As I noted in an earlier column, Apple appears to be in trouble partly because the company experienced its first quarterly loss in three years and in part because Apple is the glamour technology stock. The press love to report on Apple because it sells newspapers and magazines! Therefore both gains and losses are greatly exaggerated.
In a small side note to a report that recommended industry wide consolidation in the PC business, Bryan Chaffin from Bear Stearns advised Apple to drop the PowerPC and switch to Intel. This is in line with my suggestion a couple of weeks ago, that Apple port OS X to Intel machines as soon as possible. Like most financial analysts, Chaffin gets only part of the story.
Apple desperately needs to move to Intel while keeping its functionality on the PowerPC. That is, with a fully functional OS X, the company can compete head to head with Windows 2000, Windows ME, and Linux on Intel processors, while continuing to support the PowerPC. The decision is not mutually exclusive and Apple should compete in every arena.
Of course, this raises a number of questions. Given that Apple releases a version of OS X for Intel, how will it react with Windows? That is, could it coexist with Windows like the Windows emulators coexist with the Mac? Could you run both systems simultaneously and copy and paste between them? Are there any serious applications that run only in a Windows environment that would justify dealing with both systems? Would the Unix core coupled with the Mac front end simply make Windows irrelevant?
It is still possible that despite the megahertz gap between Intel chips and the PowerPC, the PowerPC or a descendant might still dominate? There are those that continue to maintain that the clock is ticking on CISC chips, but like most users, I am a wee bit skeptical. The PowerPC was supposed to offer significant architectural advantages over CISC that would include temperature, speed, and expandability, I seldom hear these arguments mentioned any more and so I am more than a little confused.
Apple’s strategy must include running Apple system software on as many platforms as possible. Though short-term marketing considerations might pressure Apple into delaying this decision, timing is of utmost importance. Windows 2000 is still a nightmare and Windows ME adds to the confusion. Apple have to get this right before Microsoft actually debug their software and release their final answer.
The Macintosh experience has been remarkable. We’ve moved from a curiosity to a system that defines the future of the industry. It’s time now to make OS X universally available and share this accessible power with ‘the rest of them.’