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This week in Apple news

After more than a decade of using IBM chips to power its Macs, Apple Computer gives Big Blue the big boot.

After more than a decade of using PowerPC chips inside the Mac, Apple Computer gave Big Blue the big boot this week, opting instead to have Intel inside.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during a keynote speech at a developers conference that Apple will gradually shift its Mac line to Intel-based chips during the next two years, confirming a timetable first reported by CNET

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.

The move appears to spell the eventual end of support for older, pre-Mac OS X programs. Current versions of Mac OS X support the running of Mac OS 9 programs in a "Classic" environment. However, documentation for Apple's Rosetta technology says the transcoding software will not support programs written for Mac OS 8 or Mac OS 9.

Rosetta is the translation software technology intended to help ease Apple's planned transition to Intel-based chips. Rosetta will allow most Mac OS X programs to run on Intel-based Macs even if the software has not been compiled to run natively on Intel chips.

A Silicon Valley start-up called Transitive is supplying the crucial bridge to enable the move to Intel-based computers, but skeptics worry about performance problems that have plagued similar products. Success has been elusive for computer makers trying to support one chip's software on a machine with a different chip.

On the heels of Apple's move, IBM is taking new measures to spread its Power processors and make them a stronger competitor to Intel chips. IBM announced that 11 new members have joined a consortium of Power processor users. It also released specifications and software to make it easier to build computers using the forthcoming Power-based Cell processor that IBM, Toshiba and Sony developed.