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The BIG Reason

Music, opinions, and portfolio of Mark Eagleton, musician and web developer in Northern CA.

Intel Outside

Okay, I guess it's sort of expected that I say something about Apple's announcement to drop the 64bit PowerPC, dual processor set up for Intel guts. My official stance can be summed up in one word: Crap.

Not “Crap, how could Apple do something so creepy as jumping into bed with the very company whose product they claim to continually trounce over and over and over again.”

Not crap, “It sucks that the 64 bit PowerPC set up we've been using the same one that is at the heart of the worlds third fastest (until recently), and cheapest-per-teraflop supercomputer can't seem to hold its own against a commodity PC (commodity PC is my new comeback for niche market) anymore.”

Well, I guess I am disappointed that the PowerPC seems to have hit a dead end (according to Apple, anyway), but I don't want my computer to hit a dead end. I want its makers to do whatever it takes to kick ass, and it is crappy that we all have to make another big ol' transition so soon after we finished the one from OS 9 to OS X.

Like most, I’m into it for the OS. It doesn’t hurt that the hardware looks good now, too, but the processor is something you don’t even see. Not even when you take off the little fan covers in your G5 tower. It comes down to performance and UI for me. If Apple says they can make it work, I believe them. They have a pretty good track record. I know what things look like on paper, though. Something that very much looks like a huge step backwards.

I can’t help but think the switch has more to do with all the trouble IBM has being distracted by an extra four billion XBox, Playstation, and Nintendo orders. Apple suddenly gets pushed down to the hind tit and has the choice of sucking it or going somewhere else. The specs they just announced for the XBox 360 and PS3 don’t exactly look very bleak to me. Of course the 3GHz G5 Steve Jobs announced two years ago didn’t seem very bleak either.

I’m sure everything will work out just fine for Apple. Those of us who use their computers really aren’t going to care to switch to a commodity PC with the same processor and loose OS X. The new Mactel machine will run Windows, so Windows fans will be able to buy Apple hardware without loosing Windows. Barring a difficult transition period, I think Apple will come out pretty well in the end.

It’s that little detail in there that makes it possible to put Windows on a Mac that has me shouting crap. Yes, Apple says they aren’t going to officially support Windows on their hardware, but Phil Schiller says they aren't going to prevent anyone from running Windows on the Mac, either. This is consistent with their support for the current PowerPC based Macs. They don't support Dabian or Yellow Dog Linux running on their hardware, but they certainly allow it. You can even buy PowerMacs pre-installed with Linux from all sorts of third party vendors. This is totally a good thing, as is the ability to run Windows on Apple hardware. But she is a bitch goddess, ladies and gentlemen. She gives with one hand as she takes with the other.

My concern is that Windows’ enormity (being quite a lot more so than that of Linux) may cause Apple to face a huge temptation to make small adjustments to their hardware to make it more Windows friendly. Look at the iPod for example. A FireWire cable is no longer included. FireWire is faster than USB 2 and charges your iPod lickety-split. Mac users have to fork over an extra $20 dollars, to get optimum connectivity. Most Windows users don't have FireWire on their machines, so it makes more sense to include USB2 rather than or in addition to FireWire, since Macs have both standard. It makes great business sense and makes the iPod a bit more of a hassle for Mac users.

And take the iPod shuffle… It’s formatted FAT32. That’s the Windows format, and the reason you can’t name your files with these characters: . ” / \ [ ] : ; | = when using your iPod shuffle for file storage, or use lower case letters in the name of your shuffle. Again, good business sense, but another hassle for Mac users.

Remember the ADC connector that used to connect your Apple display to your tower? A single cable that provided the signal, USB and power to your display. That was cool. Now it’s a four-pronged cable and a power brick. More PC friendly. More lame.

The idea of screwing up the Mac to make it more convenient for Windows people is quite unpleasant. One of the biggest pleasantries of using the Mac are its countless nuances. PC people are more accustomed to secret hacks to keep things working, and most of these nuances are lost on them. “Why doesn't Photoshop take up the whole screen?” they say. Something as basic as dragging and dropping, just isn’t done on that side, my friends. It comes down to interface preferences. PC people like to work one way, Mac people like to work another. Fine, but don’t change the way I have to work to entice PC people to switch.

There are definitely upsides to this switch over, but none of the one’s I can think of grab me as being worth loosing cool nuances over. I'll play along, though. I’ll have a new Mactel if that’s what’s on the shelf when I’m ready to buy. For now, though, I say crap to the double edged sword that makes Apple too small to get IBM’s attention away from video games, but small enough that they don’t have to please people with under-featured computers.