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Apple CEO promises two-year Intel conversion

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Steve Jobs has committed Apple Computer to an aggressive timetable for porting the Mac architecture to Intel, while promising a smooth transition for developers and ISVs already building applications and services for PowerPC machines.

Apple will roll out Intel-based Macs during the next two years with machines available by next June and a phased introduction to be "mostly" complete by the end of 2007. Apple announced the rollout at the World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco on Monday.

For the Intel-phobes out there, and there were quite a few judging by the anxious shuffling and mutterings from the assembled WWDC audience, Jobs pledged Apple will continue developing PowerPC-based Macs during the transition.

The future, though, is clearly Intel because Apple apparently wants to capitalize on a high-performance, low-power consumption architecture that will enable it to finally deliver on the 3GHz PowerMac - promised to arrive last year by Jobs but still missing. By mid-2006, Intel will have about five times the performance per watt of IBM, Apple's chief said.

"The most important reasons [for adopting Intel] are... as we look ahead we can envision some amazing products for you, and we can't imagine how we will get there building them with the PowerPC chipset," Jobs said. That future also includes the next version of Apple's OS X, codenamed Leopard, and due in either 2006 or 2007, in time to take-on Microsoft's Longhorn client.

Cementing the message, Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini joined Jobs on stage to shake on the companies' alliance and put years of niggling rivalry behind them.

"There's a whole bunch of you who never thought you'd see that logo [Intel] on this stage. I was one!" Otellini remarked, before slipping into corporate speak: "We are excited to work with Apple to bring you some really great products."

But don't worry Mac fans, it won't be a case of PowerPC cold turkey. OS X can already compile to Intel, Jobs told WWDC. To prove his point, he demonstrated the Tiger operating system running multiple desktop widgets, and opened Microsoft Office and Adobe System's documents, all on top of an Intel Pentium 4 3.6GHz system. Jobs said OS X already "sings" on Intel.

Jobs also unveiled Xcode 2.1, letting developers build applications for either Intel or PowerPC using the same tools and universal binaries from a single CD.

"We are going to support both processors for a long time because you will have [an] install base on PowerPC you want to see use applications, and will have a growing customer base on Intel you will want to sell your applications to," Jobs said.

ISVs, meanwhile, can tweak applications in Apple's Cocoa and Carbon C/C++ environments in a matter of days or weeks; however, those using Metrowerks are advised to go Xcode 2.1 to access those universal binaries.

For the tweak challenged, Jobs unveiled Rosetta - a dynamic bin translator that runs PowerPC binaries on Intel. "It's nothing like Classic... It's transparent, where users don't know [it's there]. It's lightweight and fast," Jobs said.

Importantly, Apple has drawn support from two influential software partners. Microsoft's Mac business manager Roz Ho promised binaries for future versions of Office for Mac running on Intel, while Adobe chief executive Bruce Chizen pledged to be the first ISV with a complete line of applications for Mac on Intel.

To encourage developers to switch from PowerPC to Intel, Apple is offering a $999 Developer Transition Kit with 3.6GHz Pentium 4 hardware, OS X 10.4.1, pre-release of XCode 2.1 universal binaries for its premium-level developers. ®

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