Colour me surprised

Okay, now I will believe it.

Okay - yesterday I said in plain black and white (okay, well, bland and lavender, anyway) that there was pretty much no way the Apple - Intel thing was for real, unless at least one of my mitigating factors was true. And even then I expressed the same sort of skepticism that I usually reserve for the "bat-faced boy" on the cover of the Weekly World News.

Yes, I am somewhat startled.

However, things became a little more clear when the esteemed Mr. Jobs mentioned over and over the "processes .vs. wattage" equation. Despite everything else, he made it clear that the single most important factor in the future will be how much go you can get out of your chip in power-restricted environments. Which means .... what?

Well, sunshine, that means precisely one thing - in the very near future all Macs will have some seriously restricted power and size formats. In other words, they will all be laptops or variants thereof. With the new chips rolling out in 2006, look for the end of the desktop mac in '07. I imagine that the product lines at that point will be laptop, tablet, and palmtop ... but the handheld market is so nasty that Apple might give that whole segment a miss.

Now - not to try to save face or anything, but I do feel obligated to point out that two of my criteria for the switch (which, to be fair, I still denied as late as yesterday morning) are in play here. Scroll down and entry to see for yourself - I said that the RISC architecture would have to be preserved, and that either an extreme user-friendliness requirement or a size restriction would have to come into play. The RISC framework is indeed preserved by the Xcode layer that is on top of the processing hardware, and if we move to an all-portable model then yes, that would count as a serious size restriction. To be fair, I also speculated that IBM or Motorola would have to actually get out of the processor biz for this to come to pass, but hey, 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Hell, Ty Cobb only hit 4 out of 10.

So. What now? A couple of things, actually.

Thing one: The masses of shocked Apple loyalists who are thinking that this means a huge reduction in processing power can rest easy. The debut Intel-equipped Apples that come out of Cupertino will have either quad Pentiums on board, or a pair of dual-core Pentiums. Either way, they will effectively have four processors, which will pretty much equal the go-level of a next generation G5/6 and should help somewhat to alleviate the pain.

Thing two: The desktop architecture is right now in the same place that floppy drives were at in 1998 and film cameras were in 2003. Smart people realized that there was no more need for them, but the masses grimly held on for no other reason than they were told do by The Powers That Be. There is no need for a desktop computer any more - wireless input devices, displays, and networks make the whole thing pointless. Haul your laptop to work, ditch the thing (bad and all) under the desk and by the time you sit down, it is all connected to the things on your desk and in your office and off you go.

Thing three: The Xcode layer and Rosetta mean that all current Mac apps will run just fine, thanks, so the transition (whenever people want to do it) will be seamless. And with Apple encouraging their developers to write universal binaries for all of the new apps, you will be able to hang on to your current hardware for a few more years. In other words, Don't Panic.

Is this a risk? Oh my yes. But then so was USB in 1998, and the Jobs-meister turned out to be a visionary on that ... I am betting this turns out pretty much the same way. Stay tuned - I'll be sure to post a follow-up in a couple of years.

Posted: Tue - June 7, 2005 at 07:15 AM