Jun 6, 2005

brave new world?

"Old testament. Real wrath of god stuff".

Now that Apple has decided to move to Intel CPUs, everyone is talking about what this means. I'm still thinking about this.

I happen to believe that Apple's hand was forced into this. After having trouble with Motorola, I think Apple hoped that IBM would come through for them. When Jobs declared 3.0GHz chips were on the horizon and the expectation that laptops would have G5s was out there, they had to deliver. When it became apparent that IBM was having problems I imagine Jobs just said, "Screw it. Let's go to Intel so we never have to think about this again." With the market transitioning to laptop purchases over desktop purchases, Apple couldn't afford not to have a G5 solution.

Having said that this seems like the best time to do this. With another product doing well in the market (Ipods) at least Jobs has a cushion to ride while they go through another platform transition. It will be painful. Developers have to adjust. Mac patrons have to wonder why would they purchase a G5 now. I believe Apple will take a nasty hit sometime this year. But at least they have Ipods to cushion that blow. And once it is done then for all practical purposes I don't think Apple has to consider this type of change ever again. Swallow the medicine.

Having decided to make the jump Apple has to make a no-brainer decision. Do they control the hardware and does Windows work on their machines. They have to control the hardware because Apple relies on its ability to maintain a small hardware matrix to keep bugs low and stability high. If anyone can install Mac OS on their x86 box then the 'Mac Experience' is going to suffer greatly. They know this. They also had to decide to let Windows run on top of their machines. Once they've sold the machine they've made their money. And at the same time it gives users who are apprehensive about switching to the Mac platform room to let down their guard a bit if they know they can easily switch back to Windows. On this count they seem to have done both. How they are going to handle this I'm not sure. But it's not terribly important if a hack is found to install Mac on any x86 box because it'll probably be a belabored process to accomplish this. Much like installing Linux on an Xbox

I'm curious how Apple's pricing model will be affected by this. They may realize some cost savings but more importantly will they have to change how they change their prices. Dell constantly drops their prices as hardware drops. Apple tends not to do this. Is putting a CPU in a Mac enough to make comparisons to Dell's computers easier and therefore require them to play the price drop game. I'm not sure about this one. I think probably not.

Pricing I believe won't change much. While they may obtain some costs savings by threatening to go to AMD (which is a viable supplier given the low volumes of Macs) they do have to support two different platforms until their support services are terminated. I'm not sure how these balance out but I would guess it's a wash.

How developers will respond is also a bit of a toss up. They've been through this before. With the move to PPC and the move to OS X. Money speaks here so if the transition isn't hard then it shouldn't be terribly burdensome and may lead to some repurchasing of their software. Apple certainly went out of their way to give the impression that conversions to the new platform won't be burdensome.

I'm also not sure this helps them enter the enterprise. It'll still be a consumer play. Part of Apple's marketing schtick is to surprise people with announcements. The enterprise wants nothing to do with this. They like plenty of warning. They have to budget. The CPU roadmap will presumably be more transparent now. Jobs won't be making a big deal when a 3.8GHz Mac comes out. But the rest of the aspects of Mac can still go through the Apple marketing routine and that means uncertainty.

At any rate I think Apple knows it has to hunker down for a few quarters until x86 computers start rolling out. Presumably mid-2006.

These are interesting times.

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