I’ve been closely watching the rumors and now news of Apple’s impending switch from chips manufactured by IBM to those manufactured by Intel. Reaction to the news has been mixed at best, with a number of people worried about 1) the enormous cost to Apple and OS X software developers in rewriting software for Intel’s x68 chips, and 2) Apple losing out on future hardware sales when OS X can run on a $300 PC available at Wal-Mart.
However, it may be that people are reading too much into this news. From an anonymous poster at Slashdot:
The contract Apple has with IBM has a “Moto” contingency. There are extremely tough provisions in the contract that Apple insisted upon to prevent another Motorola scenario from happening. IBM had no problem with the provisions because they were positive the could beet [sic] the goals by two in half the time. IBM fucked up badly.
Apple now owns a large amount of PPC IP [intellectual property] and Intel will now be manufacturing and designing PPC chips.
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? There’s a lot of reasons why this wouldn’t happen (How would Intel get a production facility set up that quickly? Does Apple own the IP for the PPC chips? Etc.), but when you look at how Apple protects their hardware business, it’s hard to imagine that they’d let any old cheap x86-based computer run OS X.
Even if Intel isn’t going to be making PPC chips for Apple, they’ll probably manufacture a modified version of an already produced chip that OS X will be refactored to run on so that the cheapo Wal-Mart PC can’t run it. And if that fails, there’s always DRM, which could be used by OS X to verify that it runs only on Intel chips sold in Apple hardware.
Anyway, we’ll find out on Monday; Jobs is supposed to make the announcement at the Worldwide Developer Conference.