Monday, June 06, 2005

Apple will use x86 style Intel chips; PowerPC performance claims proved false

My pal Chuck Severance just called from the Moscone Center in San Francisco, where Steve Jobs just gave one of his trademark blockbuster demonstrations. After showing off the Tiger operating system for a while, he suddenly said "And I've been giving this demo on a development Apple computer based on an Intel chip," confirming rumors spreading the last few days.

The thousands of developers of software for Apple computers gasped.

Chuck observed palpable excitement among the developers at the event. Development models of the hardware are to be available within a month at $1000 each. He also was able to test the project he works on for his day job, Sakai, on the new hardware. Here are the results of this informal benchmark:

-- Startup time Apple Pentium 3.6 Ghz 21 Seconds
-- Startup time Apple G5 PPC 2.5 Ghz: 43 seconds
-- Startup time Apple G4 PPC 1.25 Ghz: 81 Seconds

Of course this was an casual day-of-show benchmark so things may not be, um, er apples to Apples. Nonetheless, obviously Steve Jobs wouldn't be making this kind of seismic shift unless Apple knows that the claims it's made for years are false:

-- That the PPC chip gets more work done for the same amount of clock speed compared to Pentium
-- That RISC is superior than a complex instruction set for a general purpose computer
-- That RISC superiority applies not just for Photoshop functions, but in general

The funny thing is that Apple has not yet excised its Web site of claims of the inherent superiority of the PowerPC chip. And Steve Jobs announced today that Apple has run OS-X in the labs on Pentium chips for five years. So did Apple know five years ago that their PowerPC claims were false? What did Steve Jobs know, and when did he know it?


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