21 December 2005

Intel Macs - Myth and Reality

It takes a brave man to go out on a limb so close to MacWorld and contradict rumours that are already considered facts by some of the mac faithful, but Paul Murphy at ZDNet has recently done just that. I'm not sure I agree with all that he's written. But I think he makes some excellent points in the article, which are worthy of serious debate (more so than a recent column suggesting Apple ditch Intel and move to Solaris/SPARC).

In a series of articles here between now and MacWorld in January, when all (well at least SOME) will be revealed, I'll be taking a look at some of the things that have gone from guesswork to firm predictions to expectations, without a single machine being released. I think expectations for this particular MacWorld are now running way ahead of anything else I've ever seen for Apple and indeed perhaps for any technology company ever.

Myth or Reality #1: TIMING. Intel Macs will arrive much sooner than Apple promised. Interestingly, I've seen conjecture for just about every Mac computer to be in the January announcement even though the transition was not expected to be complete until end of 2007. I have seen mention of Mac mini, iMac, iBook, eMac, Powerbook and even XServe for immediate release (missing is the dual core PowerMacs).

Myth or Reality #2: PRICING. Intel Macs will be cheaper/substantially cheaper than current Macs. A number of people believe that moving to Intel will allow Apple to suddenly become much more price competitive. Dell will be in the sights. We can expect equivalent Apple machines to today at $399 levels for instance, $599/$699 for laptops.

Myth or Reality #3: PERFORMANCE
. Intel Macs will blow away existing PowerPC Macs in just about everything. PowerPC Macs will be immediately obsoleted. Even with Rosetta (the emulation software required to run PowerPC applications), the Intel Macs will still outperform current machines.

Myth or Reality #4: FUNCTIONALITY. Intel Macs will do so much more. A new Mac Mini will be a full-featured "media-centre" machine using FrontRow software serving HD content to one or more display devices, acting as a dual channel Tivo-like device for TV (choose from cable, satellite, digital, analogue), video-on-demand downloads from the new Apple "locker" while streaming music to multiple locations, syncing your family iPods, oh, and running Windows at the same time...

Now, I hope that by bringing these all together, you can see that it certainly doesn't add up. Some of these myths are incompatible with the others. I'm going to be sticking my neck out looking at each of these areas and trying to take an (educated) guess as to which ones will be myth and which ones reality.

All Apple have said (of note) is that the first Intel Macs will become available by June 2006, and that the key driver was performance/watt. What I will say at this point is that come MacWorld, the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field is going to have to be operating in Hyper mode if there are not to be a large number of disappointed people, because Apple cannot and will not deliver on all of these areas. Which areas they do choose to focus on will be fascinating. But what might damage their reputation is NOT a failure to deliver on what has been promised, but a failure to deliver what the rumour sites have collectively ramped up as nothing less than Apple freeing the consumer from the tyranny of every technology or industry - insert your choice(s) of Microsoft, Dell, Sony, Music industry, Hollywood, Cable - they don't like at an affordable price.

Stay tuned....

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