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For six years, the Internet Nexus served as my technology blog, but I've since started blogging at the SuperSite Blog instead. If you're looking for the blog, please head there. --Paul

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Macs on Intel: You're missing the point

There's been a lot of debate about the relative performance of the new Intel Core Duo chips used in the new Apple iMac and upcoming MacBookPro. Most people are missing the point. When Apple CEO Steve Jobs says that the new Macs are "twice" as fast the models they replace, or "4 to 5 times as fast," he's lying, but then we've all seen that before. The point isn't that Apple is once again engaged in a game of exaggeration. The point, actually, is that Apple moved to Intel for a reason. And you're not necessarily seeing that in this first generation of Intel-based Macs.

Apple moved to the Intel platform because of the future. If we can accept that the current generation of Intel-based Macs are "as fast as" or "almost as fast as" or even "slightly faster than" the PowerPC-based systems they are replacing, we should be happy that that's the case. I had expected to see dramatically better performance (and, in the case of the MacBook Pro, dramatically better battery life) when compared to the previous generation systems, but let's not lose sight of the fact that platform shifts are hard. Apple did it once when it moved to the PowerPC, and it's doing it again. Microsoft is doing it now with x64 and is, in my opinion, not handling it as well as Apple has.

But let's look to the future. Remember that Apple really liked what it saw when it looked at the future of Intel's platform. They saw not just dual core chips, but multi-core chips. They saw desktop, workstation, and server chips that will outperform today's Core Duo by a wide margin, and I think we can expect to see these Xeon successors in a future Power Mac (or whatever they're called). And then there's this article today about what Intel is planning for the second half of 2007:
Intel Corp. said this week that it had produced working silicon on its next-generation 45-nanometer manufacturing process, and is on schedule to move the technology into production in the second half of 2007.
These chips will be as small as a human fingernail. Think about it.

Like many of you, I get caught up in the wrong things sometimes. The iMac I have performs admirably, though not with legacy games. It will someday run Windows Vista, and I certainly have a dream of dual booting between Mac OS X and Vista. Think about how radically that would alter my work life: Currently, I have to maintain separate Mac and Windows machines. Because I write about Windows for a living, I can't afford to simply drop the platform, and nor would I anyway, because there are certain things about Windows that are obviously superior to what's available on the Mac. But now, or at least sometime soon, I'll be able to run both systems on one machine. That's important to me in a measurable way. And looking forward, those machines are just going to get better and better. And both Windows and the Mac--and their users--will benefit as a result. That's why Apple switched. And that's why you shouldn't get too caught up in unimportant measurements, charts, and anecdotal evidence. The new Macs are better than the old Macs. And they're just going to keep getting better. That's good news, not bad.

Related: New MacIntels don't go as fast as expected? That's not the point (i.e. who cares!)
[ Posted at 12:43 PM | Permalink ]


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