Why Can't Apple Switch?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Ok, I'm admitting right here I don't know much about how chips work, however some things have been plaguing my mind, and i hope so of you can help.



We all know about Apple/Mot's MHz woes. My question is why cant Apple use Intel of AMD chips? With OS X running on Unix, should making it run on a Intel or AMD chip be fairly easily (minus the classic environment)?



So as not to cannibalizing their own hardware sales, couldn't they put something in the chip, in the firmware, or on the board that would only let OS X run on Hardware that was made by Apple? Now Apple has competitive chips in their machines, better looks, better OS and ease of use. Why would anyone buy Windows over Mac then?



Is this possible and why doesn't Apple do it?
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 43
    serranoserrano Posts: 1,806member
    impossible.



    ...the universe would implode, and apple would be nothing more than another pc clone running its own propietary flavor of nix.... totally different from now...
  • Reply 2 of 43
    outsideroutsider Posts: 6,008member
    Sure Apple could switch.. if they wanted to pull an Enron.
  • Reply 3 of 43
    alcimedesalcimedes Posts: 5,486member
    all the software would have to be rewritten. that would just kill them. although i'm not sure they aren't killing themselves at this point anyway.....
  • Reply 4 of 43
    I've been wondering about this too. And from what I can tell, I haven't read any commentary that proves to me that it is impossible. In fact, most people who seem to know what they're talking about all agree that it is entirely possible for Apple to use X86 processors, if they felt like it.



    Arguments that it would canabalize apple's hardware sales are just plain stupid. Apple could easily mac OS X work on only Apple hardware, whatever the chip is.



    Only thing is, if they switch to X86, they'll look awful hypocritical for beating up intel so bad.



    i doubt they'll do it personally, but my own opinion is that it is an extremely possible option, if a bit unrealistic.



    mactivist.



    [ 03-11-2002: Message edited by: The Mactivist ]</p>
  • Reply 5 of 43
    Yes thay can switch. Darwin has been compiled successfully on x86. The kicker wold be all developers would have to again port their apps to the new OS. This is the same for Unix. The binaries for various hardware platforms have to be compiled for the platform.



    Many Unix/Linux apps are open source and so interested users can recompile the code for different hardware. Unfortunatley any complex program and all OS's have vast tracks of code that are hardware dependent. All the Altivec optimizations would have to be rewritten for x86 as well as much more.



    Do not kid yourself for a second that Adobe et al would port their codebase again. Not for a long time or unless Apple held much larger market share. I imagine that the current port to OS X will not pay for itself for most developers for several years. If Adobe, Macromedia and Microsoft issued press releases that they would cease to support Apple's OS the platform would fail in very short order.



    This is a silly thread that continues to resurface. Get back the serious work of anticipating new hardware etc...
  • Reply 6 of 43
    macgregormacgregor Posts: 1,434member
    Just like Cringely said a few weeks ago on his website. They should at least port the server to AMD/Intel. Why not? It ain't that hard. Then see if the universe implodes.



    That's how you leverage being a software and hardware company.
  • Reply 7 of 43
    thttht Posts: 3,209member
    I would imagine it would be cheaper just to form their own fabless PowerPC design team and farm out the fab to Intel, or any one of the number of semiconductor companies out there.
  • Reply 8 of 43
    The more interesting line of thought is what Apple could do with Power4 chips. PPC is just a subset of this series. PPC is Power2 tailored to Apple, IBM and Moto's needs. Moto's needs (embedded and DSP) are much less in line with Apple than IBM's and IBM has basically abandonned PPC while continuing to advance Power#.



    Power4 is the fastest chip in the world and could maybe do nice things for 3D and graphics like it does for servers. I wonder if Apple or IBM could create a PPC2 based on Power4? From what I understand the Power4 has all the instructions a PPC has and more (minus Altivec).



    [quote] Maintain binary compatibility for both 32-bit and 64-bit applications with prior PowerPC and PowerPCAS systems: Several internal IBM task forces in the first half of the 1990s had concluded that the PowerPC architecture did not have any technical impediments to allow it to scale up to significantly higher frequencies with excellent performance. With no technical reason to change, in order to keep our customers software investment in tact, we accepted the absolute requirement of maintaining binary compatibility for both 32-bit and 64-bit applications, from a hardware perspective. <hr></blockquote>



    If Apple built a system around Power4 I don't believe software would need to be recompiled to run on the new systems, but could be optimized to run better.



    [ 03-11-2002: Message edited by: gafferino ]</p>
  • Reply 9 of 43
    nebrienebrie Posts: 483member
    Just because something's possible doesn't mean that you should do it. Before you go into anything technical at all, you have to realize that MS will most likely pull Office X and IE etc... You might not care, but it's a very important selling point for Apple's survival.
  • Reply 10 of 43
    outsideroutsider Posts: 6,008member
    THT said:

    I would imagine it would be cheaper just to form their own fabless PowerPC design team and farm out the fab to Intel, or any one of the number of semiconductor companies out there.



    Now you're talking.
  • Reply 11 of 43
    eugeneeugene Posts: 8,254member
    If Apple switched to Intel or AMD hardware, nothing would stop software hackers from moving OS X off of Apple hardware.



    Apple wouldn't be a viable hardware company.



    There should be a FAQ for questions like these. The same people ask these questions over and over...



    [ 03-11-2002: Message edited by: Eugene ]</p>
  • Reply 12 of 43
    [quote]IBM has basically abandonned PPC while continuing to advance Power#.<hr></blockquote>



    Not true. IBM has been alot more aggressive in the development and marketing of the PowerPC during the last year or so. the GameCube "Gekko" CPU being a prime example of this. There are others like that SoC PPC for pdas and cell phones.

    But they'rr focusing on the embedded market, just like Motorola.
  • Reply 13 of 43
    spindlerspindler Posts: 713member
    I think people have a hard time imagining change. No one thought the Berlin Wall would ever come down. No one ever thought that after 56 years George Bush would declare that the U.S. had the right to launch a nuclear first strike. But times change.



    It's really easy to say something CAN'T be done. It's easy to say Apple can't switch to x86. But consider this.



    Two years ago, Apple was selling between 350,000 and 400,000 PowerMacs per quarter. Last quarter, which was even a Christmas quarter, they only sold 212,000. It was low the quarter before, also. There is no reason for this and the previous poor quarter other than the fact that Macs are not keeping up with PCs. What is the long term answer to this?



    Now, first some people are going to say it's a slow economy. Listen, all this talk about the economy is hype designed to sell newspapers. PC sales are down ONLY FOUR PER CENT from last year. Sales of other items fall three, four or five per cent. If you add 10% to 212,000 , you still only get 235,000. That's still way below what it used to be quarter after quarter.



    Here's why the lack of PowerMac sales is devastating. This is where Apple makes it's money. They get high margins off the PowerMac. The iBook and IMac they sell more for volume.



    So two years ago Apple was making between $100m and $150m per quarter. Last quarter was $40m.



    Now you are going to say that $40 million is a good quarter, especially when PC makers are losing money. No it is not a good quarter. Apple would have lost money if not for the interest they got from what they have in the bank. Apple lost $247 in a recent quarter. That can knock out six $40 million quarters in one shot.



    If Apple was making $150 million a quarter, they would have no worries at all about the retail store taking a moderate loss here or there. At $40 million per quarter, they have to worry much more about a really slow quarter leading to a losing quarter.



    Now some of you will say that the new iMac will solve all these problems. But it's not really high margin, and they only expect to sell about 300K per quarter. It they sell much less of the old CRT iMacs, than their unit sales don't go up much.



    The bottom line is that Apple needs a solution. Their pro customers are loyal and it is a bad situation now could turn into a disaster if quarterly sales fall to 150,000. What will Apple do when Moto is at 2GHZ and Intel is at 6GHZ? Switching over to x86 will have to be done eventually. Apple cannot withstand a bigger and bigger and bigger competitive disadvantage.
  • Reply 14 of 43
    Boy, this is a job for Perspective Man!



    He couldn't be here tonight, but he asked me to say a few words....



    OK, fine: strictly as a technical exercise, all of MacOS software, including MacOS itself, can be ported to x86. A significant (like, major) undertaking, but doable.



    That's not the point. The folks that ask "why can't Apple switch" seem to think the question is equivalent to switching from Fab to Tide, or from Ford to Honda, or from public school to private. These things are not so simple.



    The switch from PPC to x86 is more like switching from the Roman alphabet to Kanji, or from English to Arabic, or from fins to legs.



    We have a lot of folks in these forums who are reasonably fluent in two or more languages. I'm sure they'll agree that the language you think in affects the way you think about things, even affects the things you think about. It can take years of speaking a language before you begin to think in it, dream in it.



    There's a conceptual (paradigm?) shift that's required for a transition like this to complete, (and Apple would be exceptionally vulnerable if they tried to make the proposed switch to x86); this shift could happen years after 'implementation' - and it could happen never. Until that shift takes place, or critical mass is reached, or roll your own, and no matter how long or short the transition, it can turn toxic, and GAME OVER.



    So do ya feel lucky, punk? Are the megahertz worth the complete destruction of the Mac? The loss of all developers? The squandering of goodwill, cash, cred & resources would be ghastly, crippling, murderous.



    Only absolute desperation could justify such a move.



    If PPC turned out to be a dry hole, a dead end (think: permanently bumpless G4 w/ no possibility of developing anything useful from current designs, directions, methods; think: start from scratch), AAPL would have to jump to another chip, or die. In this scenario, OS X/86 becomes the last, best hope for survival.



    Even so, the cost to the platform (and to APPL) of even a successful transition would be punishing and potentially fatal.



    To summarise: IMO a voluntary switch to x86 would be a catastrophe, a cataclysmic display of extinction-grade stupidity, a really f*cking dumb idea. I hope it never happens. I hope people stop coming up with this "bright idea".



    So there.
  • Reply 15 of 43
    [quote]Originally posted by Dogcow:

    <strong>So as not to cannibalizing their own hardware sales, couldn't they put something in the chip, in the firmware, or on the board that would only let OS X run on Hardware that was made by Apple? Now Apple has competitive chips in their machines, better looks, better OS and ease of use. Why would anyone buy Windows over Mac then?

    </strong><hr></blockquote>



    And how long would it take for such preventions to get cracked? Then the question people would be asking is why anyone would choose Apple hardware over much cheaper hardware.
  • Reply 16 of 43
    moogsmoogs Posts: 4,296member
    Not to be a pain, but this has been discussed ad nauseum at Ars, here and elsewhere during the past twelve months or so. The bottom line is, PC chips run on an entirely different architecture than PPC chips do. Switching architectures is a *very* painful undertaking from a technical perspective, and would be only slightly less painful to Apple in a financial sense.



    It's not going to happen because it simpy is not an option - not anymore than it is an option that Ford or Chevy will suddenly decide it will start putting hydro-cell engines in all of its trucks starting tomorrow. So, let's find other things to discuss as we salavate for new mobo's, new apps and all the rest. Apple will stay PPC for the forseeable future, period.



    [ 03-12-2002: Message edited by: Moogs ? ]</p>
  • Reply 17 of 43
    spotbugspotbug Posts: 361member
    Uh... I'm not seeing the impossibleness here. The only issues I see from an architecture switch are:



    1. endianness (x86 is backwards endian )

    2. PPC assembly

    3. Altivec



    Once the OS is ported, all the APIs are the same as before, so, mostly, developers would just need to re-compile and fix the endian issues. Not too bad. Especially if you supply nice endian hiding functions and documentation.



    Assuming Apple would only switch to x86 when the speed gap got pretty big, any assembly code could be re-coded into straight C. The compiled code would be as fast as or faster than the original PPC assembly (because the speed gap is big, remember). This also wouldn't be too bad. Same goes for Altivec. The Altivec instructions could be re-implemented in x86 SIMD or, if the gap had gotten big enough, by regular old x86 instructions.



    What am I not seeing?
  • Reply 18 of 43
    moogsmoogs Posts: 4,296member
    x86 is backwards, period!







    And I never said impossible. I'm saying it's highly imPRACTICAL among other things. HIGHLY impractical.
  • Reply 19 of 43
    spotbugspotbug Posts: 361member
    If Apple could figure out a way to keep OS X solely on their hardware, I think it would be great for them to switch from PPC to x86. Everything would be the same as now, except the CPU would be Intel or AMD.



    The PPC architecture is a much better design than x86, no doubt. However, that just doesn't matter anymore. Motorola squandered the advantage. Now it would be better to "throw in the towel" and use the commodity chip with the huge R&D budget(s). Macs already use everything else from PC-land, might as well go all the way.



    One other problem I just thought of (besides the three I mentioned a couple posts up): portables. x86 uses a lot more power and creates a lot more heat for the same performance.
  • Reply 20 of 43
    [quote]Originally posted by spotbug:

    <strong>Uh... I'm not seeing the impossibleness here. The only issues I see from an architecture switch are:



    1. endianness (x86 is backwards endian )

    2. PPC assembly

    3. Altivec



    [snip]



    What am I not seeing?</strong><hr></blockquote>

    The problem. You're not seeing the problem.



    To quote from above, "strictly as a technical exercise, all of MacOS software, including MacOS itself, can be ported to x86. A significant (like, major) undertaking, but doable.



    At its simplest, a transition to x86 would be like the switch to from 6xxe to G3, or from OS 9 to OS X: a big deal, an expensive deal, a time- and resource-consuming deal; they'd be crucified for every oversight and slip-up, the howls of rage and outrage from the "faithful" would soar to heights previously unknown, and the x86 world would gain permanent pissing rights on Apple and all their works.



    The best Apple could hope for would be a small disaster.
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