Originally posted by Amorph
I think that the most likely explanation for this is that Apple wants an embedded ARM processor, or else they're playing chess with IBM, or maybe both (leak enough of the ARM processor negotiations to make IBM worry that maybe they're looking for a desktop CPU from Intel...) However, off in the land of open-ended speculation: A few bits of historical trivia struck me when I read this rumor.
First, Intel has been trying to kill x86 for a very, very, long time. In fact, the project that became IA-64 was started in 1994—the same year that the PowerPC was launched. Intel tried to launch a RISC platform in the intervening years, but no-one bought it. Intel has been shackled to x86 by legacy, and in particular by Microsoft legacy.
It came out in the MS antitrust trial that Intel and MS did not get along, and their cooperation was more a matter of mutual interdependence than anything else. But Intel was the more dependent partner, as Gates never failed to remind them. This, to me, is a particularly important datum. Why? Because MS just stiffed Intel on XBox2. Make no mistake: That was a big "fuck you" to x86 and to the x86 legacy, and it's the real beginning of the closed personal computing platform that Ballmer telegraphed to the press in the PR surrounding the original XBox. It can also be seen as a big "fuck you" to Intel, but with the silver lining that with MS moving away from x86—even to the incomplete extent that they will—Intel can also, finally, start moving away from x86 (but not toward Itanic, which just needs to be written off as a failure that cost tens of billions of dollars, and fabbed occasionally for HP, until that company implodes—but I digress). They just need clients. So of course they'd be talking to Apple. They might not be a big fish, but they're getting bigger, and they aren't wed to the x86 legacy, nor to commodity hardware.
I want to emphasize that this is blue sky stuff. But even if I've hit the target shooting blind, and even if Intel manages to convince Steve, I don't think we'll see anything for years. They could be shopping a reasonably fleshed-out concept, or they could be testing the waters to see if it's even worth pulling out a clean sheet of paper. Or, more likely, they're looking at the market, looking at the increasing dominance of modular designs, and shopping (the beginnings of) a next-generation modular, multi-core architecture. I have no doubt that, given the opportunity to start fresh, they could come up with something good.
The only thing about this that *could* make any sense is that Intel has got, or is waiting to produce a processor that is multi-OS compatible. They announced this technology a while back, if anyone here remembers.
When asked if Apple's OS would run on it, they said yes, it would. I am sure that they meant the current PPC version, at least that's how Intel was describing the technology. I forgot what they called it, but it was virtualization, though in hardware. Supposedly there was little if any loss in performance.
IBM has this technology as well, but I'n not certain as to how advanced it is.
*IF* this chip could allow OS X to run without a conversion, then perhaps PPC software would run as well. If the chip is fast, and works well, this could be a solution.
But who knows at this point in time whether it's an actual product? Perhaps that's what the article was referring to.