Apple’s purported move to Intel is all about Hollywood.

I’ve been following up on the news reports that Apple will announce today their intention to switch from using IBM’s PowerPC processors in their Macs to Intel’s Pentium 4 processors. The reaction from a lot of Mac fans out there has been everything from cautiously skeptical to violent opposition. Leander Kahney was also skeptical this would come to pass, but in an article he wrote for Wired he shares with us just why he thinks the switch might actually happen:

I guess Apple will move to Intel, and they’re relying on a fast, seamless emulator to do it.

But it’s really about Hollywood: Apple’s looking to transform the movie industry the same way the iPod and iTunes changed the music business.

As initially reported, there are a couple of big problems with Apple moving to Intel. The biggest is shifting all the Mac software to a new platform. Apple apparently mulled moving to Intel a few years ago, when Motorola’s chip development fell woefully behind, but Steve Jobs nixed it because of the massive disruption it would cause developers.

What’s new this time is a fast, transparent, universal emulator from Transitive, a Silicon Valley startup.

The emulator in question is called QuickTransit and it supposedly allows you to run software written for one processor on a different processor with little loss of speed. If Apple has licensed this software and it actually performs as well as is claimed then developers of Mac software wouldn’t have to worry about recompiling their current applications to run under an Intel processor. That would make a transition to a new processor a lot less painful. Most folks assume Apple wants to make the move because they’re not happy with the fact that PowerPC chips lag considerably behind their Pentium counterparts in the speed department and there’s some truth to that, but that’s only part of the allure of Intel’s CPUs:

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.

According to, the Intel transition will occur first in the summer with the Mac mini, which I’ll bet will become a mini-Tivo-cum-home-server.

Hooked to the internet, it will allow movies to be ordered and stored, and if this piece is correct, loaded onto the video iPod that’s in the works.

Intel’s DRM scheme has been kept under wraps—to prevent giving clues to crackers—but the company has said it will allow content to be moved around a home network, and onto suitably-equipped portable devices.

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.

This makes a lot of sense now that I think about it. Apple has a small market share which makes it ideal as a test bed for this new technology and most of the other computer makers out there aren’t real keen on actually implementing the DRM aspects of Intel’s new chips for fear of pissing off their customers. Apple themselves have earned quite a few pennies from their iPod/iTunes combo which already makes use of DRM technology so they’re more than happy to get the jump on distributed movies/video. There could be a good chunk of change headed Apple’s way if this works out in the long run.

10 thoughts on “Apple’s purported move to Intel is all about Hollywood.

  1. no… i refuse to accept it. Apple are not moving to Intel chips it’s just a big stupid rumour started at Apple to get people interested in the keynote where Mr Jobs will annouce something interesting but completely unrelated.

    Either that, or its a part truth and Intel processors *will* be used but on something not mac like the fabled Apple tablet gizmo (perhaps it will be like those funky tablet things they have in star trek – only white!).

  2. I’m both happy and happy-sad.

    Happy because, finally, Apple’s OS has a fighting chance against Windows.  The transition is key, and Apple has demonstrated apt skill in this dept, imo.

    Happpy-sad because the PentiumD(umb) chip will momentarily raise the bar in the kill-all-copyrights campaign, but will ultimately accelerate the process.  It’s a fantastic way to piss off the publik and gain converts to the Cause.  So, fear not, intellectual property is about to become commonwealth property, thank G-d.  The method delivery is what we’ll pay happily for in the near future.

    And something tells me, in the meantime, all those copy-capable Intel CPU’s we’re now using are about to start rising in market price, not necessarily falling.

  3. In the future there will be two classes of content: locked down and Creative Common Licensed with varying degrees of freedom.  Whatever goes into the locked-down camp will eventually disappear as its market attraction declines and its owners put it on the shelf to be forgotten. 

    I figure Intel approached Apple with the CRM advantages of dual-core as a selling point (and their CRM lead over AMD in the background.)

  4. Boy is my face red! first reports say that the rumours are indeed true! eek… I’m sure Apple have their reasons, and I’ll be interested to hear those reasons over the next few days.

  5. Interestingly enough it seems that Steve Jobs has been thinking about this for a long time. He announced during his keynote speech that Apple has had an Intel version of OS X since day one:

    “Mac OS X has been leading a secret double life the past five years,” he said.

    The CEO showed a demo of the Tiger operating system on an Intel-based machine, saying, “We’ve been running on an Intel system all morning.”

    Jobs said most of the necessary OS work has been done, but developers will have to do some work to make their applications work on Intel-based machines.

    As for the big question of will you be able to buy OS X for your current Intel based PC in the near future the answer appears to be no, though Apple says you can run Windows on your Intel based Mac if you really want to:

    After Jobs’ presentation, Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller addressed the issue of running Windows on Macs, saying there are no plans to sell or support Windows on an Intel-based Mac. “That doesn’t preclude someone from running it on a Mac. They probably will,” he said. “We won’t do anything to preclude that.”

    However, Schiller said the company does not plan to let people run Mac OS X on other computer makers’ hardware. “We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac,” he said.

    So there you go. If you want OS X you’re going to have to shell out whatever ridiculous markup Apple decides to place on their hardware to run it.

  6. Not so fast.

    Jobs was interviewed on CNBC, about 3 hours after the announcement:  “I can’t comment on future product plans, sales strategies … [or] products.”  This has been a mantra of Jobs before the iPod’s debut.  He would only comment of the decision itself, and stayed soundly away from the declarations Les describes his underlings as making, and stayed away from them in a big, big way.

    The future is wide, and probably clear of pronouncements from his underlings.

    The King’s words count best, i believe.
    Just wait, and remember disinformation happens.  They’re fighting Microsoft, after all.

  7. I think Apple could blow Microsoft out of the water if they released OSX for all PC’s. If only they werent so stuborn about the hardware thing…

  8. They have a good reason for being stubborn about the hardware thing – compatibility with the Wild-West menagerie of bits and pieces that is PC hardware is nearly impossible.  Microsoft does an outstanding job with it (XP works on almost evrything) but at the expense of a tremendous amount of bloat, both in the software itself and the organization that produces it.

    Of course that is only half the reason for MS bloat, the other half being “featuritis” and the third half being “compatibility with nearly every damn DOS and Winders program that was ever written for the X86 platform.”

    Oops, that was 3 halves.  Welcome to Microsoft!

  9. Rob, I concede the possibility that Jobs may change his mind in the future, but for the moment it would appear (based on what’s been said by people who should know) that OS X will stay on Mac branded hardware. Officially at least as I’m sure some hackers will find a way to get it to run on whatever they throw at it.

    DOF, I’d imagine that Apple would do the same thing that Microsoft does and provide only basic drivers in the OS itself for the most common components and then expect the hardware makers to develop and make available drivers for the various add-on cards they want to sell. Truth be told the PowerPC processor has been the only real difference between Macs and PCs for years now. Most of the other hardware is standard PC hardware with Mac drivers. There’s really little reason why OS X couldn’t run on whatever you tossed at it and the only reason to insist that it only run on hardware branded “Apple” is so you can charge a premium for the hardware.

    If Apple’s smart they’ll go the other route and actually produce cheaper priced Macs and try to offer more bang-for-the-buck than Microsoft can in addition to making OS X available to anyone who wants to run it. Do that and you might have a chance to finally take a decent bite out of Microsoft’s market share.

  10. Well, I don’t know about OSX but my crazier friends have been running the previous operating systems from Apple on windows machines for years. It really looks strange to me to see the apple gui on a Vio but it works. I don’t know how stable it is or really why they do it. Probably because they can and its gnarly to freak people out.

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