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Apple, Apple, Apple...Whatever Does It Mean?
Monday, June 06 2005 @ 07:58 PM EDT

I don't know what it means that Apple is switching to Intel chips. As far as I can tell, no one else knows either. Of course, I have the world's worst cold, and it's hard to pay attention to anything with this fever. Steve Jobs knows. Here's his keynote, so you can make up your own mind. (It's at 00:21:55 when he begins to speak about "Transitions.")

At first, I thought this theory made the most sense out of all the opinions out there today on why Apple is going to Intel, from Wired: they think it's to satisfy Hollywood's lust for a DRM'd locked-down environment, so folks will have to do what they are told with movies:

But why would Apple do this? Because Apple wants Intel's new Pentium D chips.

Released just few days ago, the dual-core chips include a hardware copy protection scheme that prevents "unauthorized copying and distribution of copyrighted materials from the motherboard," according to PC World.

Apple -- or rather, Hollywood -- wants the Pentium D to secure an online movie store (iFlicks if you will), that will allow consumers to buy or rent new movies on demand, over the internet. . . .

And that's why the whole Mac platform has to shift to Intel. Consumers will want to move content from one device to another -- or one computer to another -- and Intel's DRM scheme will keep it all nicely locked down.

But then, someone pointed out that Intel claims there is no DRM in the chip:

Intel supports several technologies of content protection, such as DTCP-IP, which is offered by a large number of companies. DTCP-IP is aimed at securing the transmission of compressed material in a local network.

Several products signed by Intel include data protection technologies such as: Macrovision, DTCP-IP, and in the second half of the year, Intel will also offer support for technologies like COPP, HDCP, CGMS-A, and others.

Intel is a strong supporter of including technologies for content protection, but Pentium D and the 945 Express chipset will not include them.

Tom's Hardware says it all depends on how you phrase things. What Intel actually said was that there were no "unannounced DRM technologies implemented":

However, the issue about DRM in Intel products is not really whether the tech is there or not. Instead, it really depends on the wording of such a claim. Intel does not deny that certain DRM technologies are supported by its hardware. "Many of Intel's products today, including those just mentioned do work with existing content protection technologies out there including DTCP-IP. In the second half of 2005, Intel will deliver an updated graphics driver that will also support additional content protection technologies including COPP, HDCP, CGMS-A, and others," Skoog said.

In other words, Intel says it is not building DRM technologies right into its hardware, but rather supports existing technologies, if they are used by copyright holders.

So the Wired piece could be on target. John Dvorak thinks it means that Linux is doomed. Of course, that's what he always says, no matter what the latest news story happens to be.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols thinks it endangers both Longhorn and Linux, and he'd like Linux developers to drop what they are doing and just get into a competitive spin stat. One suggestion he makes is to choose a desktop, Gnome or KDE, and focus. I'd like to disagree, gently, because I like Steven. But GNU/Linux is about choice, not competition, and getting it just right, and it doesn't matter how long it takes, if the end result is that you get something you truly love. I like to use both Gnome and KDE, and I don't want to have to choose only one. Only one is what you get with proprietary software. Such decisions are made for you. We have plenty of developers to go around, and Google is making more as we speak.

Joe Brockmeier has more analysis here. He doesn't see Apple's move as spelling doom for Linux on the desktop, and here's why:

Apple’s move to Intel isn’t going to change much. Firstly, Apple seems poised to continue its exclusionary stance, and will require users who want to run Mac OS X to buy the whole kit and kaboodle from Apple. The ZDNet piece quotes Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller as saying that "We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac." This means that Apple computers will still continue to carry a price premium that many users are unwilling to pay unless they’re already convinced they want to run Mac OS X. Even Apple’s low-end Mac Mini is still high-priced compared to similarly-equipped Dell computer.

"We will not allow." How those words resonate. The corporate world is dividing into two camps: the controllers and those that treat their customers like human beings, with a measure of respect for what freedom means to the human spirit.

So. Now what? Terra Soft's Yellow Dog Linux is still there. They announced they are sticking with PowerPC:

We will not transition to support an x86/ia64 architecture.

Terra Soft remains in good standing with Apple. Their announcement does not immediately affect our ability to sell nor support Apple PowerPC hardware. Nor does it affect our ability to support non-Apple Power Architecture offerings. Things are already in motion to enable a world of greater Power Architecture diversity.

"A world of diversity" versus "We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac." Take your pick.

If you'd like to listen to another MP3, here's Dan Farber interviewing Ina Fried about what it all means, and here's David Berlind's list of the questions they discuss, with time codes, so you can find what interests you. Hmm. Here's one I think I'll go listen to: "03:28 - Apple made it clear that it would be possible to run Windows on an x86 Mac but that Apple wasn’t about to allow the Mac OS to run on non-Apple x86 systems.  What’s behind that?"

Meanwhile, IBM is building a new architecture for Linux.

If you really enjoy Macintosh history, Groklaw's clark_kent found the videos from the launch of the Machintosh in 1984. It's fun.

UPDATE: Wednesday, June 8: some more reactions that seem to make more sense than the early hype -- CIO Today's "PowerPC's Legacy Lives On" and Linspire's Michael Robertson's "Apple's Colossal Disappointment". Robertson says that there will be specially designed Intel chips for the Mac, to make sure there will be no white box possibilities:

My disappointment was captured by an Apple spokesman who commented on what the switch doesnot mean: "We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac." Future "Mactel" computers will have specially designated Intel chips, not generic x86 compatible chips found in common PCs. My sources say that Jobs is going to use Intel's cryptographic technology called LaGrande to make sure OS X will only boot on Apple-branded hardware. This is a similar technique to the one that Microsoft used to make sure Linux could not be loaded on Xbox - see: MM on Linux on Xbox.

The bottom line is that PC buyers will unfortunately not have the option to install and experience OS X. There will be no low-cost laptops from budget-minded Taiwanese manufacturers. There will be no generic AMD or Via white boxes sold by the millions capable of running OS X. Apple will not be reaching the 95% of the world buying Intel-compatible machines.

And here's a pragmatic view from IT Jungle:

The sad truth is that IBM and Apple should have long since ported Mac OS to the Power-based server line created by Big Blue, and IBM should have listened to Apple and created a low-powered, 64-bit PowerPC chip that could run Mac OS X in a laptop without cooking a user's legs. IBM most certainly could have done this, but it has had other priorities--like ramping up performance on the Power5 chips as much as possible to compete in the Unix and proprietary midrange and enterprise server space or selling low-powered chips for embedded devices. IBM's PowerPC 970 and its supposed kicker, the PowerPC 970MP with dual cores, was a high volume product in relation to Power5, but it probably didn't make IBM as much money or Big Blue would have fought to retain the Apple business. For all we know, IBM made such promises. It doesn't matter. This should have happened in 1995.

So why will it take 18 months to roll out the Intel-based Apple machines? Because Apple thinks it is a hardware manufacturer, and it is in love with the idea of designing and building computers. And that is fair enough. Let's face it: Apple has the sexiest computers on the market, whether they are desktops or iPods or xServes. But if Apple is really interested in taking the X86/X64 market by storm, it may be time to let Mac OS X go--and really let it go. At the very least, Apple might be smart to create an open source community and let that community do a port of all the relevant pieces of Mac OS X to all kinds of X86 and X64 machines. For native Intel code, this would be a great strategy.

Cringely thinks it's about Microsoft, and that Intel will buy Apple. Since Apple says it's about chips, here's an article on chips and heat. Intel has a statement on Dave Farber's IP, reinforcing that it does not have DRM embedded. This touched off an interesting thread you might like to follow. You might also find this Intel page fascinating, on DTCP, Digital Transmission Content Protection, and how wondrous it is.


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