Random Apple Memory
We recall when Apple embraced Intel chips.
On 6 June
2005, Steve Jobs announced to the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that the Mac was abandoning the PowerPC processor line that Apple had been manufacturing in partnership with IBM and switching to the rival Intel chips used in Windows PCs. Amid much-discussed delays to the PowerPC 970, aka G5, the move wasn’t entirely unexpected. But the decision came out of the blue, with Jobs revealing Mac OS X had secretly been tested on both platforms for years.
Despite the fractious relationship between Apple and IBM, PowerPC had given the Mac a new lease of life. In 1997, an Apple TV commercial showed Intel’s Pentium II lumbering along on the back of a snail, contrasting its reputation as “the fastest chip in the world” with the PowerPC G3 — “up to twice as fast.” In 1999, Apple hailed the Power Macintosh G4 as “the first personal computer classified as a weapon by the US Government.” The claim, referring to a threshold for technology exports set 20 years earlier, was cheeky, but true.
So giving up on the G5 looked like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. “I don’t know that Apple’s market share can survive another architecture shift,” worried Insight 64 analyst Nathan Brookwood, echoing the views of many. In fact, the following decade saw Mac shipments grow steadily, while the PC market declined.
Whether sticking with PowerPC would have been better or worse, we’ll never know. But a year later Jobs was able to report, again during WWDC, that the transition — aided by the introduction of “universal binaries,” allowing developers to release apps that worked on both old and new machines — was “the best and smoothest in the whole history of the industry.” This time, the analysts agreed.