英特尔狂热

摩尔定律states that every 18-24 months, CPU processing power doubles.

Here then is another law: every 18-24 months, the tech industry will be captivated by unsubstantiated rumors that Apple is switching the Macintosh to Intel (or Intel-compatible) processors比照“Qwerty键盘”, published here two years ago in the face of very similar rumors.

本轮苹果 - 英特尔的谣言源于此这份报告earlier this week in The Wall Street Journal’s “Heard on the Street” column — the Journal’s equivalent of a rumor columnThat link requires a paid Journal subscription, butPaul Thurrott has a long excerpt在他的博客上Here’s how the Journal sources the information:

Two industry executives with knowledge of recent discussions between the companies said Apple will agree to use Intel chips … Talks between Apple and Intel could founder, as they have before, or Apple could be engaging in negotiations with Intel to gain leverage over IBM.

请注意,期刊确实如此imply that either “industry executive” works at either Apple or Intel.

This rumor has gained traction because it’s fairly obvious that Apple is not happy with IBM’s G5 productionWhen the PowerMac G5 was introduced at WWDC 2003, Steve Jobs famously predicted they’d have systems running at 3 GHz within a yearIt’s now two years later and Apple’s fastest system runs at only 2.7 GHzThat’s not to say a top-of-the-line PowerMac G5 isn’t a nice computer, but you certainly don’t hear any talk about them being the fastest PCs in the world anymore.

所以,是的,Apple有动机考虑这样的转换But that doesn’t make it plausibleNone of this week’s Apple-Intel rumor reports seriously address the enormous hurdles Apple would face if they made such a switch.

其中最大的一点就是软件兼容性All existing Mac OS X software would need to be recompiled for an Intel processor architectureA decade ago, when Apple switched the Mac from Motorola’s 680 × 0 family of processors to the PowerPC, the transition was nearly seamless because the PowerPC was capable of emulating the 680 × 0 at very reasonable speedsBut emulation is out of the question for a switch now — Intel chips may be faster than current PowerPC G5s, but they are nowhere near fast enough to emulate them at an acceptable speed.

The only plausible scenario I can imagine would be for Apple to pre-announce the move to x86 (say, at WWDC) to get developers on board a year or more in advanceThe idea is that by the time Apple released the new Intel-powered Macs, developers would have had time to develop, test, and release Intel-compatible software updates.

这种情况的问题不是技术问题It’d be a piece of cake for Apple to roll out an update of Xcode that generates such dual-binary apps — the compiler at the heart of Xcode isGCC, and if anything, GCC is better at generating x86 code than it is PowerPC code.达尔文already officially supports x86 processors, and it seems quite plausible that Apple secretly keeps the rest of Mac OS X’s source code compilable on x86 processors(NextStep supported multiple processor architectures.)

No, the obvious problem with this idea is marketing: the minute Apple announces they’re moving to x86 processors, sales of current hardware dry upWho’s going to spend $3000 for a deprecated CPU architecture?

But they’d have to pre-announce the move in order to give developers time to recompile — and in some cases re-write portions of — their softwareApple couldn’t just spring the new machines unannounced; who’d buy a Mac that ran没有现有的第三方Mac软件?

My advice is to pay no heed whatsoever to any Macintosh-to-Intel rumors that don’t address this issueThe fact that it’s technically possible doesn’t mean there’s a good business case for such a move. It’s wise for Apple to keep such a move available as an option, in case something drastic happens to the PowerPC processor familyBut the current performance gap, while serious, is far from drastic.

Also note that it is entirely possible that Apple is planning to use Intel chips, but for something other than Mac CPUsPerhaps a next-generation iPod, or a new iPod-like consumer electronics media gadgetOr maybe a next-generation AirPort system, with higher bandwidth and range, based onWiMAX的Such a deal would make perfect sense — Intel makes great chips, and Apple has been making great new products other than MacsBut that’s not what the Journal and others have reported; this week’s rumors are that Apple is moving the Mac to Intel.

(Paul Thurrott甚至设法附加the Mac-to-Intel rumor to the other great recurring Mac rumor fantasy — the fabled “tablet” MacJust remember that a tablet-shaped gadget is not necessarily a tablet-shaped Mac.)

Reading between the lines, I think this is less about whether Apple actually intends to switch processors, and more about planted leaks intended to spur IBM(For what it’s worth, the Journal article mentions this as a possibility; but few of the sites that breathlessly linked to the story mentioned anything more than the “The Wall Street Journal says Apple is moving the Mac to Intel!” part.) More than just the money IBM makes from Apple under their current arrangement, there’s also the pride/publicity factor: the underlying theme of this rumor is that Apple might turn to Intel because IBM can’t compete against Intel’s technologyWhether it’s a fair assessment or not, it’s not the sort of idea IBM wants in the public’s conventional wisdom.

我的预测:我将在2007年再次写这篇文章。

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