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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Inquiring minds seem to know that the rumors of Apple moving to x86 might be in fact correct. The Inquirer, the IT site run by former founder Mike Magee, is not as well known as El Reg and Slashdot and whatnot, but it tends to get good information.

The interesting thing is the suggestion that Apple might be moving to the amd64 instruction set in particular. In Intel's recovery after the Itanic fiasco, they started quiet support for amd64, what Intel calls EM64T. Recent Pentiums and Pentium M chips from Prescott on are EM64T enabled. This might mean that yes, we might even see AMD Opterons in high-end Apple machines of the future. When you factor amd64 into the equation this suddenly begins to make sense.

Intriguing possibilities follow these new Macs with Intel or AMD inside. WindowsXP 64-bit as a guest operating system under MacOS X? Doable. MacOS X on commodity beige boxen? They would have to be be high-end gaming level commodity beige boxen if that were permitted. The people I have talked to about this suspect that Apple will use the BIOS to lock out beige boxen from running MacOS X. However, what if it did run on commodity hardware?

1.) This would allow Jobs to pull a screwjob on Microsoft to finally get revenge for the swiping of Mac ideas in Windows. Longhorn is in trouble, and its release schedule has been pushed back and back and back in a way that resembles Duke Nukem Forever. MacOS X would allow people growing impatient for Longhorn a different alternative upgrade path to the one assumed to be the only alternative to Longhorn: Free/Open Source UNIX-like operating systems like Linux and the BSDs. Migration from Windows to MacOS X might be a less anxiety-producing move for enterprises than a move to F/OSS. MacOS X conforms more to licensing and support paradigms that Pointy-Haired Bosses can understand due to experience with Windows. All the Intellectual Property FUD that MS has been spreading about Linux in particular is moot with MacOS X, because the stuff that makes MacOS X MacOS X instead of a FreeBSD-with-Mach-kernel fork is all proprietary.

2.) Suddenly developing games for MacOS X would be simpler. No more endianness issues, no more dealing with Mac's narrow range of video cards in use, no more excuses. The use of WINE APIs could make game development even easier. Write once, run in both MacOS and Windows? Suddenly it would be doable. You would think that Apple would have to write an emulation API for the G3s, G4s and G5s that would also have to be supported during the transition time from PPC to amd64. A gaming OS that you didn't have to tear your hair out about? This is what the Largos of the world dr33m about. 31337.

3.)This puts a whole new cast on developments like the Intel/AOpen Mac mini lookalike and the Tulip E-Go laptops that look like throwbacks to the Clamshell iBook. Moves like these in the past received deserved ridicule from Mac and PC partisans alike and legal reprisals from Apple. It seemed odd that the Tulip E-go and the Intel/AOpen "Pandora" bitty box didn't get immediate legal reprisals from Apple. Perhaps we know the reason why now.

We will know the truth tomorrow. Way to go, Steve! Two keynotes, two reasons to pay rapt attention to them. Ph34r 573v3'5 l33t pr355 m4n1pul4t10n 5k1llz!