacturers has always lead to their downfall – I believe that if Apple were in fact control of it’s own chip manufacturing, it could slowly pull ahead of everyone else, and create really market blasting machines light years ahead of the competition.


    Maybe… But I don’t think the answer is going to be found from hopping from one chip manufacturer to another either. In the big picture, the partnership with IBM seems stronger than one with Sun (to me anyway), and Apple should get through at least this generation of machines (and Powerbooks?) with them.

    Beyond that – they should bite the bullet and start making their own chips!

    my 2�

  5. That’s a great idea! Now that Apple has said that the G5 is “The Way” and has gotten all their developers optimizing their apps for the G4 and now the G5, they should DEFINITELY change to the Sparc, increasing the price of their hardware, and beginning another chip transition. Remember the 680×0 -> PowerPC transition? Good times! </SARCASM>

    Seriously, Apple is in bed with Sun already. It’s called “Java”. But just because Apple is in bed with them on the software side is no reason to tie themselves to a dying company for their core business, hardware!

  6. This author’s viewpoint that IBM held back clock speed is inconsistent with IBM’s clear desire to take over the lead in processor design and manufacturing. What better way could there be to shore up support for their manufacturing processes than to transition to 90nm with great yields at target speeds while the competition flounders?

    c’mon. There’s no conspiracy.

  7. * WWDC and JavaOne were held at the same time and place (well, they were both at the Moscone Center, but in different buildings).

    * next version of Mac OS X: Tiger

    * J2SE 1.5: Tiger


  8. Well I admire both Apple and Sun when it comes to innovation and creative thinking. I don’t think switching to SPARC is going to be a save from Apple the clutches of IBM. Of course I’m not saying IBM is a threat to Apple either. One thing is for sure, IBM has realized that they cannot fall to Intel in the CPU business, so the success of Power and PowerPC is very important to IBM’s relevance in the computer industry, consulting services they sell is not going to be enough I’m afraid.

  9. The buying public already considers Apple products as too expensive. I don’t see that going with Sun hardware is going to do anything but push the hardware costs upward. Not a good thing.

    This guy just needed to get some writing in so that he gets a paycheck…

  10. Not likely that Steve Jobs will allow this to ever happen. The article talks about porting OS X to “another desktop” over which they would have no control. Simply won’t happen while SJ is in charge. This is just a rehash of old ideas (read: Umax from the early 90s) which we all know didn’t work out, and was one of the first things SJ got rid of when he came back to Apple, to its great benefit.

  11. It wouldn’t serve IBM any to conspire against one of it’s top G5 customers. Besides, Apple doesn’t need to use SPARC as an alternative processor, they’ve already made it clear that AMDx86-64bit would be the way to go if IBM hadn’t picked up on the G5 when Motorola’s processor division collapsed.

  12. It’s all based on the fallacious assumption that IBM *chose* not to deliver on the 3GHz G5. He has no reason other than his own beliefs to support that statement. In other words, he pulled it out of his biased butt.

    Secondly, he’s all caught up in the megahertz myth. Sure, IBM’s servers run at a slower clock speed, but the machines are decidedly *not* slower than the high-end Macs. The Power4+ is a dual-core processor, and the system architecture of the 615 is very advanced.

    Thirdly, he’s talking about early 2003 IBM servers! The Power5 machines are just starting to roll out now, and they are WAY faster than the old p615!

    In other words, this article is pure sludge. Probably intentional.

  13. I consider this piece to be a little bit better than crap writer Turt-rot’s nonsense. However, working with SUN is a very outdated idea, just like the idea that Apple should work with SGI years back. Look at what SGI is doing now! Sun is a dieing company too! Steve Jobs is way ahead of those so-called ” analysts”. If those so-called “analysts” had so much insight, they would be CEOs running companies instead of writing for food!!

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