"I've been thinking about this for a long time. x86 chips are cheap, fast, and plentiful."
Fast, yes. As fast as the PowerPC 970 will be, no. x86 is more expensive than the G4.
"Apple already uses standard PC components throughout its architecture. DDR 2700, PC-100/133, PCI, AGP, USB, Ethernet, IDE, etc. The only main core NON PC component is the CPU."
Standard ≠ PC. Apple has every reason to use standards to make upgrades and devices work on both Macs and PCs, but if they are going to use an radical OS, they may as well use the best CPU. Which Apple believes is the PowerPC (in a long-term vision).
"If the Marklar rumors are true, Apple even has an x86-capable OS."
They are true. Replace the PPC Mach kernel with a x86 Mach kernel in the OS X CD, and boot in a PC system. It boots until "your CPU is not supported". Apple DVD Player.app has a line of code; "Disable Debug PIII PIV ATHLON". There is big rumors inside Apple of the implications of Marklar.
"Now software... Adobe, Microsoft, Macromedia, Quark, Intuit... You name it. Nearly ALL Mac software developers also develop for Wintel. Imagine if these companies could maintain a single code-base to support all platforms. Theoretically, the hardware is the same. I know there's much more to software development than targeting the hardware, but that's just one less thing to worry about."
I want applications with a Mac OS X interface. If I want Windows apps, I'll run Windows. If I have taste and want good interfaces in applications, I'll buy Mac OS X. What your proposing eliminates the key advantage Macs have over Wintel. ITS ABOUT THE SOFTWARE, AND MAC SOFTWARE IS BETTER.
"Suppose it's possible to compile apps from the OSX dev tools to Windows and all other *NIXes. To some degree that functionality already exists, does it not? Perhaps Apple takes the 'digital hub' concept to software development. What if OSX was the best dev environment for creating Windows apps?"
I've thought of that myself... It would be a possible direction for Apple. Instead of DevTools being necessary for Mac OS X, DevTools 2 would be THE development environment for Wintel, Linux and Mac OS X. Maybe an Apple HIDE (Hardware Integrated Development Environment) which accepts x86 and PowerPC CPU cards, but moving the entire Mac platform across to x86 has been discussed to death. It ain't happening anytime soon.
"Sure, Apple would probably have to license from Microsoft - but Apple sells Boxes, Microsoft sells software. Nothing changes, except they both gain new markets. MS has more access to Apple's 5%, while Apple gains admittance to Window's 95%. Good trade. Does MS care? Not if they get their cut."
Apple does what IBM tried to to. Sell boxes with a Windows compatible OS. That failed. People buy Windows because they are sheep. Sheep won't buy Mac OS X if it runs Wintel apps, because it is still different. The only way Apple will, without becoming a PC-clone maker, ever get marketshare over 10% is if Microsoft collapses.
"Take these multi-core chips, stick a bunch in a box with lots of fans, and utterly dominate high-end graphics/science/CAD/editing/etc. Get high-end graphics card makers to supply video cards, ensure Maya, Photoshop, FCP, Shake, AVID, Lightwave, et al run amazingly fast and reliable in these boxes, and you own the graphics market. (Just make sure Apple kills cheap Linux boxes on the performance front. - Unless they buy Apple Workstations, then load Linux on them. That's fine, too.)
With servers, continue to produce fast, reliable servers/render-farms/clusters for the Workstation & Desktop customers AND license OSX Server to Big Blue to run in their Low to Mid-Range servers. Or, better yet, BUILD servers for IBM. They seem more interested in services anyway. Same chips, same tech, same market. Why not?"
A more practical approach would be to license Mac OS X to the entire IBM range of workstations. IBM does that kind of hardware better than Apple probably could.
"One last thing... I know hobbyists like to built their own kit. I do. Only ship iApps with systems, and sell the OS alone. Sales of iApps might make up the difference in lost hardware margin. Perhaps they also opt to sell there own Motherboards, or better yet an assortment of first-rate computer enclosures. No? Just a thought."
Suppose Apple introduced a low-key (only known about in the enthusiast world) motherboard and OEMs are prevented from using them. It would have to be totally unsupported motherboard, but even then a large chunk of mac-dom would probably start to use them.
Maybe an expensive developer motherboard could be sold, costing $500 or so. Only the true enthusiast would shell out that much. It would take standard PowerPC CPU cards.
"None of this is likely to happen, given. Some of it isn't even possible. It does, however, illustrate that Apple COULD use Intel/AMD chips without going out of business or losing its identity. IBM successfully sells multiple OSes on multiple hardware platforms. Why couldn't Apple?"
Because IBM sells crap Wintel PCs, decent Wintel laptops, Linux/i386 entry-level servers and workstations and PowerPC high-end servers and workstations.
They are all in totally different markets. The only market Apple isn't in is the very-high end. Why not just sell IBM a Mac OS X Server license and have that base covered.