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Apple to move on Merced

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Click here for the previous page And, just to really make things difficult for Microsoft, here comes Intel with a completely new high-end 64-bit CPU, Merced. Microsoft has committed itself to a Merced version of Windows 2000, but it's being cautious about its release. Even Intel is concerned, and has been off funding Linux distributors to port the Open Source OS to its new platform. In fact, Intel has been supporting a lot of operating systems of late. It has invested in a number of Linux distributors offering versions of the OS for its 32-bit IA-32 architecture -- ie. its x86 processor family. It has also pumped money into Be. The company's line here is that it wants to support all operating systems that run on its hardware -- the truth is, it no longer wants to be seen to be a close partner of Microsoft. Backing Apple has been tricky in the past because of its support for a competing processor platform, but with the cross-platform opportunities MacOS X Server and Client bring, it can now get in there and make it easier for Apple to release Intel versions of those operating systems. It's an uneasy alliance -- Apple doesn't want a users to run the MacOS on PCs for which it receives no revenue but Intel does -- but that doesn't make it advantageous to both companies. Intel gets to back a key competitor to Windows 2000 to help it take the 'Intel' our of 'Wintel' and gets even better OS support for its fledgling 64-bit platform. Apple gets access to a market -- the 64-bit computing arena -- it might otherwise have a job getting in to and a handy get-out clause in case the PowerPC platform falls apart. Should this worry Mac users? No. Apple isn't about to switch to Intel wholesale. For a start it's committed to PowerPC for at least the next generation and probably the one beyond it, which is as far as Motorola's technology roadmap goes right now. Secondly, it doesn't want to migrate users to Intel at the same time as it's trying to get them from MacOS 8.x to MacOS X. It clearly expects that process to take some time, from user and developer perspectives, hence the decision to continue to develop MacOS 8.x while promoting MacOS X. Users may adopt the new OS quickly, but until reasonable numbers do, Apple can't begin to manage a transition from PowerPC to Intel, at least in the Client space. None of these arguments prevent Apple from one day moving to Intel, if it sees a real advantage in doing so. Let's be honest, no one uses a Mac because of its processor -- they use it because they prefer the OS. But it's a major change, and Apple isn't going to that unless it's a damn sight more secure as a company than it is even now. Working with Intel, even if it means Apple ships high-end Merced-based servers next year, isn't about abandoning PowerPC, it's about extending the MacOS' scope. ®

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