The big announcement from the WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) was not that the next version of OS X will be codenamed Leopard, but instead that the rumors are true. Apple is planning to start the shift to Intel x86 processors by mid 2006 and complete it by the end of 2007.
For a company that hardly ships enough units to create any impact on the overall PC landscape, why is this such a big announcement? It's because Apple was pretty much the last bastion of “thinking different,” and now, since they can’t beat the big companies, they’ve joined them. There are actually quite a few reasons for this having occurred, and even more discussion is possible on what it means in the future for both companies. That is what we are going to get into today.
The first part is leading up to why Apple would jump ship from IBM PowerPC processors to Intel x86. Considering the vast amount of advertising Apple has done previously condemning the “other” approach to making of a personal computer, you'd think they would never be able to sell their new leap. Because of the brainwashing applied, I'm sure that serious Macphiles around the world will be in uproar over this hardware change, and so too will recent purchasers of G5 based iMacs and PowerMacs. Granted this change won't happen overnight, but Mac purchases made now certainly look less stellar if the architecture has been decided to not be good enough for the Apple’s future. Despite Steve Jobs proclamations that this is purely an “eye to the future” move, it certainly does leave a bad taste in the mouth about their current product line. The Apple media machine will have to be in full force in order to prevent iBook, PowerBook, MacMini and PowerMac sales from flat-lining until the new product lines take over. It's a curious decision to announce such things to the world when you don't actually have a product shipping, but I think I know why Steve decided to do it this way.
First off, the developers needed to know so that there is an install base of available programs when the hardware arrives in stores. And with the recent leaks regarding Apple product plans, it's probably better to hear from the horse's mouth as opposed to going through developers and personal blogs which generate more and more rumors. This is just too big to keep in a tight little box until they have products ready for public consumption. Next, it allows for people to have faith in their mobile line, especially since they don't have a G5 portable product yet. With a next-gen Centrino based iBook and PowerBook obviously in the works, people might hold off any large laptop purchases from Apple’s PC competitors, waiting for that new white or titanium slab to arrive. It's called “mindshare,” and Steve Jobs just won a lot of it.
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