With recent PowerPC announcements, why the heck did Apple decide to switch to Intel?

“There have been a few recent PowerPC announcements that have caused the Mac Faithful to wonder anew about The Switch and the ‘real’ reasons behind it. First, there was the 970FX announcement, which clearly showed that IBM is capable of putting out a 970 processor that compares quite well with the Pentium M in performance/watt. And then there’s the 970MP, which Apple has used to make a monster of a quad-processor 64-bit RISC workstation. For even the most diehard Jobs fans, both of these product releases, especially when set against Intel’s current performance/watt woes, raise serious questions about the public case that Teh Steve made for The Switch,” Hannibal writes for Ars Technica.

“To make matters even more interesting—or more vexing, if you were one of the true believers in PowerPC’s alleged power failure—P.A. Semi has just announced a dual-core 64-bit PowerPC processor SoC that, if the specs and numbers are to be believed, could take PowerPC to a whole new performance/watt level,” Hannibal writes. “Needless to say, jaws are on the floor, especially among those who were sold on Jobs’ description of The Switch as a purely performance/watt proposition… If you don’t think that Jobs was aware of the P.A. Semi project at the time of The Switch, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. There is absolutely no way that P.A. Semi has been developing a PowerPC design like this for the past two years and not courting Apple with it at the same time. So what gives?”

“Ever since The Switch I’ve been preaching that Jobs’s stated reasons for moving to Intel are bogus, and that Apple really cares more about gadgets going forward than it does about the Mac line (Part I and Part II). The Switch proves, I’ve argued, that the Mac line is no longer the foundation for Apple’s future growth, and it could very well go bye-bye,” Hannibal writes.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Hannibal doesn’t mention the reason we think Jobs made the switch: to take back the personal computer industry from Microsoft. We think Jobs’ goal is to provide Macs that can run both Mac OS X and have the capacity to run Windows or Windows applications. Windows-only applications and people who think they need Windows are a main reasons why Mac’s aren’t chosen – or even considered – by more computer buyers. Ask a Realtor, for just one example, why they don’t use Macs; their main apps are Windows-only.

As we’ve asked previously, if you can buy a computer from Apple that can run both Mac OS X and Windows applications at native speeds, why would anybody buy a crippled Windows-only Dell, HP, Gateway, Acer, Sony, etc.? Once people can see Mac OS X vs. Windows latest right in front of their faces, you know what happens. Bye-bye Windows.

Steve Jobs thinks big, not small. We believe that Jobs considers Microsoft Windows’ dominance illegitimate, undeserved, and a severe hinderance to the promise of personal computers. Windows dulls creativity with its inherent medicocrity. We certainly believe that “the world’s” choice of Windows has been a huge mistake and that people are starting to wake up to that fact. Jobs is not killing the Mac with the switch to Intel, he’s positioning the Mac to kill box assemblers like Dell and, eventually, Windows.

Related articles:
How Apple can win the OS war – October 19, 2005
Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ ultimate goal: ‘to take back the computer business from Microsoft’ – June 16, 2005
Intel’s built-in virtualization tech could be one way to run Windows on Intel-based Apple Macs
Intel-based Macs running both Mac OS X and Windows will be good for Apple – June 10, 2005
Why buy a Dell when Apple ‘Macintel’ computers will run both Mac OS X and Windows? – June 08, 2005
Windows users who try Apple’s Mac OS X Tiger might not want to go back – June 07, 2005
Microsoft: The safest way to run Windows is on your Mac – October 08, 2004


  1. Apple switching from the clearly superior PowerPC to Intel processors?
    It was always a mystery to me.

    I wish they’d waited a bit longer for IBM and Freescale to get past the industry wide technical hurdles (switch to 90nm, heat issues, etc.) that ALL processor companies have had to deal with before jumping ship.

    Remember the megahertz myth is real. The PPC is STILL more efficient than any current Intel chip.

    maybe Apple will jump back? Maybe it’s all about pleasing Wall Street. The Almighty Dollar reigns supreme.

    MDN Magic Word: MARCH
    We’re all on a forced march to Intel conversion.

  2. While it’s true that the upcoming chips from P.A. Semi look good (and Steve probably does know about them), it’s also true that he knows more about Intel’s upcoming product lines than Hannibal does. It appears to me that Steve is looking long term and Hannibal is looking short term.

    Not to mention the possibility that MDN’s prediction could also be spot on. I think anyone who thinks the Mac is going away should find a better dealer. They’re getting some BAD ‘meds’.

  3. Not that I don’t agree with MDN on this one, but yes…the author DID address that point. He thinks Apple doesn’t care about standard computers anymore–he thinks their future lies with CE-type devices. Why Intel is a better chip for those devices than PPC, I’m not sure.

    It also wouldn’t surprise me if Apple decided to be totally agnostic about chips going forward. If he can get all of his developers using the universal binary, then Apple machines can have either PPC or x86 chips in there, and nobody will give a damn. That might be the real motive.

  4. Steve belives he has changed the world by thinking differently. If he was up for domination he would advertise his COMPUTERS and OS MUCH MORE. My mom, being a standard computer user thinks only that “apple is not compatible” She doesnt know what a mac mini is, or an Imac because she has never seen ads for it. That is Apples problem.

  5. Once again MDN is wrong.

    The only way to take over the market is to license OSX to all hardware manufacturers. Apple would actually sell more boxes because a percentage of consumers will want quality and their market would increase. Apple would also make incredible amounts of money on increased software sales and OS licensing. Apple will never take over the market unless they do this. The PC industry and sales channels are too mature and too entrenched to be taken over by Apple. Apple needs to partner with the devil.

  6. There cannot be only ONE reason for the Intel switch. Dual-boot machines, processor roadmap, IBM politics, a bunch of stuff no one is privy to– these things together made a wise choice.

    Just because we all have our own pet ideas or favorite “reasons” to explain the switch doesn’t mean we see the bigger picture.

  7. I just hope Apple will keep OS X alive on both chips. If you remember, Windows NT used to run on Alpha and x86 chips. Then Microsoft killed off the Alpha version, even though it performed a lot better than the x86 version.

    I think in the long run, it’s better to be able to run on multiple chips.

  8. No matter how much you speculate, it’s still entirely possible (maybe even likely) that Intel has something in their pipeline that will totally blow away the G5. Maybe I’m just being naïve and wishful, but I really think that Steve would not have bothered with an Intel transition if he wanted to kill off the Mac.

    MDN MW: Stage… does this set the stage for blowaway new intel chips?

  9. By switching to intel, Apple shifted the fight from Mac vs PC to OSX vs Windoz. Speed is not nearly as relevant today as it was i the past. Most top of the line computers sold today are overkill for 95% of the market. Time to look to the future and Apple is quietly turning into a software company. But I do think they will always make the Mac.

  10. “Hannibal doesn’t mention the reason we think Jobs made the switch: to take back the personal computer industry from Microsoft.”

    If you read the whole article, you’ll notice that although he shies away from this idea, he does mention it.

    And neither Hannibal nor MDN are correct (IMHO). I believe it’s something in between-Apple will try to enter the consumer electronics market in a big way, but will definitely not abandon the Mac OS. The switch is about being on even footing with everyone else, so that buyers will notice Macs more, and consider them as an option, rather than disregarding them for lack of knowledge/understanding(even though they may be less efficient).

  11. I agree with the MacDailyNews take that switching to Intel processors is a very clever move by Apple to remove the “you can’t run anything else but Apple proprietary stuff on the machine” argument that Apple has been met with ever since the first PC clones started to appear.

    But I think the real reason lies elsewhere; within IBM and the fact that Apple’s use of the 970 chips suddenly seemed like a threath to IBM’s server and workstation business.

    The interesting thing is that last weeks 970MP announcement does not change the picture. It actually amplifies it. ZDNet made a comparison between the Quad G5 and simmilar 64-bit workstations from IBM and Sun finding that the price of a Quad comes in at only 25-40% of IBM and Sun. Sun in particular now has every reason to be nervous about their workstations if this is an indication of the pricelevel Intel-based 64-bit hardware from Apple will have.

    Read the article I wrote on this in May just before the announcement. Because this is IMO the real reason why they broke up.


    (just ignore the first paragraph in Norwegian when you read…)

  12. Okay, let us all look at the updates made in recently months. Speed upgrades to: iMac, Power Mac, Mac Mini. Left out in the cold: iBook, PowerBook, eMac (but it really doesn’t count). The G5 has been and continues to be a good desktop processor – but IBM cannot get it to work well (or at all) as a notebook processor. Intel has the best notebook processors out right now. In his January 2003 MacWorld Keynote Jobs said the future was notebooks, and to have your future riding on a not very current technology (G4) is not good – not good at all.

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