Mac and Intel

After this week’s Apple/Intel announcement, I must admit I was kind of perplexed about the new chip set choice. While there were certainly frustrations on Apple’s part for IBM not being able to build a G5 chip for PowerBooks and taking awhile to ramp up production for new Mac models, IBM is no slouchy company. I’m sure over the long term those problems could have been remedied. Especially with Microsoft choosing the PowerPC as the processor for the xBox. More chips = more cost saving from volume production = more profits = greater focus from IBM at cranking out new chips. Watching Steve’s keynote, I was unimpressed with the live demo’s of 10.4 running on Intel boxes. Apps seemed pretty sluggish. Not that Intel is necessarily known as the fastest or most affordable chips on the block. So, why the switch?

Cringely offers an interesting conspiracy theory. Basically, Silicon Valley versus Microsoft once again.

This isn’t a story about Intel gaining another three percent market share at the expense of IBM, it is about Intel taking back control of the desktop from Microsoft.

Intel is fed up with Microsoft. Microsoft has no innovation that drives what Intel must have, which is a use for more processing power. And when they did have one with the Xbox, they went elsewhere.

If Intel was able to own the Mac OS and make it available to all the OEMs, it could break the back of Microsoft. And if they tuned the OS to take advantage of unique features that only Intel had, they would put AMD back in the box, too. Apple could return Intel to its traditional role of being where all the value was in the PC world. And Apple/Intel could easily extend this to the consumer electronics world. How much would it cost Intel to buy Apple? Not much.

Interesting theory. I don’t see Intel ever buying Apple. Software just isn’t their game. But I could see Dell eventually selling new machines with your choice of Windows or OS X. As much as Michael Dell has been poo-poo’ed by emperor Jobs for not being “innovative,” I think Michael would be quick to sell the Mac OS option if it would sell more Dell machines. Once that happens, the Microsoft stranglehold is over because other OEMs would be quick to follow to compete. At work, the IT department is testing rolling out PowerBooks given having a Unix system with a great GUI is something engineers like. So, perhaps the first dominos are starting to fall in the corporate world?

I don’t believe most of Cringely’s theory will pan out. I think what’s most likely is Intel giving Apple a super sweet deal with respect to chip prices and new technology and Apple giving Intel a chance to break into the consumer electronics world. Apple doesn’t really need to beat Microsoft on the personal computer front. If gains market share there, that’s the icing on the cake. It’s no question that Apple is moving strongly into people’s living rooms. No one owns that space right now. Sony is fumbling and Microsoft doesn’t do well in new markets. With Intel as an alley, Apple could eventually become the 800 pound gorilla in people’s digital lifestyle. If that happens, Apple certainly wins and Intel can start growing again.