My crystal ball remains cloudy regarding Apple’s future. (Indeed, after some of my more outlandish pre-MacWorld predictions some will argue my crystal ball remains in shards.) Nevertheless, I’m game for guessing what’s up with all those fascinating Apple-Intel rumors: WiMax and low-power Intel G5 processors for laptops. I’m not the first (or, it hardly needs be said, best) to offer speculation in this direction. In fact, just read The Blackfriars Blog for a perfectly cogent business analysis.
The short form of the situation as I see it: Intel needs somebody to drive their WiMax technology. Apple needs somebody—anybody—to produce PowerBook-quality G5 chips. Putting those two together equals a win-win.
Will Apple’s alleged move to Intel also equate to a restart of the Macintosh clone business? I don’t know, but if I had to guess, I would say yes. Indeed, I think that Steve Jobs may be contemplating the exactly the thing that no technology business (in their right mind or otherwise) has attempted in the last 15 years: Attacking Microsoft.
Usually, it’s Microsoft who enters a market, buys or steals the technology, and incorporates it into the Windows universe in a way that kills all competition. It’s a widely-held rule-of-thumb that one should stay out of Microsoft’s sights, because given their money, manpower, and monopoly they will simply overwhelm your business should they so desire. In moving to Intel, Steve Jobs may be about to do the unthinkable, and he may be willing to sacrifice his entire Macintosh hardware division to do it.
And I’m not sure he’s wrong to give it a try. There’s no question that the Mac OS X is superior to the Windows XP or the vaporware that is Longhorn. I mean, if you can buy a machine preloaded with Windows and its attendant bugs, viruses, spyware, adware, etc. or the same machine with an operating that has virtually none of those things, it might be a compelling proposition.
But I don’t know that’s how things will play out. I suspect, in fact, that any Intel-based Mac would not run Windows for the simple reason that a dual operating system machine is the death of Macintosh software development outside of Apple. For example, Adobe’s not going to waste resources on a Mac version of Photoshop if they can just develop for Windows and still cover all users. So I don’t expect a dual-boot Mac OS X/Longhorn machine will be possible, or, more accurately, desirable from Apple’s perspective.
Steve Jobs is a bright enough fellow to learn from history. Microsoft profits come almost exclusively from software (the Xbox is thus far a huge money loser), and given software sales margins I can see Steve Jobs being more than willing to transition out of hardware which in an a Mac clone world would be a race to the bottom. (The hardware group would probably concern itself strictly with platform design).
At any rate, me and my crystal ball can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.