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26/05/2005 - Editorial: Apple and Intel Rumors

Over the past week, there have been rumours in the press (firstly in the Wall Street Journal) about possible talks between Intel and Apple. The subject of the talks is said to be the possible adoption of Intel processors in Apple computers.

At the moment Apple uses IBM's PowerPC processors, the G5 and the older G4. There are several problems at present with this. Given the heat generated by the G5, it is not currently being used in Apple's Powerbook portable range. In addition, IBM have been slower than Intel in the "megahertz" race, though to be fair the number of clock cycles in not the only measure of a CPU's speed. Currently the fastest G5 runs at 2.7GHz, compared to Intel's 3.7 GHz. So it might just be seen as a ploy by Apple to get IBM to work more quickly at sorting out these issues.

There would be several benefits to switching to Intel. Firstly, Intel chips are much cheaper. In the past Apple have dismissed using Intel chips sighting the superiority of the PowerPC platform. However, in the recent months we've seen the introduction of 32-bit/64-bit Pentium 4 processors and also previously 64-bit Itanium. It is conceivable that Apple may opt to skip the Pentium range, and go straight to the Itanium. There are problems with switching, most notably that software running on Apple's currently would need to be recompiled. This has been done in the past by Apple, however, with their switch to PowerPC several years ago. There has been talk that this problem could be got around for the moment using smart emulators. Of course there might have been talks about something else such as Intel networks or Intel's power saving technology in laptops.

It's difficult to say what will happen, but what is sure is that both Intel and Apple got a lot free publicity!