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Apple Chip Switch Opens New World for Macs

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SAN FRANCISCO - In the late 1990s, Apple Computer Inc. ran TV ads mocking the Intel Corp. chips in rival Windows-based PCs: The Pentium II glued to a snail and the toasted bunny suit were supposed to suggest that Apple's Macintosh computers were simply faster.

How times have changed. Apple CEO Steve Jobs warmly embraced Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini this week as they announced that Macs will switch to chips built by the same company that has made a fortune selling the hardware that powers PCs running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.

Though the transition is likely to be rocky at first for Apple, programmers and customers, the move could lead to Macs that are both more competitive and more compatible with Windows. It could even open the Mac to software titles now available only to Windows users.

At the same time, Apple would retain as much control as it wants over its software and brand.

Beyond the future performance and energy efficiency improvements Intel has promised, Apple could deploy an Intel security scheme that could allow Apple to keep its operating system locked to Macs. Apple also could tap a separate Intel technology that lets multiple operating systems run efficiently on a single chip.

Such advances could be critical for Apple, which has gained a reputation for building innovative and stylish machines that run Apple's own, acclaimed Mac OS X operating system. By not allowing clones, as are common in the Windows world, Apple can still charge a premium and differentiate itself.

After all, the microprocessor may be the brain of a computer, but the soul is provided by the software, which Apple has said will continue to be locked to its systems.

Apple's business model of selling its own computers and operating system stems from 1970s, when Jobs and friend Steve Wozniak were pioneering the personal computer industry from a Silicon Valley garage. At the time, a fledgling company then-called Micro-Soft was just getting started.

That changed in the early 1980s, when International Business Machines Corp. rushed to put out a personal computer that could compete against Apple. Big Blue integrated hardware and software from other companies ÔÇö namely, Intel and Microsoft ÔÇö into its systems.

IBM famously failed to stop competitors from copying its PC. A healthy IBM clone industry grew, fueled by the support of software developers, who saw the huge business opportunity in the volume of clone PCs being purchased.

Apple continued to sell systems based on non-Intel processors and its own software. Even in 1984, when it launched the first Mac, it stuck with Motorola chips and its own software.

In the 1990s, Motorola and Apple joined forces with IBM, which by then long realized it had lost control of the PC, to build the more powerful PowerPC microprocessor to do battle with WinTel.

But Apple's market share continued to slide. Corporations and consumers embraced Windows-based systems because they could run more programs. Software developers loved WinTel because it guaranteed a huge market.

Apple became the niche player it is today, with just 2.3 percent of the worldwide market, according to the latest figures from the research firm IDC.

Still, Jobs managed to continue marketing the Mac as the Porsche of the PC industry.

But IBM and Motorola, which last year spun off its chip business into Freescale Semiconductor Inc., haven't been able to give Apple what it needs. Freescale's G4 has seen only incremental improvements in performance while IBM's G5 runs too hot for notebook computers.

And so Jobs went chip hunting.

Intel promises Apple fast, energy-efficient chips, manufacturing reliability and possibly even lower prices.

Apple could lose control of its operating system when it starts using next year the same hardware that powers the Windows world.

That's where the new technologies come into play and why Apple is so willing to make a move.

Intel has been touting a hardware-based security plan called LaGrande Technology as a way to keep systems secure by locking data with a key that's embedded in a hardware chip.

But LaGrande also could be used to ensure that certain software only runs on permitted machines, such as Mac OS X only running on systems built by Apple.

"You can tie the serial number of the software with the hardware ID, and say these things go together and shall never be separate," said Roger Kay, an analyst at IDC.

But there's a much bigger opportunity for Apple beyond faster, more efficient chips. Though it will prevent Mac OS X from leaking non-Apple PCs, it could allow Apple systems to run Windows ÔÇö and its universe of programs ÔÇö at full speed. Currently, running Windows programs on Macs requires emulators that slow down performance.

"It seems to me that Jobs is putting himself in the sights of Bill Gates," said Don Yachtman, a Salt Lake City-based software developer. "Microsoft may act like they don't care about Apple's move to Intel but you never know until they launch an attack."

But Microsoft isn't likely to complain. After all, Apple or its customers would still have to buy a copy of Windows.

Nonetheless, Apple faces technical and psychological hurdles in the near term.

"I'm sure some of Apple's loyal customer base see this as a sellout," said Tim Deal, senior analyst with Technology Business Research. "These users supported this niche, boutique player for years and this agreement with Intel removes a very important difference between a Mac and a PC."

oh man, Apple fans aren't going to like this.

Also this LaGrande technology needs to take the highway straight to the landfill where it belongs. This being just one of many reasons.


"You can tie the serial number of the software with the hardware ID, and say these things go together and shall never be separate,"

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Originally posted by jamotto:

"You can tie the serial number of the software with the hardware ID, and say these things go together and shall never be separate,"

So what happens when you want to upgrade your new Apple Computer to the latest chip? This is going to create issues.

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