Tuesday, June 07, 2005

2007: Year of the Apple

Lots of hand-wringing for corporate investor types over Apple's shift from IBM to Intel chips. The two biggest concerns are the hit Apple will likely take for basically telling people not to buy their laptops right now and a possible loss of support from the loyal Mac community. My response:
  • Apple will take a hit, but their piece of the worldwide OS pie is about 2.3 percent. Doesn't it make sense to be aggressive when you have so little to lose? We're talking about a short-term loss in the face of a possible long-term solution to returning competition to the OS market.

  • Mac loyalty has never been about the chip inside the machine. That argument has always rested in the domain of Windows jingoists who swore allegiance to the x86 Intel archtiecture. The chip has been criticized by Mac evangelists because it's part of defending Apple, but Mac enthusiasm has always been about the operating system.

  • The move by Apple opens up the potential for better pricing, which would go a long way towards making the MacOS more accessible to more people. It's also a better long-term solution because, frankly, the x86 architecture continues to be the fastest chip on the market.

    How long that advantage might last is a good question. Intel isn't making new chip designs, they're just overclocking the x86. Eventually that cow's going to run out of milk. However, at least now Apple has tied their chip future to Microsoft's. It's a level playing field. The day the x86 goes away, MacOS will be better positioned for a seamless move to another chip because it operates on a UNIX kernel. It won't have to alienate users of older versions because the kernel will remain relevant and static.

    The other encouraging sign is Apple continues to innovate in spite of their laptop problems (IBM couldn't install the G5 chip without overheating). I was stunned to find this rave of the new iMac G5 from Walter Mossberg. It's difficult to quantify how difficult it is to impress Mossberg. He's the king of technology media, probably the most influential tech journalist on the planet. It's the equivalent of Mencken writing something positive about a politician of any stripe: Earth-shattering event.

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