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AFR: If Apple had processor options....where would you like to see them go and why would that be good for the Macintosh economy?

SF: For short-term business reasons, I think Apple should concentrate on continuing the current processor lines and develop faster and faster single processor machines. I think the move to x86 PC-clones would ultimately degrade the Macintosh experience. Many Mac users remember the clone years fondly, but as a developer I saw growing frustration among users during those years as configuration and reliability problems began to rival those of our Windows customers. So for me the bigger question is not the processor, but does Apple want to run Macintosh on Dells and Gateways? Just putting an Intel chip in a Macintosh box is not a big enough gain for the customer unless Apple does not see a continued future for the G3/G4/G5 processor line.

Besides the point that Apple's core Mac experiences would degrade to the level of Windows users, Apple would be giving away some key advantages that the PowerPC line has to offer, as Mr. Nader points out:

NF: Speed, especially in 64-bit floating point numeric calculations. This is from a geometrically intensive calculation point of view. Rendering may be even more powerful, as the PowerPC chip is further optimized. Yet, for the average software developer the graphics capabilities of the two platforms are merging rapidly. New generations of graphics cards have accelerated this development.

It is important to go beyond technical strength and combine technical advantages with the size of established markets. In that sense, the "strength" will not translate into more potential users.

Given processor options it may not make sense for Apple to mix OS X on Intel with PowerPC simultaneously, but to only use it as a backup exit strategy. With graphics cards growing in both their power and responsibility (take for instance the Quartz Extreme screen rendering done in OS X Jaguar) and the floating point and geometric strength of the PowerPC line today, Apple and their customers may be better off staying the course with PowerPC.

If the PowerPC G5 indeed has a future, then, as Mr. Flaherty states above, there isn't enough of a big gain for the customer to simply put OS X inside a Gateway or Dell.

But what if Apple did offer both Marklar (OS X on Intel) and PowerPC simultaneously, what would that do? We asked Nader Family that very question.

AFR: If Apple was to offer OS X for Intel x86 in addition to PowerPC, how would that affect Mac developers today? What are some of the issues?

NF: Certainly there would be a flood of Intel hardware owners who would try OS X on their hardware and thus look for software to run on it. These users will be exposed to "Mac" only software packages far more readily in this way than it is possible today. Once they are exposed to the quality of such offerings, there are a few which may switch hardware too.

Thus, there is a lot more for Mac software developers to gain in this case than for Mac hardware developers, although there are very few Mac-only hardware developers left.

The real value is the expansion of access of the "others" to offerings on the Mac. They will join the rest of us, in experience, if not in hardware.

Can Apple afford to reduce its hardware business? Would the income for the expanded market for its OS make up for the reduction of its revenue in sales of Macintosh hardware? It seems possible.

Expansion of access to the "others" is exactly what Apple claims its retail stores are doing. Besides getting closer to breaking even, the Apple Stores are exposing countless Windows users to Apple's products and to the Mac Experience. Marklar may be an effective way for Apple to provide the Mac Experience to Windows users...but is it worth the risk to the PowerPC heritage?

There may be other ways Apple can get Windows users to experience the Macintosh without actually 'experiencing the Macintosh'. Producing iPods and other devices for Windows users appears to be one proven way to grab some new users to the platform. And Apple may have other products like that in the works.

So does Apple have to move the Mac Experience to Intel to get Windows users to experience it? Is that the right thing to do? Is that the only way?

NF: Apple has to decide if the "Macintosh Experience" can happen on a different platform other than Mac [Apple] Hardware. It seems that the decision will be more tied to its vision than just expanding the number of people who can enjoy the "Macintosh Experience".

This is likely the hardest question Apple executives have had to as themselves in a long time. Clearly it is within their capability to put the Macintosh experience, as some call it, on any hardware they want, whether they engineer all of it or part of it comes from Intel. The issue is likely control of Apple's legendary quality. In the end, it's their vision of computing made simple through elegant integration—computing for the rest of us—that really matters. ——ANTHONY FRAUSTO-ROBLEDO, B.Arch., Editor


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