There are rumours Apple will announce a switch to Intel processors on Monday (6th June). It is not the first time that Apple have switched processor architectures - back in the 1990's they switched from Motorola 68000's to the Motorola/IBM PowerPC CPU in a stunningly smooth and successful migration so I totally expect they can pull it off again.
The intriguing bit this time around is I believe Intel have more to gain than Apple!
Why do I say that? Well, let's hypothesize that Apple have asked Intel for a 64bit processor and more importantly, that processor will have zero legacy 32bit or 16bit microcode logic. We would see the advent of the first 64-bit pure x86 processor. The benefits of this would be:
- Lower transistor count
- Lower die area
- Lower power usage
- Lower heat dissipation
- Higher clock speeds
If Intel created such a chip for Apple, they would surely want to sell it to other manufacturers to gain volume and we may well see Microsoft create a Windows variant just for this chip. Obviously, Linus et al would create a Linux kernel within a couple of weeks to support the chip. Linux distros would arrive a short time later (enough time for gcc to recompile everything).
Let's recap on what Intel get out of this architecture change:
- A CPU which can have it's clock speed ramped higher
- A new CPU line
- A lower power CPU for consumer devices and mobile computing
- Competitive advantage over AMD, especially in 64bit
- Simpler development of future CPUs
So, Intel gets to simplify their world whereas in the short-term, Apple's world gets more complicated because it has to create a PowerPC emulator to support legacy software. As for IBM, they don't care - they have conquered the console gaming market which has greater volume than Apple ever did.