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UPDATE: Adding comments from Boris Petrov of Petrov Group on page 8.

Apple Computer has switched its Macs to Intel processors. This has been a greatly talked about move for a number of years already, but was a definitely a surprising decision at last. The PC manufacturer which controls only about 1% of the global computer shipments, but is broadly discussed all around the world, has not announced, which of Intel processors it would use and what benefits they will bring to its loyal clients.

Apple, Intel Collaborate: “Mactel” is Born

Apple announced plans to deliver models of its Macintosh computers using Intel microprocessors by this time next year, and to transition all of its Macs to using Intel microprocessors by the end of 2007, which is basically less than 2.5 years from now. Pretty rapid transition, isn’t it?

The Mac system for developers which was showcased at the most recent Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference was based on an Intel Pentium 4 processor 3.60GHz with 64-bit capability, which may indicate that Apple targets NetBurst-based processors for its systems. That seems reasonable: those chips do not require water-cooling, as IBM’s latest PowerPC microprocessors, but still deliver quite high performance. It is especially important that Intel’s future chips are primarily dual-core, which is likely to reduce necessity for Apple to make expensive 2-way systems. Intel is planning to introduce its “second-generation” dual-core chips late next year and probably Apple is confident about those. But is it really about the NetBurst, or Intel Pentium 4-based systems are provided to developers only to allow them to recompile the software for x86 architecture?

Photo by ASCII24 web-site

“Our goal is to provide our customers with the best personal computers in the world, and looking ahead Intel has the strongest processor roadmap by far. It's been ten years since our transition to the PowerPC, and we think Intel's technology will help us create the best personal computers for the next ten years,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

Apple CEO seems to be confident in Intel’s roadmap and plans to use the giant’s chips for the next decade, which basically means that there will be an industrial alliance which may be called Mactel – Mac + Intel. The comment from the CEO also implies that the Pentium 4 and derivatives may only be the beginning of the “Intel Inside” plans for Apple and that the real ramp may be associated with different products.

Photo by ASCII24 web-site

A rumour suggests that the first Mac products to be transited to Intel’s processors are not really high-end Power Mac systems, but value computers, such as Mac mini. In fact, this makes a lot of sense for Apple: Intel has demonstrated its East Fork platform, fully build on components for the Centrino mobile platform, which is based on dual-core Intel Pentium M processor code-named Yonah, Intel’s next-generation chipset internally referred as Calistoga, features the company’s forthcoming wireless LAN controller as well as a specially developed platform driver. Given that East Fork may be equipped with a single-core chip, the cost of Mac mini based on the platform has potential to remain in the $499 - $599 range per box. In addition to Mac mini, Apple may transit its iMac, eMac and iBook lineups to Intel Centrino components too in 2006.

The same rumour claims that Power Mac computers will migrate to x86 only in mid-2006, which may mean that Apple has no real plans to use NetBurst architecture in its Macs, but will switch right to Conroe, Intel’s second-generation dual-core processor for desktops. Another option for Apple would be to use both G5 and Intel Presler (Intel Pentium D 900-series), the company’s second first-generation desktop dual-core chip, in Power Mac systems already next year, however, this would add some confusion to the customers.

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