[Beowulf] [craig.hunter@nasa.gov: Re: Intel?]

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Wed Jun 8 13:44:44 PDT 2005

On Wed, 8 Jun 2005, Michael T. Prinkey wrote:

> On Wed, 8 Jun 2005, Robert G. Brown wrote:
> > 
> > This just makes it official.  Apple will from now on be in direct
> > competition with Microsoft, unless they are completely daft and make
> > enough architectural changes in x86 that their software isn't portable
> > to vanilla box PCs.
> > 
> It seems that they are "daft."  One Apple's VPs has emphatically declared 
> that they will not allow MAC OSX to run on anything but Apply hardware.  
> They were bit by the clone business once.  They seem reluctant to do it 
> again.  Too bad too.  That is one of the few possibilities for a real 
> tidal change in the desktop. 

But remember, the thing about a rip tide is that it all but inexorable
and inescapable -- you may make it out swimming across it, but not
fighting it directly back to shore.  Metaphorically speaking.

So we come to a whole slew of fundamental questions.  Apple is pretty
much stuck using Intel or AMD chip AND their associated chipsets.  If
they go trying to build their own bus/bridge/transport layer -- step
back to get out of the way as the market crushes them like a bug on the
windshield of a supersonic jet.  If they try to get Intel or AMD to
build one for them that is "different", well, smirk is all I can say.
There is almost as much engineering in the chipset as there is in the
CPU -- more engineering, maybe -- engineering that is really difficult
to optimize without control over the CPU.

Then there is the issue of money.  In order to justify a price premium
for the hardware, there has to be added value.  Apple is where it is
today (just barely alive after being "rescued" a couple of times from
its eventual well-deserved oblivion) because it has always had a
protected niche market consisting of people who like their software and
-- recently -- maybe even a tiny edge in hardware, for once in its
existence.  However, even with such an edge, not being able to
mainstream applications hurts them on the hardware side.  Where is the
added value of an Intel-Mac going to be?  Especially if it
isincompatible enough that it won't run other things (easily).
Graphics?  Doubtful.  Disk?  Commodity market.  CPU?  Obviously not.

For the first time in its entire existence, Apple buyers will be forced
to compare Apples to, well, "apples" -- all the other Intel and AMD
boxes in the known commodity universe -- with NOTHING on the hardware
side that even MIGHT be an advantage.  It will all be operating system.

SO then we come down to Apple's internal politics.  Given all of the
above, it will eventually be obvious even to the most retro member of
their board that they have no hardware advantage, and therefore cannot
justify any sort of hardware premium.  Then it is simple arithmetic.
Can the sell more copies of MacOS, at a better margin, that run on ANY
vanilla box than they can custom boxes WITH MacOS, given that their
marginal profit on the custom boxes will be all but nonexistent.  They
will have added expenses (the "custom" part) but the market will not
permit them any sort of added margin.

I give Apple less than six months to transition to selling MacOS
vanilla, and turning their hardware side into competition for e.g. Dell
and Penguin and IBM, with high quality but still vanilla boxes, Apple
branded but capable of running nearly any x86 OS with at most a bit of
tweaking (tweaking that in the case of linux will be done nearly

Will they survive?  Dunno.  I've predicted their immanent demise any
number of times past, and they always surprise me (sometimes with a lot
of help from people with a vested interest in their survival).  I still
think that they are a company that should not have been able to exist,
but they have a very stubborn customer base.  We'll see...

> Mike

Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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