I had the chance recently to speak with an Intel employee working in the Fab. department where Apple’s next-gen Intel chips are being made. He spoke under condition of anonymity, giving only his opinions and not the official sentiments of Intel. His credibility is sterling.
He gave us his opinions and insider’s perspective on Apple’s move to Intel. Note that while he states that there are many ways that Apple could restrict their OS, the assumption of he and his colleagues is that Apple will use stock production chips. But that’s not all he had to say... read on.
1. What is the atmosphere in your dept? Excitement? Slight nervousness?
First, let me give you a bit better understanding of what it is I do. I'm a technician in the "FAB", that is one of the factories where the processors are manufactured. When I see the chips they are still in complete wafers and several weeks if not months from being what you would know as the chip in your computer. People in my department, and the rest of the FAB, are concerned with keeping our tools running and processing the wafers to get them out of the FAB. We manufacture several different processor types (i.e. laptop, desktop and server) so there isn't really a whole lot of attention paid to what product is running on a tool at any given time.
What I can tell you is that in the seven plus years I have been working for Intel this is the first time in the past few years...
...that I have seen the majority of the people in the FAB excited about the direction the company is moving in. The Apple deal is part of that but the confidence in our new CEO and our new products has a lot more to do with it. Intel has always had a mind set of "we can achieve anything we set our minds to". With the resources the company has for the most part that is true. There are not many other chip companies that can afford to spend billions of dollars to develop new technologies. One thing that people totally overlook in the whole Intel vs. AMD thing is that in the past few years Intel has completely redesigned its chips from the core out. There were a lot of problems to overcome in making that happen and that is the source of the majority of the performance issues that people have seen in Intel chips during that time period. AMD is still designing on a processor core that is getting to the end of it's usable life cycle. It will continue to get harder and harder for them to get more performance out of this older design while Intel will start to fine tune it's newer designs.
2. Will the parts that are used in the first Intel Macs be generic P4s or will they be a special processor made just for Apple?
I do not know for sure but I would highly doubt that we are making special parts for Apple. It's just too expensive to design a special part, work out the manufacturing bugs and then ramp it into production. Again you have to look at it from the Intel point of view. We manufacture hundreds of millions of processors each year. While we are proud of the fact that Apple is using our chips they will be a very small percentage of the product we make. I would be more inclined to believe that during the design cycle of our new chips input from Apple was used to decide what features would be included in the final design. As we all have now learned Apple and Intel have been talking for a long time about a lot of things. Also Apple has been working on porting their OS to an x86 platform for at least a few years now so I'm sure there were a lot of ideas exchanged over that time.
3. How did you (and your colleagues) react to the news of OS X being hacked to normal hardware? About breaking the TPM?
I didn't know about it until I saw what you had reported on it. I'm not surprised that there is a hack floating around out there. Not many people at Intel are really into Macs. You have to remember that until very recently they were the competition. I still get some funny looks when I walk around with my iPod.
4. Is Apple planning on using the TPM or something similar to restrict OS X to their own hardware in the final product?
No idea about this one. There are many things that can actually be built right into the chip that could be used to restrict what OS is ran with it. Each chip has it's own ID and I'm sure it would be possible for Intel to use a special convention for the ID code for chips intended to go in Apple machines. Features such as clock speed and amounts of cache are actually set when the chip is e-tested and they see how that chip performs. When they come out of the Fab there is no difference between 3 gig P4 and a 3.6 gig P4. It's how the chip performs at e-test that decides what speed it will be certified at and the final configuration is burned in to the chip at e-test.
5. Are most of the people you work with Apple fans? Or are they just working in that Dept. because they were assigned to it?
Again reference the fact that we don't make chips just for Apple at the Fab I work in. As far as being fans I would say that most people are happy that we are working with Apple but it's not the most exciting thing in the world to them. Another big misconception that people have about us folks at Intel is that we are all big computer geeks. I have actually known a few people who work for the company that don't even have computers at home.
6. In your opinion, who will benefit most from the Intel-Apple partnership?
I think both companies will benefit in the short and long term. How much comes out of this is mostly in Apple's hands if you ask me. They are in a position where they have to make some very important decisions about Apple's future. Once Intel chips go into Macs there will be no difference between a Mac and a Dell but the OS running on the machine. If they decide to stay with their image of the "rebel" company that prides it self on doing things differently then there is no way that they will separate their OS from their machines and sell it on it's own. If they do that, they will put themselves in competition with all the other PC makers out there and they will learn what the rest have learned. Profit margins are very small and to make any money you have to sell a lot of computers - way more than 4 or 5 percent of the market. The other thing that selling their OS by itself will do is get them the attention of all the hacker and virus writers that until now have left them alone. If Apple had as many people trying to break it's code as Windows does I don't think that it would keep it's rep for being so stable and secure for very long. On the other hand if they do decide to try and go big in the market and expand their share by opening up their OS to be ran on PCs Intel is a great partner to have from the perspective of supplying parts and supporting their new design ideas. As I've said before, I think Apple will be one of our most demanding customers but that will only make Intel better and force us to move in new directions.
7. What do you think was so attractive about Intel to Apple? I mean, other than the obvious stuff (like what Jobs said about lower wattage) what can you offer Apple that IBM/PPC couldn't?
Since I'm going under the assumption that Apple will be using normal production chips from us I think that Apple likes the idea of having their chips made by a company with such a strong history in pushing the computer industry and also the fact that making processors is our first and most important job. It is what defines Intel so we are going to be sure to do everything we can to make things better all the time. IBM is such a big company and involved in so many different things that making chips for Apple was just one more thing on their to do list. I don't think it was a real priority for them. Also we can supply more chips than anyone else could.
8. Any ideas on what they're planning on calling the chips for Apple? If not a final name, what codename are you using?
No word on that yet at all.
Technically this isn't news about OSx86, but it is about specific graphics for the OS, so I'm putting it here.
We're hosting our first annual OSx86 Art Contest! If you're good with graphics, submit your best boot screens, wallpapers, and icons to our Art Box. Next Tuesday, we'll let you know who the winners are - winning pieces will be named the Official OSx86 Project Graphics!
This contest is open to everyone! The deadline for submission is Monday, September 5. Good luck!
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the new partnership between Apple and Intel. Although this story is pretty old, today's announcement of the next generation of Intel chips has many Mac fans wondering what's ahead. These new chips from Intel almost certainly represent the pool from which Apple will draw their first production MacIntels.
The Apple-Intel partnership is symbiotic relationship in its fullest sense - Apple gets the low-wattage chips it (supposedly) desires and Intel locks in another major IT player. But it seems to me that there is more than just watts and cents behind this deal. There is an incredibly unpredictable variable in this equation - the mind of Steve Jobs.
Kick in your Reality Distortion Field jamming devices.
Here's the future of Apple.
Dvorak had it partially right. Apple will eventually open up their OS and make it seem like it was forced to do so by the mobs of geeks installing pirated versions on the PCs. But is this the sole reason for the switch from IBM?
Apple is evolving. The success of the iPod + iTunes has shown that the magic of Apple engineering extends farther than the PC. But I think Jobs is steering the company in a new direction, one in which creates a hybrid of a Sony/Microsoft business model.
While the Microsoft might be a little more obvious, perhaps you’re wondering where Sony enters the equation. As a tech company, Sony known for it’s high-end computers and personal electronics. If they were both using the same OS, I think Apple and Sony would be considered direct competitors. But they’re not. Yet.
That’s where the Microsoft model comes in. By licensing its operating system and software, Apple stands to make substantial inroads into domains it has previously not known. Witness the rise of iTunes. Add video support (to run on, you guessed it, Intel hardware) and iMedia becomes the content leader for years to come. The same values that have made iTunes so popular – simplicity, ease of use, advanced features – will also serve Apple when they release OS X for x86 PCs. But it won’t stop there. I think the time is coming when Apple will begin to sell more of its software, such as the iLife suite, and in doing so become a legitimate rival to software powerhouses such as Microsoft.
Its hardware business, which has been lauded so often as the sole lifeline of Cupertino, will take a page out of the Sony book – if you want great hardware (even if some of it is proprietary), come to us. Apple then says, hey, if your grandmother can’t afford one of our machines, buy her a Dell with our licensed operating system and software. While you're at it, buy one of our CE devices as well. Apple makes money both ways, and the revenue from the millions of people (like me) who will now use OS X but were previously too poor to buy a Mac will easily compensate for any possible lost hardware revenue. If there would be any loss at all.
So Apple becomes like Sony for hardware and Microsoft for software and OS. In my opinion, it will work. It hasn’t been done before, but that’s ok. Maybe it’s time to truly “Think Different.”
According to this Macworld article, "ATI Technologies Inc. on Friday introduced the Radeon 9600 Pro PC & Mac Edition, its first AGP graphics card designed to work with both Macs and Windows-based PCs. The new card is available for a suggested retail price of US$199.
This is the first graphics card that ATI has released for both Macintosh and Windows computers. The same card will work with an AGP-equipped Mac and Windows PC out of the same box, so Mac users can simply hunt for the best price rather than relying on Mac-specific stock from an Apple parts vendor."
Personally, I think that this can only be the start of a larger trend within the industry - building more products to be cross platform. The introduction of an MacIntel will only hasten this transition, as it should become easier for hardware and software companies to tweak their pre-existing products into something that will work on both systems.
MacBidouille.com, who was the first great Mac oriented site to report on August 10th the successful efforts of getting OSXx86 for all of us, received a letter from Apple lawyers to delete the links to videos they had showing an intel laptop booting Mac OS X x86, which they did.
Is Apple awakening or is just a small gesture to show they tried to combat the spreading of OSXx86, although they're delighted with this? What do you think?
www.macbidouille.com ( french )
www.hardmac.com ( the english version site which still doesn't has the news )
While it was always possible (although costly and time consuming) to cobble together a PowerPC Mac from old and new parts, hardly anyone did it. Now that Apple has introduced OS X for Intel processors, however, it’s conceivable that you could soon be building your own Mac from scratch.
One user, CEpeep, shopped around and found everything you’d need to build your own Intel Mac for under $200 - no rebates, no refurbs. Sure, the case is a little ghetto, it's got a 20 gig hard drive, and it’s no Millennium Falcon in terms of speed, but it runs Quartz Extreme and everything else that Tiger x86 requires. Most of us could actually build one for less with a few spare parts we have lying around…well…actually all over.
Obviously, there are still many reasons why you’ll want to buy a true Mac – Apple quality and support, the current lack of a legal x86 OS X, etc. But it’s interesting to think that the days of the do-it-yourself Mac may be just around the corner.
Case $9.95: http://www.buypcdirect.com/product.asp?pf_id=cas-ge-lp600
Motherboard $52.99: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?...N82E16813157075
Processor $60.77: http://www.ewiz.com/detail.php?name=CELE-315BX&src=fr
512 RAM $38.00: http://store.yahoo.com/pcmemory-stores/25pc26stoemf.html
20 Gigabyte HD $25.95: http://www.etech4sale.com/hardware/partinfo-id-1852.html
DVD Drive $12.00: http://www.compuvest.com/Description.jsp?iid=107882
It appears that Apple hasn't quite made up their mind about SSE3 yet. Or at least, they're not done with the Intel version of OS X.
Those who have studied the new x86 version of the OS have reported that the necessity for SSE3 in the GUI has been established as fact. However, as this Apple document on the Intel transition states, "SSE3 is an optional hardware feature on MacOS X for Intel. If you wish to use SSE3 features, you must detect them first, similar to how you are required to check for AltiVec." The paper goes on to reveal that, "SSE is not available in any format for MacOS X for PowerPC and AltiVec is not available for MacOS X for Intel. When writing code for Universal Binaries to run on MacOS X, you should conditionalize your code using appropriate symbols like __VEC__ and __SSE2__ to prevent the compiler from seeing vector code for unsupported architectures for each fork of the universal binary."
So, will the "official" version of Tiger on Intel be optimized for SSE2 as well?