Sunday, June 05, 2005

Apple + Intel take 500006

Ok, so the whole blogosphere has been peeing itself this weekend because of the rumor reported by CNET (individually confirmed by The Inquirer) that Apple will make the switch to Intel CPUs in their computers over the next couple years. People have been ranting about how tough it would be for ISVs to release software for Apple-PPC and Apple-x86. Jason Kottke actually raises a good point though:

But which chip is Intel making for Apple? (

Everyone's assuming that 'switching to Intel chips' meant x86 chips (found in most common desktop computers), but what if they're going to be manufacturing the PowerPC chips (or almost-compatible ones) that OS X already runs on?

Now since Apple has been involved with PowerPC since its inception (the whole AIM alliance thing which brought together design teams from Motorola (now Freescale), IBM, and Apple), might Apple have enough IP to license PPC to another chip designer/manufacturer? If so, then this could be very good news for Apple. Then they could rely on PowerPCs from multiple companies (Freescale seems more interested in the embedded market as of late). I wonder if IBM's processor design teams have been stretched thin lately designing Cell for Sony/Toshiba (PS3) and Xenon for Microsoft (Xbox360) to concentrate on Apple's low volume business.

I guess my question for the geeks out there is how tough would it be for Intel to connect different instruction decode engines (x86, PPC, etc.) to their execution engines? From my outsider's view, I would think it would be easier for Intel to do this on their more modern Pentium-4 design. Since Pentium-M is actually based on the older Pentium-III design, I would think that the Instruction decoding would be a little more tightly coupled to the execution engine (There's a good article on Pentium-M's design on Anandtech).

What are your thoughts? Could Intel-PPC be possible? Is Apple moving to x86? Or is this the outgrowth of the Vanderpool virtualization technology Intel has been touting for a couple years now?

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James said...

Ten bucks to the first one who can get the Intel version of OSX running on a vanilla PC.... or would you guess the BIOS (or possibly motherboards) will be exceptionally proprietary?

Raj said...

the only non-PC parts of modern apple motherboards are their cpu, northbridge, and use of openfirmware. So there's not really any proprietariness to speak of. I figger these new boards will be using openfirmware. Dunno how easy it'll be getting OF on wintel motherboards to get osx to run..

James said...

Ok, Fifteen bucks then.

But I'll be too busy building my Darpa Grand Challenge robot (TWO OSU Teams this year) to work on OF on Wintel....

Raj said...

please.. no one's ever too busy for a little openfirmware action..