Ars Technica: Why Apple really went Intel; ‘Macintosh is Apple’s past, iPod is Apple’s future’

“Apple’s mercurial and high-handed relationship with its chip suppliers” was what caused Apple’s switch from IBM to Intel processors, according to Ars Technica’s Jon “Hannibal” Stokes.

Apple over the years has routinely demanded that Motorola dedicate their CPU design teams to making special chips for Apple that will never generate much revenue. If Motorola won’t play, Apple will go to IBM. Apple kept up the demands with IBM, threatening with their only valid threat: we’ll go to Intel. “Apple has been pulling these stunts for a long time, as anyone who followed the company’s relationship with Motorola knows,” Stokes writes.

Basically, IBM told Apple, “Fine, go to Intel.”

“The cold, hard reality here is that the Mac is Apple’s past and the iPod is Apple’s future. It’s a shame that Steve Jobs can’t be upfront with his user base about that fact, because, frankly, I think the Mac community would understand. The iPod and what it represents… is the Macintosh of the new millennium… [It’s not that IBM] dropped the performance ball,” Stokes explains. “What Jobs is really doing is shifting the focus of Apple from a PC-era ‘performance’ paradigm to a post-PC-era ‘features and functionality’ paradigm.”

“For the real reason behind the switch, you have to look to the fact that it’s the iPod and iTMS—not the Mac—that are now driving Apple’s revenues and stock price. Apple is more concerned with scoring Intel’s famous volume discounts on the Pentium and XScale lines than it is about the performance, or even the performance per Watt, of the Mac,” Stokes writes.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Stokes’ questions about the recently announced PowerPC 970MP and 970FX chips from IBM are interesting. You’ll need to read Stokes’ full article, which we highly recommend. For us, it’s always been about “features and functionality” over “performance” anyway. As we used to ask Windows users, “what good are high performance CPUs if you’re constantly running virus scanners, routinely fighting the user interface, and can’t run best-in-class applications like Final Cut Pro, Motion, Logic, DVD Studio Pro, GarageBand, iMovie, or iDVD, to name but a few?”

Now that the CPU issue has been eliminated from the conversation, Apple’s strong points are highlighted even more. The Mac OS and the applications are without compare in the Wintel world. Mac OS X Tiger vs. Windows XP? Puleeze. If the Mac is Apple’s past, it’s also its present and future.


  1. “Apple has been pulling these stunts for a long time”

    Just that he refers to this as a ‘stunt’ putting it in such a negative light immediately makes this article suspect. The Mac certainly is part of Apple’s past, but it is also in the future. People arent suddenly going to want to stop computing, and with Microsoft dropping the biggest ball of all time, and people getting wise to their antics and inferior products, the future of the Mac platform certainly figures to be brighter than its past.

  2. I find the argument that the Mac is the past a tad overstated. The big question to me is “Who decides what is now ‘the past’ and ‘the future?'” Depending on who you talk to, one thing always supercedes another. If anything, I see the iPod and the Mac working to create a more diversified structure. No one could have predicted the iPod’s success– because of that, no one knows exactly how it’ll all end up either. For once, Apple is maximizing a segment of their sales; this is a new strategy. So for now, it seems to outshine the Mac, but water always finds its own level, and so will this business. Over time, things are going to seem more balanced, I believe. One more smelly opinion of mine…

  3. I think the importance of the iPod may have been over-stated. If No-one bought any iPods for the next three years Apple would still have a market in computers and their losses would be covered by massive amount of money in the bank. Apple makes good profits from the Macs compared to most others from their PCs. So long as we want them, Macs will be sold to us. There is no reason why Apple should not sell both iPods and Macs.

  4. The analysis by Ars Technica is totally correct. The Mac is dying (at least taking a 2nd seat at Apple) – Steve is trying to become a media-type company controlling distribution of music, movies and tv programs.

  5. From the article: (read it)
    “The laptop G5, which is the long-rumored and now-announced 970FX, has supposedly been ready to go into an Apple laptop since at least early last month.”

    So it was Steve that held back the laptop G5 from us????????

  6. This is my favorite:

    “So why didn’t Apple take any of these offers? Was it performance, as Jobs claimed in his keynote? Here’s something that may blow your mind. When Apple compiles OS X on the 970, they use -Os. That’s right: they optimize for size, not for performance. So even though Apple talked a lot of smack about having a first-class 64-bit RISC workstation chip under the hood of their towers, in the end they were more concerned about OS X’s bulging memory requirements than they were about The Snappy(TM).”

  7. Ars must have needed some traffic this week.

    Here is the editorial staff meeting:
    “Let’s write a Mac-is-the-past conspiracy column. We can get tons of hits. Then we the Mac faithful *infer* exactly what we are *impling* we’ll throw a mirror up in their faces and call them zealots who need reading comprehension classes. It’s Foolproof!”

    This crap pisses me off.

  8. I think this whole “Mac is second place to the iPod” thing is plain wrong. Steve’s big passion has always been making beautiful computers and I think now, more than ever, he wants to beat Microsoft and beat Bill. The iPod is useful to Steve and it’s a nice sideline, but I truly think at the end of the day, Steve wants to rule the computer industry. And I have no doubt that day will come.

  9. What a dolt! If Apple were de-emphasizing the Mac, why so much R&D for Tiger and Leopard? Get a clue dude, Jobs is not so stupid as to hang the future of the company on a single business line.

    These tech writers have no sense of business. They are lost in their own little pathetic geeky world.

  10. Past my ass. The sign says Apple Computer Inc. That means, and will always mean they make computers folks. Apple didn’t switch processors to build an iPod. I didn’t hear or see in jobs last keynote to where he says the Mac is now dead long live the iPod as our current product line. He said there will be more Power PC Macs released before the end of the year and then the new Mactel Macs will start being produced. No mention of cancellation or discontinuation. I don’t understand where these people get these wierd ideas from when they’re so WRONG! Oh and why would Steve Jobs cancel the Mac when market share is now on the rise. Do these people think he’s that dumb? The Mac is only getting started now and will continue for as long as Apple is in business. Which I think will be longer than many PC companies.

  11. Even if Apple becomes a media empire, I’ll bet its Mac computers will still be worlds better than the competition. No-one said computers can only be made by computer companies….

  12. Actually, if you think about it. Once Mac goes Intel and Microsoft’s Virtual PC is updated for a Macintel (providing native x86 speed), then most Applications will be available for Mac with the help of Windows being an application of applications so-to-speak. Mac will have more available applications than any other platform.

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