Saturday, June 04, 2005

Apple is switching to Intel. That is the word on the street as of Saturday afternoon. Monday we are supposed to know for sure.

Most people seem to be concerned about what the switch to a new processor will do for developers. From the point of view of a developer that works on cross platform applications, the fact that there will be a different processor underneath the OS X operating system really doesn't amount to much. Any developer worth their salt knows about endianness issues, since we've had to deal with those in any networked application. We just don't do that much low-level work any more. The OS is supposed to abstract all that stuff, right? I do feel sorry for all the in-house AltiVec experts out there. At least there should be plently of work in the console business.

I would love to see Apple switch to x86. It makes many more interesting things possible. But frankly, Apple putting an x86 in their boxes wouldn't really change my world, but here is what would:

A) Apple provides a version of OS X for non-Apple hardware. There was recently a reference to the fact that Steve Jobs wants to overtake Windows market share. If he is serious, he has to know this isn't going to happen all through Apple hardware. Throw an Apple supported version of WINE in there, and people will have a choice in operating systems independent of the applications they want to run. Will there be compatibility issues? Sure. But nothing worse than what Longhorn will create. If Apple comes out with a PC version of OS X, we will have a level of operating system competion the likes of which haven't been seen since OS/2, or before.

B) In addition to their own x86 OS X, Apple delivers the Cocoa framework for Windows and Linux. As a developer, things would get really interesting. I believe that Microsoft has put themselves in a very critical position right now vis-a-vis frameworks, and the developer mindshare. Longhorn is late. Way late. People that have bought into C# and WinForms, are ALREADY staring down the barrel of obsolecense with Avalon. Given the choice, I think developers will flock to Cocoa. Apple (ala NeXT) did it once with OpenStep. They can do it again. Internally, this seems like it would make sense for Apple as well. I am not entirely clear what applications in their iLife/iWork sweet are Cocoa/Carbon, but having a single framework to deliver both OS X and Windows applications would have to cut costs.

If Apple only announces they are putting x86 chips in their boxes, I'll still be happy Monday afternoon. If they come out with a Windows Cocoa framework, I will be extatic.


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