Apple Followup

by Pamela Jones

June 12 2005

Here's the update material I added to the Apple/Intel story [ ]plus a bit more:

Some more reactions to add to the early hype -- CIO Today's "PowerPC's Legacy Lives On," [ ] which offers some theories on what went wrong. Linspire's Michael Robertson's "Apple's Colossal Disappointment" [ ] 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 does not 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 another 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 taking on 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 interesting-people list [ ], reinforcing that it does not have DRM embedded in the chip, in response to a thread of skepticism [ ] about exactly what their earlier statement meant. You might also find this Intel page [ ] fascinating, on DTCP, Digital Transmission Content Protection, and how wondrous it is. But the page adds this information:

Intel had decided copy protection shouldn't be implemented in hardware - an approach that would require platform changes. Instead Intel proposed a software solution that would be clad with 'tamper-resistant' software to provide protection for the implementation.

In a way, it's surprising a company known for its silicon would suggest a software solution. But Intel knew a major objective for CE companies was for the solution to be extremely lightweight and inexpensive. CE devices can range hugely in price, from an inexpensive digital recorder for kids to a $5,000 home theatre system. Consequently, any copy protection solution had to work for the cheapest device and add practically nothing to its price. . . .

An immediate concern was that content owners might want to prevent all copying and mark everything "copy never." This would defeat most of what the PC and CE industry were trying to do and, most importantly, frustrate the consumer. Consumers expected DVD and digital recording technologies to perform just like VCRs and tape recorders. They expected to be able to make reasonable use of content, including making copies of content. Consequently, part of the initial work was figuring out what kinds of content should be marked "copy never," "copy one generation," and "copy freely." The 5C began work to strike policy and legal agreements that would define and enforce the use of DTCP. An organization for handling all these policy and licensing issues was created. This organization, the Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator [ ], is a limited liability corporation charged with licensing and administering the DTCP technology.

So Intel enables software "protection", cryptography, which they claim hackers can't break, not a hardware solution, to which the consumer may well respond: However you do it, how are you guys planning to protect fair use? And what is in it for us? Here's the Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator's May 2005 Adaptor's License [ ] and their Statement [ ] about it when it was released, in which they detail and explain all the ways they have figured out to make companies using their encryption system pay them for the privilege and set out their compliance rules and the ways to sue one another if things go South. That's the proprietary way. I suggest you read the two documents after you first read the GPL, and then ask yourself which world you wish to live in. Here's [ ] how it works, sort of. If you really want to know, you have to pay for a license first. This isn't necessarily the system Apple would use, of course. All of this is just to say, the world is dividing into two camps, closed and closely monitoring consumers, with all the privacy issues that implies, and the Free World.

We also learn from IP, in this post [ ], that the Apple developer kit is based on Pentium 4. And finally, ZDNet's Dana Blankenhorn has a theory [ ] on why he thinks IBM didn't care [ ] about losing the Apple account, in his article, "Could Apple loss be IBM's gain?":

The chip business is moving in two directions at once, toward mass production and mass customization.

A Microsoft order for XBox chips means mass production. Orders for FPGA chips onto which a process may be programmed represent  mass customization.

An order for Mac chips falls somewhere between the two. Extensive development is needed for one customer, but is production really high enough to beat Moore's Second Law, the idea that costs rise with complexity, and grow exponentially?

It's possible that IBM concluded, not any more. Given Apple's proprietary model, the contract may not have been worth fighting for.

Check out this article [ ] on the Cell processor.

04:04 PM EDT

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