Questions and Answers
Announcing the Intel Macs in January rather than June was a strategic wager. Unless Apple released the right products at the right time, some models would languish with buyers waiting for the new models to come.
This may still occur, but Apple covered both the desktop and portable markets with today’s announcement, and in doing so showed the world that they are fully committed to Intel transition. According to Steve’s keynote, all of Apple’s models will be transitioning to Intel chips by the end of the year.
The keynote answered many questions, such as how Apple would roll out Intel-native software and if the introduction of the Mactels would be accompanied by full redesigns. There are still many things we do not know, however. It remains to be seen how Apple will lock OS X to their own hardware, whether by a TPM chip similar to those found in the Developer Transition Kits or by some other means.
And although Steve promised nothing but a smooth transition to the Intel hardware, we must wait a few months to see if Apple has ironed out the wrinkles OSx86 watchers have seen for months. Finally, will the Intel transition mean greater interoperability with PC hardware, such as the ATI Radeon X1600 with which it ships?
The Meaning of It All
There are instants in life – never more than a few seconds – that cause me to reflect, “This… this is a moment in which things are changing. This is a landmark event.” Time will prove me wrong or right, but I can’t shake the feeling that Steve Jobs’ keynote at MacWorld 2006 will be one of those moments for the computing industry.
That’s a pretty grand statement – one almost worthy of Steve himself – but I think it has merit. Steve is a top-notch presenter and even the most aware among us struggle to keep the Reality Distortion Field in check. But Jobs’ presentation today does represent a turning point in modern computing: within a year, almost every major manufacturer will be building with x86 chips. In hardware, Apple and Dell will be almost identical. It is the philosophy of the company – and the devotion of its followers – that will separate the Apples from the Gateways of the industry.
Apple has gained much from its adoption of Intel chips – faster speeds, new technologies, etc. But it has also placed itself in a vulnerable position. It must now make the case that the Mac experience is more than just the sum of its processors and hard drives; there must be something unique about owning and using a Mac. Its processors, graphics cards, and OEM parts will be the same as their competitors – competitors such as Dell that excel at undercutting the prices of their adversaries.
Companies like Dell, however, are also forced to take note of Apple’s announcement. Consumers and stockholders will pressure PC makers with questions (be they subconscious or verbal) such as, “If Apple can build a better computer with the same parts, why can’t you?” Indeed, in the hours since the announcement, value comparisons between Apple, IBM, and Dell have already begun in our forum – comparisons unlike those we’ve seen before.
Commitments and Concerns
Contrary to what some have prophesied, Apple revealed today that they would not sacrifice the Mac on the altar of the iPod. They are committed to making computers that are more reliable and more beautiful than most PC makers. Yet the similarity of hardware forces us to ask - what now makes a Mac a Mac? Is the beauty case-deep or does it represent a more holistic philosophy of engineering? These are heady questions whose answers will be the Apple’s guiding light in the next few years.
It seems that today saw more than the introduction of two new Mac models – we saw the simultaneous creation of new opportunities and new concerns for the company from Cupertino that could. It would be hyperbole to say that today marks the beginning of Apple’s market takeover or a new revolution in the Valley. But it could be that with fresh hopes and fears, we’ve just witnessed the birth of a new Apple.
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