June 6, 2005

Mactel - The Crapocalypse.

Well, hell. I dunno. As I told some folks I argued vociferously with today, I don't run Apple, and I don't have the info, but I can guess...probably something like IBM saying "Well, we don't have much interest in spending the asstastic amount of money required to get this big new chipfab up to speed yielding uberfast 3GHz PPC970s, much less designing new supershiny chips along the line that are going to be fun in laptops, when we are mostly concerned with putting lots of simple PPCs together in big iron and middle iron machines." Which leaves Apple in a bad spot - they have a better chip now, and for the next year or so, but then what.

Well, I guess we know - they suck it up and migrate to the shittier architecture.

I say 'shittier architecture' solely from the perspective of an Op. I don't code for them. I don't design chips. All I know is that even when choosing among x86 machines (or between X86_64 and EMT64, say) choosing Intel means paying a crapload more money for chips which run hotter and slower. Choosing Intel over PowerPC chips means getting less raw performance for larger, hotter chips which tend to cost more at the chip level, which (if I read my Ars Technica properly) seem to have crappier tech.

I'm not going to try to argue that Apple should have done something different, I guess. I don't have the information, and I don't run the company. I'm not going to second guess them. I'm just going to say that I don't like this.

This is not to say that there won't be advantages. Here are a few. For example, it means that at some point in the future, your Macintosh will be able to boot Windows without having to run VirtualPC, which means it will be easier to sell them to Enterprise Customers(TM). Or, of course, run x86 linux distros. W00t. One will be able to buy Powerbooks and dualboot Mac OS X and, say, Fedora Core (I presume). This is a Good Thing.

Apple will probably be able to sell more XServes if they can run Windows Server, I would guess. It'll be easier for IT subversives to order 'em if they say 'well gee, they make good storage systems, nice easy boxes, run Windows...?' So that's a good thing.

And yeh, the average consumer doesn't care, and probably will be happy to say 'uh, duh, yeh, Intel, good, right? Whole world use? Happy?'

But that don't mean I gotta be happy.

Well, we got Intel Inside. We better get some fucking WiMax sweetness, and damn it, we got XScale/StrongARM, so WHERE THE FUCK IS MY HANDHELD?

Posted by jbz at June 6, 2005 4:22 PM | TrackBack


Okay, well, I'll bite the zealot bait. :-) The 'most fans in a single box' is true - it's also true that this allows them to run really, really quietly most of the time (slow speed, multiple isolated cooling zones). The perf/battery life thing - my PBG4 gets lousy battery life, I will admit. Part of this is because it has a smaller battery than most of the monster PC laptops out there. Part of it is because the Pentium M runs severely throttled when it's not on line power. We could quibble over whether that makes the G4 a less capable processor, I suppose. :-) No argument that the newer x86 laptops have better power management (unless they're running *cough*linux*cough*). The G5 - yes, you're quite right. No G5 in laptops. However, are there any AMD64s in laptops? That's the real comparison. Any EMT64s? How's their cooling/battery life? There are a couple, I think...but they are fairly recent and not really 'laptops' in the real sense of the word.

Absolutely, there will 'soon' be dual-core 2-3 GHz laptop chips with a third to a quarter the power consumption of the G4s (well, not 'absolutely,' but I'll grant you that one). That's why I say I won't second-guess Apple's business reasoning, and why I say IBM gave up on us - the future of the chip line doesn't look good. But it's easy to say 'there will soon be' in the computer world...by most technical fields' standards, you could say 'there will soon be transporters' and as far as computers go, you'd be right. I was talking about right now - and I stand by my statement that the chip architecture is superior. Altivec, more registers on chip, more efficient. It's not the chip designers' fault that gcc never had a version that could compile for the thing properly.

The fact that there's no laptop G5 in sight is because IBM has no compelling business reason to commit the resources required. This is because Microsoft is a bigger customer buying castrated PowerPCs for the XBox360 than Apple will ever be buying high-end chips for the Mac - and IBM doesn't have to push the limits of their fabs on low-yield, complex chips to produce them. More money for all, and Apple's out in the cold.

Like I said - the business reality is there. That doesn't mean it agrees with technical sweetness, or that I have to like it.

Posted by: J.B. Zimmerman at June 6, 2005 10:56 PM

Hrm. I mean... by all accounts PPC is a nice architecture, but x86 hotter? It was the G5 that was setting records for most fans in a single box, and it is the apple laptops with far worse performance/battery life ratios these days, and the inability to even move to the G5s at all. By some accounts, at least, that total weakness in the laptop space is what really killed PPC for Intel- soon there will be Intel dual-core laptop chips at 2-3Ghz with a third to a quarter the power consumption of the G4s, with no laptopabble g5s in sight.

Posted by: Luis Villa at June 6, 2005 5:22 PM
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