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Dell Apple to ditch Intel for AMD?

Same old (inaccurate) speculation, different names

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Analysis Apple is the new Dell. Yes, now that the PC giant has finally, after a decade of speculation, signed up to buy processors from AMD and end its Intel-only policy, we can now expect ten further years of similar rumours that Apple's about to adopt the Athlon too.

Last week, AMD CEO Hector Ruiz indicated Apple "wants choice". The comment was pounced upon by numerous observers that Apple's going to introduce AMD-based Macs.

"Why would they want to be held hostage like everyone else has been?" Ruiz asked an audience at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

Well, presumably for the same reasons Dell wanted to be so bound for so long. But let's not forget Apple is - or, at any rate, has been - an AMD customer: it's used AMD embedded processors in some of its AirPort Wi-Fi base-station products for some time.

A second item of 'evidence' was also presented last week: Parallel's virtualisation software for Mac OS X now supports AMD's Secure Virtual Machine (SVM) technology, aka 'Pacifica'.

Except, of coure, it doesn't. At least not explicitly. Parallels Workstation product, which provides virtualisation services under Windows and Linux, does now feature "stronger" support for SVM, and for Intel's own Virtualisation Technology (VT), facts Parallels itself pointed out when a new pre-release version of Workstation 2.2 was released.

Parallels' Mac OS X product, Parallels Desktop, which recently gained Windows Vista support, does not apparently support SVM. If it shares code with Workstation, Desktop may have SVM support in there, but it's certainly not something Parallels is talking about or exposing to the user in the way it does with VT.

We'd love to be party to the terms of Apple's deal with Intel, but we'd be very surprised to see an exclusivity clauses in there. It may be used as a bargaining tool - as it undoubtedly was by Dell - but both firms know Apple can now use other x86-compatible if it makes sense to do so.

Right now, it clearly doesn't, in much the same way it's made sense for Apple to use Intel's mobile Core 2 Duo CPU, 'Merom', in its desktop iMacs rather than the cheaper, desktop-specific Core 2 Duo, 'Conroe'. Presumably, with Core 2 Duo updates coming for the MacBook and MacBook Pro lines, all of which will undoubtedly use Merom, Apple's playing the volume purchasing game.

If AMD can give Apple a good discount for buying in bulk, maybe the Mac maker will indeed excercise its right to "choice". ®

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