Columnist: ‘Intel Inside’ cheapens the Apple Macintosh brand

“When Apple first announced its switch to “Intel Inside” most people seemed to rationalise the change on the grounds that users fundamentally don’t care what’s inside as long as the product meets their needs, that IBM wasn’t meeting Apple’s supply requirements on either volume or performance, and that Intel would,” Paul Murphy blogs for ZDNet. “In addition, most analysts glossed over the reversion to 32bit CPUs brought on by the switch…”

“…the current iMac and the forthcoming MacBook are the first new Macintosh series ever released not to have a price/performance advantage, when purchased as complete systems, over their Wintel competitors,” Murphy writes. “… the reversion to 32bit CPUs isn’t much of an issue for the laptops, iMac, and the entertainment products. It does, however, knock out the key business lines: the PowerMac and X-Serves, and therefore cripple Apple’s drive to maintain its market share in the high end publishing, photography, and video processing businesses. Fundamentally what’s going on with those lines is that each time Intel announces further delays in getting lower power, 64bit, CPUs or integrated multi-core processors out the door in volume, Apple’s options for this business line narrow and its credibility among key customer groups driving widespread downstream adoption decreases… the promised speed increases simply aren’t there. Many reviews have now been done of the Core Duo based products, and the results are virtually unanimous: on applications built specifically for the x86 architecture the dual core 2.Ghz Intel machine is in the range of 10 to 30% faster than the G5 it replaces while producing significantly less than 50% of the G5’s throughput on key user applications like Photoshop that have yet to be ported back to the x86 world.”

Murphy writes, “Look at an average real world usage mix and a new iMac is considerably slower than an old one. Users will, of course, understand intellectually why that is, but the right to watch Microsoft Word run more than twice as fast on the other guy’s Windows/XP machine isn’t going to sell a lot of MacBooks or iMacs… Bottom line? “Intel Inside” cheapens the brand, weakens the halo effect supporting Apple’s highly profitable entertainment products, raises Apple’s costs, results in reduced overall performance, and limits Apple’s ability to differentiate its products.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: A couple of points: 32-bit Intel CPUs are most probably not going into Power Macs and Xserves. If they do, Jobs had better bring along his “A” game RDF for that announcement. When Murphy writes that “the promised speed increases simply aren’t there,” he conveniently compares the G5 to the Core Duo and forgets that the PowerBooks was never a G5, it was a G4. The speed increases are there. Another important point is that Intel-based Macs actually get faster over time as more and more applications become Universal Applications (Intel- and PowerPC-native). One cannot take a snapshot at this early stage today and conclude that Intel-based Mac speed increases aren’t there. Quite the opposite is actually true. And who the heck cares how fast Microsoft Word runs; how fast can you type?! Anyway, as Microsoft and Adobe finally get their acts together on Universal Applications for the Mac, that iMac or MacBook Pro you just bought will get faster all by itself; you won’t have to do a thing except enjoy the speed (besides paying Adobe or Microsoft whatever price they demand for the upgrades). By the way, all of the benchmarks done to date weren’t done with the new faster, up to 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo chips that are now available for the MacBook Pro.

The Apple iMac Core Duo and the MacBook Pro are quite possibly the finest personal computers ever shipped for the consumer desktop and pro portable markets. Don’t just take our word for it, see the related articles below for reviews from many different sources.

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Related MacDailyNews articles:
Apple begins shipping MacBook Pro notebook computers with faster 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo processors – February 14, 2006
Computerworld: Apple’s MacBook Pro ‘fast, really fast – looks like a real winner’ – January 28, 2006
Analyst: Apple seeing strong sales of iMac Core Duo, MacBook Pro, 5th generation iPod – January 25, 2006
Apple: expect MacBook Pro shortages – January 19, 2006
Use the ExpressCard slot to add FireWire 800 to Apple’s new MacBook Pro – January 15, 2006
Apple MacBook Pro, ExpressCard and EVDO – January 14, 2006
Apple introduces MacBook Pro; up to four times faster than PowerBook G4 – January 10, 2006

Apple iMac the finest, most reliable, stable, elegant and intuitive personal computer available – February 14, 2006
Dr. Mac Bob Levitus gives ‘highest recommendation’ for Apple iMac 2GHz Core Duo – February 07, 2006
Review: Apple 20-inch iMac Core Duo 2.0GHz – February 06, 2006
BusinessWeek: Apple’s new iMac Core Duo is an iMac on Steroids – February 02, 2006
AnandTech: Apple iMac G5 vs. iMac Intel Core Duo – February 01, 2006
Thurrott: ‘I highly recommend Apple’s new Intel-based iMac’ – January 31, 2006
Thurrott: ‘Nothing on Windows approaches the quality of Apple’s iLife ’06’ – January 31, 2006
Computerworld: Apple’s MacBook Pro ‘fast, really fast – looks like a real winner’ – January 28, 2006
MacSpeedZone: Apple’s iMac Core Duo nearly as fast as Power Mac G5 Quad – January 26, 2006
InfoWorld: Apple perfects the desktop personal computer with new iMac Core Duo – January 25, 2006
Flawed CNET review pans Apple’s iMac Core Duo with 7 out of 10 rating – January 23, 2006
Washington Post: Wait a month or so before buying Apple’s appealing new Intel-based iMac – January 22, 2006
Apple’s Intel-powered iMac provides a smooth transistion from PowerPC – January 21, 2006
PC Magazine review gives Apple iMac Intel Core Duo 4.5 out of 5 stars – January 20, 2006
Time names Apple iMac Core Duo ‘Gadget of the Week’ – January 20, 2006
Mossberg: New Intel-based iMac the best consumer desktop with the best OS and best software bundle – January 18, 2006

52 Comments

  1. I think he’s flat out wrong. The Intel transition takes away the biggest thorn in Apple’s side, allowing it to compete for once on all fronts. In fact, because Apple ships much fewer machines than the PC competitors, they also seem to have access to chips in sufficient quantity much faster than the others, too– even if this is only the perception, it’s a god thing.

    Seems to me that Intel is committed to making some hot rod chips into the future. This is a good thing.

  2. I hate to say it but; Paul Murphy hit the nail on the head (as expected). Yeah, Apple will probably maintain 64bit for its Power Macs, but Paul has a point on going 64bit with the iMac, and then returning to 32bit. It might not mean much to people now, but 64bit is going forward technology, and Apple is going backwards in regards to the iMac!

  3. Never before have I seen so much interest in Macs. Mac OS X alone is a salvation for Windows users, but Intel processors and the promise of running Windows software in th near future at full speed closes the deal.

    Not since the PowerBook G4 was introduced has there been such a fantastic price/performance ratio in Apple portables.

    Cheapens the brand? Not in the eyes of people I talk to!

  4. What a straw man series of arguments. Murphy takes what he likes [such as the pessimistic “tests” of iMac Intel chips], conveniently ignores the entire laptop performance gap, and then speculates out a doomsday scenario for the desktops and servers based on some yet unrealized market frustration for 64-bit machines that Apple has yet to replace. Where are the numbers to back this up Murphy? Well, there are none. I’m willing to concede the theoretical possibility for the argument that failed chip delivery on the high end could cause problems for Macs. Maybe. But this was one of my favorite parts of the “op-ed” piece he wrote:

    It’s generally true that Macintosh users genuinely don’t care what’s under the hood, they just want the product to meet their needs. Those needs, however, aren’t limited to running their software and extend, instead, into the realm of self affirmation.

    There is some truth in there. But the part Murphy leaves out is the OS X value. In fact, he gets it all wrong here:

    Fifth: the attempt to shift the effort to build brand value from the total hardware/software package to just the software experience has already been derailed.

    The problem is simple: because Apple can’t drop the open source OS underlying MacOS X, they can’t stop people from running the combined product for x86 on non Apple x86 hardware. For different reasons they won’t be able to stop people running Windows/XP on Apple’s x86 hardware either. Taken together these realities turn Apple’s hardware into a commodity and force Apple into direct competition with Microsoft exactly where Microsoft is strongest and Apple weakest: on the user eXPerience in its home grown entertainment applications.

    And here is more tell-tale evidence that Murphy is just regurgitating stuff he has read elsewhere into an attempt to generate Mac-zelotry web traffic:

    MacOS X on x86 that has yet to appear but could be devastating to Apple. The problem is this: it’s a lot harder to exploit a code vulnerability like a buffer overflow or heap offset on PPC than on x86. Thus vulnerability announcements for Apple have rarely been accompanied by exploits and Mac users have generally considered the whole PC security mess a Wintel problem – and thus a key dimension on which their choice is smarter.

    Unfortunately that may change with the move to x86: there are lots of people in the security arena who are highly motivated to attack Apple, and the x86 makes the second half of the process: exploiting a vulnerability once found, much easier than it used to be.

    Whatever Murphy. Tuck this one away somewhere and let’s trot it out a year from now and see how smart he wasn’t.

  5. DudeMac,

    You must have missed the part where Murphy writes, “the reversion to 32bit CPUs isn’t much of an issue for the laptops, iMac, and the entertainment products.”

    Murphy is correct. If you understand what the benefits of 64-bit CPUs are, you’d know that using a 32-bit Core Duo in today’s iMacs just doesn’t matter at all.

  6. As someone that has used both an iMac G5 and an iMac Core Duo on a regular basis now, I can assure you that the speed increases absolutely, positively ARE there. Anyone that says otherwise is either misinformed or has an agenda working, or both.

  7. The iMac didn’t go G5 for 64-bit. It went G5 because the G4 was too damn slow. The 64-bit stuff was just icing on the cake.

    Murphy makes a good point about the PowerMac and XServes though. OSX is a 32-bit/64-bit hybrid OS, perfect for PowerPC, but to get it running on Intel 64-bit chips is going to take a bit of work.

  8. If they had stayed with IBM this jack ass would be ripping Apple for that decision. No matter what Apple does they can’t win everyone over. Of course there’s going to be some short term pain with a switch like this. Long term it will be great. Apple was not IBM’s priority at all. Who’s to say Apple couldn’t use AMD for the Pro computers and use their 64 bit chip? Use Intel on the consumer line.

  9. The benefit of 64 bits for most people is bragging rights. It makes no difference most of the time. Most apps don’t make any use of (or need to make use of) 64 bits and just run G4 instructions. The massively increased bus speed (and independence for dual processors) was probably more important that 64 bit instructions.

    I’ve used it for bragging rights myself, and if someone is impressed, I’ve succeded and if someone says, “Yeah, but it doesn’t real make much difference”, I just shrug and say, “Yeah, I know, but it sounds good”.

  10. You need to pay attention MDN. Microsoft said the universal version of Office will be out in March, and will be free. (Not including VPC).

    Adobe will have it when they upgrade to CS3. Sure you have to pay for it, but if you have it, you’re likely not afraid of a little $150-$300 upgrade.

  11. Which is more important, the speed gains from going Intel (which will only increase with subsequent chips) or the initial step-back to 32-bit? I would say that for the vast majority of people, especially home users, 64-bit doesn’t matter to them much. Powerbooks weren’t even 64-bit in the first place so they’re just faster and in fact faster by a far greater amount because they were that much slower to begin with.

    Comparing speeds on the new mac’s is also a little unfair becuase by apple’s own admission not all apps are ready for it so yes they will be slower. In addition, even though some apps may be slower the increased speed of the machine will often compensate for it a bit anyway.

    It’s a transition, there are kinks, not everything is up to speed yet. Live with it. judge when the transition is complete or at least much farther along than the first iteration.

    As a relatively new Mac person (2 years 3 months) I am not bothered by the chips that are inside. If PPC was the best at the time then fine, if Intel is better now, or at least will be within a short period of time then fine by me. I’m not fussy.

  12. I beg to differ MDN, you can’t put spin on the truth.

    Sure the iMactel Core Duo is a bit faster than a Single G5, it has another processor core.

    Altivec is missing, all the processor tweaks are gone, 32 bit means no 64 bit optimized code can run.

    There are plenty of others but it all adds up.

    MacBook Pro’s are nothing more than “buisness” computers like PC’s are, they have lost their Firewire 800!! and only get one Firewire 400?

    The MacBook Pro is now considered a “buisness computer” and not a “media computer”.

    This is a dramatic change of brand perception and the author of this article is attempting to show that.

    Apple is taking a incredible gamble, forsaking their “media machine” market to become more like “buisness computers” to what? Hopefully sell more Mac’s to Microsoft dominated buisness world?

    With Vista and better security coming?

    I think it’s a poor and unfortunate move that Apple had to use Intel processors, but it all comes down to EFI, Trusted Computing and HDCP, all Intel created DRM schemes with Hollywood blessing.

    I guess Apple figured they needed to switch because nobody would provide content or programs or music or video fo the Mac without all the DRM schemes coming.

    So Apple is forsaking their “media computer” to become exatly like buisness PC’s except for the OS, which won’t make much of a difference to pay a extra $1000 for a Mac Book Pro over a Vista Dell notebook.

    I think a lot of Mac folks will buy the Mac Book Pro’s because their G4’s are really slow, but over time they are going to realize PC’s are exactly the same in hardware, perform media operations exactly the same and cheaper than the Mac Book Pr, then combine that with Vista and the peer pressure to switch will have Mac users thinking twice about buying another Mactel.

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