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Apple, IBM, Intel - Missed One!

 Like everyone else who hasn't been living under a particularly large rock for the last couple weeks, I've become aware of a couple things.

Firstly, Apple has committed to moving its systems from PowerPC chips to chips from Intel over the next two years.
Secondly, the media is terribly excited about this.

I have both PowerPC hardware from Apple and Intel-based hardware from another vendor. It all runs Linux or OS X. I personally don't find this transition to be anything that I have to worry about. But the announcement, and the ensuing media coverage, have left me wondering a few things. Fortunately, I had a flash of realization this morning.

The media has consistently portrayed this as a move away from IBM and toward Intel by Apple. And that's not at all untrue - this does represent a win for Intel, and a vote of no confidence in the future roadmap of the G5 family.

But why, I ask, would Apple announce this now, when Intel's chips don't really offer any performance advantages over the G5? Won't changing from the G5 to the Pentium be a step backward, in fact, from 64-bit to 32-bit? And, says the media, won't this hurt their sales?

The answer, of course, is that it's not about IBM, and not about the G5. Not now. Not next year. Not until 2007.

Remember, Apple is starting at the low end, and won't go Intel on the high end until 2007. The G5 is only used in the Power Mac, Xserve, and iMac. And IBM doesn't make the G4. Freescale (formerly Motorola) does, and Apple's been discontented with Motorola for years - after all, that's why they went with IBM for the G5. G4 speeds haven't kept up with Intel, and memory bus speeds of G4 systems are woefully slow.

So this year, and next year, this isn't about IBM. It's about Freescale getting one last firm kick in the butt from Apple on its way out the door. And that is a huge win for buyers of Apple's low-end systems, even if the media ignores it.

Since IBM only makes the high-end G5, their arrangement with Apple probably won't end until 2007, when those systems go Intel. And that also means the G5 won't be getting replaced with current Pentiums - it will be getting replaced with something Intel's fabbing two years in the future. Something we may very well not even know the details of until 2006.

So... this isn't just about Apple and IBM. It's about Apple and Freescale right now and for at least the next year. Sure, IBM's been told its days as a chip supplier for Apple are numbered, but Freescale is first against the wall.