Jobs Confirms Apple's Move To Intel

After weeks of speculation in the press, Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Monday confirmed that the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker plans to move its Macintosh computers from IBM PowerPC processors to Intel chips.

Speaking at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2005 in San Francisco, Jobs said the first Macs with Intel inside will appear in June 2006 and that all Macs will ship with Intel processors by the end of 2007.

Apple is moving to Intel processors because the company envisions some "amazing products" that it doesn't know how to build with the PowerPC, Jobs said. In confirming the long-rumored switch, Jobs brought Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini to the stage. Otellini said he is excited that "the world's most innovative computer company and the world's most innovative chip company have finally teamed up."

The transition to the Intel platform faces two challenges: running Apple's Mac OS X operating system and Mac applications on Intel processors, Jobs said.

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Pulling up a satellite photo of Apple's Cupertino campus and zooming in on a building, Jobs said OS X has been "leading a secret double life" in that building for the past five years. Every release of OS X has been compiled for IBM's PowerPC processors as well as Intel--"just in case," he said.

In fact, in his typical showmanship, the Apple co-founder revealed that all of the demos before the Intel announcement were run on a Mac with an Intel processor. So Apple is "very far along" in transitioning the Mac to Intel processors, Jobs said.

The next challenge would be migrating the Mac applications that the roughly 3,800 developers attending the conference produce, according to Jobs. Mac software based on Apple's Xcode developer environment face a relatively easy transition, with Cocoa-based apps taking a few days and Carbon-based apps taking a few weeks, he said.

Developers with applications not based on Xcode will need to migrate to Xcode for their apps to run on Macs with Intel processors, Jobs said. With that in mind, he unveiled and demoed Xcode 2.1, which allows developers to compile universal binary applications that will run on both PowerPC and Intel processors.

Applications that have not been updated by the time Apple completely converts to the Intel platform can leverage a new technology called Rosetta. Slated to ship with Intel-based Macs, Rosetta will translate PowerPC apps for the Intel environment, Jobs said.

To speed the transition process for developers, Jobs also unveiled a developer transition kit for $999 that includes a Mac with a 3.6GHz Pentium 4, OS X for Intel and Xcode 2.1. The kit is available only for Apple developers and will ship in two weeks, he said.

To prove that the transition for developers would be relatively easy, Jobs said that last week he called Theo Gray, a co-founder of Wolfram Research, to have him come to Cupertino to convert his company's Mathematica application to a universal binary. Speaking at the conference with Jobs, Gray said he expected to spend the weekend on the project, but it took only two hours.

Jobs also brought executives from Adobe Systems and Microsoft to the stage. Roz Ho, general manager of Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit, confirmed that Microsoft will create universal binaries of its Mac applications so that they will run on both processors.

Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen said developers "can be absolutely sure that Adobe is committed" to making its applications run on Apple's new Intel-based Macs.

In response to the news of Apple's switch to Intel, several Apple VARs said the transition shouldn't be complicated for Mac software makers and Mac users. For many customers, the migration timetable will parallel their typical computer/software upgrade cycle and, more important, it will produce cheaper, better performing Macs and make the Apple platform more attractive, they said.

"For third-party vendors, it probably means a little bit more work to rework stuff. But in the long run, it's going to make Apple more competitive," said Gary Dailey, president of Daystar Technology, an Atlanta-based Apple solution provider. "I think it's also going to make an easier [selling] story for us. As a reseller, whenever we go to a customer, all we'll have to sell is the OS. We won't have to sell the computer as much."

George Swords, marketing manager at Portland, Ore.-based Apple specialist PowerMacPac, said he also sees no real downside to Apple's switch to Intel.

"Down the road, I think we'll see--slowly but surely--lower prices, more compatibility and better peripherals," Swords said. "And who knows? Maybe with this [transition] we'll have a box that can run Unix, OS X and Windows, without a translator. That would just be good for the whole industry."

RUSSELL REDMAN contributed to this story.