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What would the downsides be to Apple's possible switch to x86?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
If apple were to switch to x86 what would the downsides (besides looking like a bunch of liars after singing the praises of PPC for so many years) actually be? Because maybe I'm crazy but I see nothing but upsides...

First, I think that Apple will begin to price much more competatively.

Second I think that the change of internals will not effect the fact that Apple has the ability to design extremely efficent and powerful personal computers. No one can deny that a powerful well engineered PC can run well and with the right software it can be just as effective as our best macs. And we all know that Mac OS X is a great OS that gets better by the minute..so if you buy a mac, it looks like a mac and feels like a mac, and if you turn it on and it looks and feels like it always has..and it cost you possibly hundreds less...what would be so bad about this change?

(i hope you people don't mistake this for trolling)
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post #2 of 8
[quote]Originally posted by Pippin:
<strong>If apple were to switch to x86 what would the downsides (besides looking like a bunch of liars after singing the praises of PPC for so many years) actually be? Because maybe I'm crazy but I see nothing but upsides...

First, I think that Apple will begin to price much more competatively.

Second I think that the change of internals will not effect the fact that Apple has the ability to design extremely efficent and powerful personal computers. No one can deny that a powerful well engineered PC can run well and with the right software it can be just as effective as our best macs. And we all know that Mac OS X is a great OS that gets better by the minute..so if you buy a mac, it looks like a mac and feels like a mac, and if you turn it on and it looks and feels like it always has..and it cost you possibly hundreds less...what would be so bad about this change?

(i hope you people don't mistake this for trolling)</strong><hr></blockquote>

All software ever written for PPC and 68000's would have to be rewritten for the x86 processor. That would in and of itself screw anyone who ever developed for Macs. You know...I truthfully don't know a lot about processors, so it's definitely worth it for someone else to pick up here...

--Alexis

[ 09-08-2002: Message edited by: Alexis ]</p>
post #3 of 8
Okay where to begin...

Apple moving to x86 that will allow X to also run on ANY x86 box. Sorry but Apple will loose most of it's desktop sales since most Apple people will move to non-apple hardware faster than you can say chapter 11.

"First, I think that Apple will begin to price much more competatively."

Hmmm so I guess Apple is gonna ditch or sell off OS X and all the iApps to another company? How else do expect those projects to get paid for? Apple can't sell a box as cheap as Dell and still give us OS X and all of the iApps. Dell doesn't have to spend a lick on OS or App development... Apple does.

Apple also has to fund hardware innovation something that the likes of Dell don't worry about either... They just build boxes. Where is Dells 'firewire' or Gateways '802.11'. Little known fact... Apple had a HUGE part in getting the FCC to open the airwaves to allow 802.11 to happen in the first place. Lots-o-lawyers and tech type folks devoted to getting some free airwaves and yea it cost Apple a lot of cash. What does Dell do?

Okay... now assuming you see the issues with Apple moving to a totally generic x86 platform...

Apple using x86 isn't a bad idea provided you'd need to buy an Apple x86 box in order to run X. The prices Apple sold those x86 boxes for wouldn't be TONS cheaper than the PPC boxes are they would just have an x86 in it instead of a PPC.

- Apple is a hardware company...
- Apple needs hardware sales to live...
- Apple funds technology advances with hardware profits...

Apple can't sell $999.95 boxes with a 5% margin and still provide us with everything that they has been known for. It just isn't possible.

TANSTAAFL

D
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post #4 of 8
Since the likely outcome of porting (and selling) OS X for regular, not-Apple-made PC's would be: no more Apple, I'll assume you're talking about changing the Macintosh architecture from PPC to x86 (still requiring Apple hardware to use OS X)... possible downsides I see:

1. Every single bit of code (Apple and third party) would need to be recompiled for x86. Not that big a deal for currently maintained stuff, but anything else would be toast. Many users and developers wouldn't like this.

2. There would be endian issues. Simple recompiling wouldn't be the whole story. You'd have to test the new apps where files and networking are concerned. Many developers wouldn't like this.

3. This one is pure speculation (of course), but I read the idea in one of these threads before and it made me think: If there's an x86 CPU in the box, eventually, somewhere down the line, somebody is going to figure out how to get Win32 applications to run on the thing pretty decently. And, if you own one of these, how long would it be before you would expect it to run Win32 stuff? Not too long after that happens, OS X (or whatever would be the Mac OS flavor of the time) would be marginalized and die.

edit: must learn to count past 2

[ 09-08-2002: Message edited by: spotbug ]</p>
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post #5 of 8
In other words, it would be a complete nightmare ending in disaster. Why on earth would Apple try and solve this problem by moving to an outdated platform (x86). Furhermore, it's just short term thinking. No OS X on x86. The tradeoffs would be to costly. And this topic has been done to death already.

--
Ed M.
post #6 of 8
1) They would retain a 27% margin -&gt; they would cost more. The margin sustains R&D, which they could drop and survive. riiiggghhht.

2) Hardware design would become more 'ordinary', as power dissipation requirements would dictate. Not just the cases, but the motherboard chipset too. Custom northbridge with 4x ATA buses? Buzzz. Apple can do that _now_ because they drive the motherboard chipset on Macs. They wouldn't be able to on x86 - without the price climbing even higher.

3) The few niches where Macs really _do_ (or at least did) shine (single precision floats come to mind) would be lost. When the processor is _identical_, it _IS_ all about the MHz. When MacOSX-for-x86 is introed and is 20% slower at benchmark x, y, z. - now what?

4) The actual move is _possible_, but the difference between 'running', 'running well', and 'blazing speed' is the difference between DP1, 10.1, and 10.2 -&gt; years. Darwin/x86 is apparently _VERY_ slow. Feel free to start optimizing if you really want Apple to go that way.

5) Developers haven't caught their feet after the _last_ major shift -&gt; bad plan. The number of '1.0' style releases (bugs + slow) for X is quite high. Some developers aren't 'switching' to Mac OS X so much as providing their app for the XWindows environment that is available. Would anyone _bother_ to provide a non-Doze version if there was any way a Mac could run Doze?


After 6 more pages of arguing we'll get to 'But of course I meant on Apple Branded hardware locked x86s where they'd still be in complete control'... Locking it sufficiently to prevent the OS from _ever_ escaping the hardware into the at-large x86 base is near impossible without first un-opensourceing Darwin. If you tell me the BSA will help Apple enforce their licensing, I may not stop laughing. Ever.

Or maybe the 'How about a compatibility card?' Fine. But it will _also_ cost more & come out later. Apple did compatibility cards. They were pretty cool - but they were 9 months slow relative to the CPU of the same capability, and the card alone was the same price as a newer faster x86 box. Slamming everything on a single card costs. More expensive chips, hotter, more design work. If they got really good at it, it might not cost quite so much - but it is only for the people that _need_ that ability for some reason, not ever going to be good enough for it to be a big big market.

The one other argument is 'What if they did it just for the extreme high end, like, say, Avid.' There I might see it - the added price of a CPU is cheap at that point if it helps whatever the specific goal of the niche is. But that doesn't help _us_, and I'd see that more as a compatibility card sort of situation also.

The question isn't 'what are the downsides', it is 'name a single upside'?

2.53 GHz, 2.8GHz... it would be years before the full speed would be realized. And no, a 1.4 GHz ppc doesn't match a 2.8 GHz x86... but what about a 1.8, a 2.0, or a 2.2? Do they? Most of the lagging should even out if Moore's observation holds, so then where are we? We switched to the 'faster' chip just in time for their process to hit the same sort of slowdowns that hit the ppc side.

'Lower prices' are commonly cited as a plus. Lower prices on _what_? Drives? Um, same drives. Optical drives? Um, also, pretty much the same drives. RAM? Slots? What? You only get 'cheaper motherboards' if you follow the herd. You only get cheaper cases if you follow the herd. If you follow the herd... I hope our cow boxes are at least designed to resemble a cool cow like the Black Angus. We could at least save the $10 on the no-floppy design. That'll clearly be enough to draw flocks of new adopters.
post #7 of 8
I personally would like to see Apple move to x86, but I am just mentioning something that took me forever to figure out even though it could have been obvious. When people mention "endian issues" it sounds like you need a PHD in processor design to understand this. But you probably know what it means already. If you take a course in assembly, you know that you can shift and rotate bits. For example, to multiply an integer by two, you could just shift it one binary bit to make it bigger. Some of these types of calculations are dependent on whether the more significant byte comes first or last. If you have an overflow after a multiplication, you might have to do one thing with it if the first byte is the most significant, and something else analagous on another architecture where the second one is. So any code that has these dependencies has to be fixed.
post #8 of 8
Not to mention Microsoft will grind them to the ground like every other consumer os that ever tried to sneak in to their territory.

~Kuku
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