Sources: Intel developing next-generation Power Mac for Apple

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
In a move that may surprise some Apple watchers, reliable sources tell AppleInsider the Mac maker has contracted the design duties for its next-generation Power Mac motherboard over to industry heavyweight Intel Corp.



Specifically, sources said Intel's facilities in Oregon picked up the project in late-October after Apple sought the chip maker's help in meeting deadlines associated with its accelerated transition from PowerPC processors to Intel chips.



Around the same time, Intel quietly formed an "Apple Group" comprised of both engineers and sales staff, several of which are rumored to have been assigned to the Power Mac project.



With Apple moving aggressively to introduce four Intel-based Mac models in the first four months of 2006 -- iMacs, 15-inch PowerBooks, 13-inch widescreen iBooks and Mac minis -- resources at the company's Cupertino, Calif.- based engineering labs have worn thin, sources said.



By enlisting the help of Intel to design (and possibly manufacture) the Power Mac motherboard, Apple hopes to remain on track to begin shipping the first Intel Power Mac models during the third quarter of 2006, sources added.



It's likely, but not confirmed, that the new Power Macs will adopt Intel's next-generation desktop processor, code-named Conroe, also expected to ship around the same time. Unlike Intel's Pentium 4 processors and derivatives, Conroe will not use the company's NetBurst architecture and instead will be based on a completely new architecture, sources say.



Apple's decision to work with Intel Oregon on the Power Mac design may also have its costs benefits. Mark Margevicius, an analyst for Gartner Research, said any effort by Apple to pass-off its motherboard designs to Intel would help reduce the costs to manufacturer Macs and result in lower prices for the consumer.



"Intel has done exactly this for the Wintel world several times over, and the benefits from a manufacturing cost have been huge," Margevicius told AppleInsider. The analyst believes Apple has had pressure exerted on its desktop systems from a manufacturing cost perspective, and has finally realized that the real differentiation is at the operating system and software levels. "While cool white boxes are attractive and desirable, they are becoming more and more tough to justify compared to a plain-ol? PC," he said.



"While I have no insight how much this will save Apple, let?s not also forget that Intel also offers marketing dollars (several hundred million, if I?m not mistaken) to [computer manufacturers] who display the 'Intel Inside,' 'Pentium,' and 'Centrino' logos on their hardware," Margevicius added. "I would expect Apple to do the same."



However, other analysts wonder how the traditionally tight-lipped Apple will maintain control of its designs, plans and intellectual property once in the hands of Intel.



"The risk with this strategy is that it could make the Power Mac more 'open' than other systems as Intel's specs could be published for others to follow," said one Wall Street analyst who provides coverage on Apple, but asked not to be identified. "It'll be interesting how Apple retains its proprietary architecture -- which I assume will be more than software."



The analyst also fueled rumors of an even closer relationship forming between Apple and Intel, saying there are indications that the two companies may be working together on a custom microprocessor chip-set that would appear only in Apple systems.



As expected, sources say Apple will remain in control of the external industrial design for the new Power Mac models.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 347
    Doesn't surprise me one bit. This transition is all about Apple joining the mainstream. Apple hardware will be just like everyone else's.
  • Reply 2 of 347
    All I want to hear is that the intel macs will still use open firmware so I can boot with target disk mode.
  • Reply 3 of 347
    Is Motherboard design synonymous with Case design? I don't think so. Apple will still have original cases. If this rumor is true then Intel will be designing and producing Motherboards that match a minimum set of requirements set-forth by Apple to match a case design. There will be collaboration. Case and Motherboard design is, I assume, done digitally. The case is modeled, the specifications are sent to Intel where a motherboard is modeled, and any incompatibilities between the two are ironed out until a finished product is done. It's not like we're going to get beige boxes... iHope.
  • Reply 4 of 347
    I think it's becoming obvious that Merom is going to be on time. Meaning we likely see Conroe based Power Macs late 2006 and Woodcrest Xserve in q1 2007.



    Apple needs to go ahead and farm out that production to Intel. Get to working on Leopard and Rosetta.
  • Reply 5 of 347
    Please please please no 'Intel Inside' stickers



    The only way I could see apple doing it is having the logo etched into the cases - that might be classy??
  • Reply 6 of 347
    Quote:

    Originally posted by schmidm77

    All I want to hear is that the intel macs will still use open firmware so I can boot with target disk mode.



    Apple has already stated on its developer Web site that the Intel Macs will NOT use OpenFirmware. They haven't decided what will be used (BIOS, next-generation BIOS, EFI or something new. But OpenFirmware is decidely not it, probably because it was developed by IBM and therefore has intellectual property issues associated with it (e.g. Apple might need to pay for it.)



    Ryan
  • Reply 7 of 347
    Dropping Open Firmware would significantly reduce the verification effort for Intel-based Macs.
  • Reply 8 of 347
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,358member
    When do I get my Quad Woodcrest Powermac?
  • Reply 9 of 347
    This is excellent news. A motherboard designed by Intel means a motherboard without all the usual Apple quirks and little bugs that always end up in the shipping products. Intel motherboards are an example of the finest designs that billions of dollars of R&D come up with. This is a smart move on Apple's part.



    For anyone who might be confused, don't confuse Intel's motherboards with your bargin basement PC computer that has a generic or cheep motherboard. Intel makes the best motherboards on earth, and they are extremely picky about design and every little feature of the board is obsessed over. It's a good fit for Apple to choose to let Intel make the motherboards
  • Reply 10 of 347
    boogabooga Posts: 1,081member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by rmcgann220

    Apple has already stated on its developer Web site that the Intel Macs will NOT use OpenFirmware. They haven't decided what will be used (BIOS, next-generation BIOS, EFI or something new. But OpenFirmware is decidely not it, probably because it was developed by IBM and therefore has intellectual property issues associated with it (e.g. Apple might need to pay for it.)



    Ryan




    Actually, the last official news I heard was that it hadn't been decided. The current transition docs state that a developer cannot depend on OpenFirmware being there, but developer mailing list have stated that: 1. No one wants BIOS, 2. People who aren't familiar with EFI prefer OpenFirmware, 3. People who are familiar with EFI prefer EFI. That makes it sound like EFI will, barring any major engineering obstacles, be the likely winner.



    I don't think there's any fundamental limitation in EFI that would prevent target-disk mode. (In fact, I think the capabilities of EFI are more or less a superset of OpenFirmware.)
  • Reply 11 of 347
    boogabooga Posts: 1,081member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Nine-Seventy

    Please please please no 'Intel Inside' stickers





    I can't imagine Jobs going with Intel Inside stickers. Even for millions of dollars.
  • Reply 12 of 347
    marzetta7marzetta7 Posts: 1,323member
    Curious, given this possible news, has there been any limitations (given the OS on PCs are Windows) built into the hardware of regular PC motherboards? More specifically, has there been any advancements within the Intel architecture, that hasn't been implemented due to the backward compatibility restraints inherent within Windows OSs? Would these advancements be present in new motherboards for Apple given their newer OS?



    Anyone have anything on this?
  • Reply 13 of 347
    tednditedndi Posts: 1,921member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Booga

    I can't imagine Jobs going with Intel Inside stickers. Even for millions of dollars.



    Perhaps Job's deal includes Apple stickers on intel chips!



    Anyway, I could see the little intel jingle and the logo stamps on Apple Commercials. Perhaps the box but I don't think the actual case.



    Although etched into the bottomside of the laptop line or inside the case of the powermacs might be possible.
  • Reply 14 of 347
    zunxzunx Posts: 620member
    Great news:



    - Cheap Mactels.



    - Mactels with great PC features like double DVD drives & more VRAM.



    - Quiet Mactels.



    - Frontal connectors.



    - Virtualization to switch from Mac to Linux to Windows. Wow! That alone will sell many Mactels and boost market share!!!



    As for the Intel sticker, it does not matter at all. It is absolutely irrelevant to me. A want a great OS inside a great cheap feature-rich hardware.
  • Reply 15 of 347
    Quote:

    Originally posted by AppleInsider

    It's likely, but not confirmed, that the new Power Macs will adopt Intel's next-generation desktop processor, code-named Conroe



    Weird. I'd have expected Conroe to go in iMac and Woodcrest in PM and Xserve.

    Power Mac are workstation-class, so they need Intel Professional class processors, aka Xeon.

    Conroe will be the true Pentium IV successor for desktops, but only Woodcrest is a Xeon (and the quadcore "Tigerton" too, in 2007).
  • Reply 16 of 347
    zazzaz Posts: 177member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Booga

    I can't imagine Jobs going with Intel Inside stickers. Even for millions of dollars.



    And yet, from a retail perspective it is exactly what they want announced, so don't count it out. not by a long shot.



    Apple/SJ want more market share. The intel move helps with that in a big big way. A branding of 'intel inside', while not the Apple logo, is very much in the forefront of computer shoppers.



    While The Faithful? may take issue with it, if it puts more Macs in the hands of more consumers don't think for a minute they wouldn't do it. I'd not put a custom version of it past them though.



    As for Intel at least helping with the next PowerMac Logic Board (hence to be Motherboard?) that isn't at all surprising. Apple's engineering team has no experience with doing chipsets for Intel CPUs. It isn't like they are going to go to VIA for SIS for them.



    It is important to remember that the engineering and the industrial design are quite different in over all terms.
  • Reply 17 of 347
    boogabooga Posts: 1,081member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by marzetta7

    Curious, given this possible news, has there been any limitations (given the OS on PCs are Windows) built into the hardware of regular PC motherboards? More specifically, has there been any advancements within the Intel architecture, that hasn't been implemented due to the backward compatibility restraints inherent within Windows OSs? Would these advancements be present in new motherboards for Apple given their newer OS?



    Anyone have anything on this?




    The only hint of the old legacy PC system are the BIOS and the IRQ system. BIOS is likely being replaced by EFI everywhere during 1996, and the IRQ system is not really an issue anymore with all the auto-configuration going on and the lack of legacy connections. (No need for IRQ lines for parallel ports, PS/2 keyboards, RS-232 serial ports, floppies, etc.) Some of the "compatibility mode" things you'll find in the BIOS, such as copying BIOS to RAM, reserving pages for video, and a variety of other things, probably wouldn't apply to an Apple design either.



    So I don't think there are many huge inherent advantages that you can get anymore by just eliminating the legacy stuff, although some of the development will no doubt be a little easier because of it.
  • Reply 18 of 347
    How will this impact support for firewire ?
  • Reply 19 of 347
    tinktink Posts: 395member
    Intel Inside... only on the outside box. Also, possibly in the inside sililiarly to how the G5 is marketed. That's my guess
  • Reply 20 of 347
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,334member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by rmcgann220

    Apple has already stated on its developer Web site that the Intel Macs will NOT use OpenFirmware. They haven't decided what will be used (BIOS, next-generation BIOS, EFI or something new. But OpenFirmware is decidely not it, probably because it was developed by IBM and therefore has intellectual property issues associated with it (e.g. Apple might need to pay for it.)



    Ryan




    It isn't intellectual property issues that prevents OF from being used on Mactels (still trying to get used to that name).



    PPC's have instructions that are used in OF. x86 chips do not. Therefore OF can't be used on the new machines.



    It's expected that Apple will use EFI on its machines. But whether they will be used on the first models is anyone's guess right now.



    Hopefully we will find out on the 7th.
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