Jun 082005

Apple’s announcement that it will abandon PowerPC and build future Mac OSX machines on Intel chips has raised a few eyebrows.  How compatible will this Intel Mac hardware be with the well established PC platform?  What about Windows/Mac software portability?  Should Borland create a Delphi for the Intel Mac?

Apple’s G4 and G5 Macs are powerful 64 bit PPC systems.  I seriously doubt that Apple is in any way interested in 32 bit Intel x86.  Apple needs 64 bit to maintain parity.  AMD64 / Intel x64 is the only x86 related chipset that makes sense.

So is this Intel Mac really so similar to existing x86 systems that it is more within striking distance for Delphi than the PPC Mac?  Essentially, no.  The Mac is just as far from the current Delphi target architectures as it was prior to this Intel Mac announcement.  Delphi’s current target architectures are 32 bit x86 and .NET IL.  I expect this Intel Mac will be x64.  Kylix targets Linux, but Linux is very different from the Unix flavor behind OSX.

Delphi for this Apple / Intel Mac would require as much work as any other new platform.  New codegen, new linker, new language / RTL binding to the OS, etc.  It’s still a possibility, but no closer than it was before.

For all the hoopla in the newsgroups and blogs about how this will affect Apple, Mac customers, and Windows customers, the question that intrigues me most is: why?  Apple speaks of hardware costs and power requirement problems, but that seems a little thin to me as a justification for turning your core business completely upside down.

Others have observed the timing of all this is remarkably close to Microsoft’s Longhorn OS release, but changing your hardware horse is a rather bizarre way to compete against a software release.  It will cost Apple a lot more to manage panic and market attrition in its hardware switch than it will cost Microsoft to upgrade and migrate Windows people from one Windows release to the next.

What’s pawing around in the high grass that would flush these two birds together?  Theories abound.  Whatever it is, it needs to be big enough to scare Apple and Intel into giving up decades of rivalry to work together against a greater common threat.