Apple throws the switch, aligns with Intel

CEO Steve Jobs confirms News.com report on the change during keynote speech at developer conference in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO--After years of trying to get people to switch to Macs from Intel-based computers, Apple Computer itself has switched.

CEO Steve Jobs announced Monday that Apple will gradually shift its Mac line to Intel-based chips over the next two years. The move confirms a timetable first reported by CNET News.com.

Jobs' announcement formed the centerpiece of a keynote speech to Mac programmers attending the company's annual Worldwide Developer Conference here. The conference, expected to draw some 3,800 attendees this year, is a traditional venue for Apple product launches.

"Mac OS X has been leading a secret double life the past five years."
--Steve Jobs
Apple Computer CEO

In his speech, Jobs revealed that Apple has been developing all versions of OS X since its inception to run on Intel and PowerPC chips.

"Mac OS X has been leading a secret double life the past five years," he said.

The move to Intel marks a tectonic shift for Apple, which has used processors from IBM and Motorola (now Freescale Semiconductor) throughout the life of the Mac. However, the company has changed architectures before, shifting in the 1990s from Motorola's 68000 family of chips to the PowerPC architecture jointly developed by IBM and Motorola.

Jobs also noted the significant effort required earlier this decade when Apple moved from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X. Although the operating systems are only a digit apart, he noted that the move to a Unix-based system was a major shift. "This was a brain transplant," Jobs said.

The CEO showed a demo of the Tiger operating system on an Intel-based machine, saying, "We've been running on an Intel system all morning."

As for why Apple was making the shift, Jobs pointed both to past problems and to the PowerPC road map, which he said won't deliver enough performance at the low-power usages needed for powerful notebooks.

Two years ago at the same conference, Jobs introduced the first G5-based Power Macs and promised developers that the company would have a 3GHz PowerMac within 12 months. The company still doesn't have a machine that fast. "We haven't been able to deliver," he said. Nor has Apple been able to introduce a G5-based laptop--something Jobs said "I think a lot of you would like."

Things weren't looking better in the coming months, Jobs said, saying that IBM's PowerPC road map would only deliver about a fifth the performace

About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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