Just when I get settled in a comfy spot …eviction! I’m sure everyone has seen the headlines by now; Apple has formed a new partnership with Intel. This pretty much means a (not so) gradual discontinuation of the current PowerPC architecture in favor of the x86 architecture that you find in most PC’s. For all of those people sitting on x86 hardware wishing they were running OSX, this seems like an enormous win. It gives them hope (though probably nothing more) that the ugly little beige box under their desk will be getting a decent operating system that also supports mainstream apps like Photoshop and Illustrator. But for those of us who have decent-looking silver G5 boxes sitting under our desks, it means an almost complete loss of investment. It looks now like I’m going to get about another year on my “state-of-the-art” G5 before software support begins to wane. I’m not foolish enough to believe that software vendors are going to just smile and optimize for two processors. So when this all takes hold I get to return to square-one: replace hardware and replace software. Well I just did that and unless the NSF funds me personally, I won’t be able to do it again.
The move is probably a good one for Apple. Or let me rephrase, it seems to me Apple had little choice. IBM’s inability to produce a G5 that won’t make a pile of melted goo out of laptop batteries has to be killing Apple in the very hot laptop market. I personally know of several (on the order of six or eight) people who have been nursing dying G4 PowerBooks trying to keep them alive just long enough to hit the Purchase Now button at the Apple Store when the long-awaited upgrades finally arrive. The bad news for those folks is they have another year to wait. The other bad news is they can expect even slower performance until the shell out the additional bucks for Intel version of their software. I may be an old pessimist, but I think you would be foolish to believe that emulated PPC is going to even reach “nearly as fast.” And if you happen to use apps that depend upon vector optimization, forget about it. Starting Photoshop on stage is a far cry from doing actual image processing. If all you do in a day is start your apps and watch the splash screens, it is true that you will probably experience only modest slowdowns. Otherwise, I suspect you’ll feel compelled to upgrade or unswitch.
I guess I have about a year to decide where to go from here. I decided last year to switch to a Mac because I was fed up with the amount of thought I had to give to silly insignificant things when I was on Windows. The lack of creative software and the general annoyance of having to always operate in geek mode continue to make desktop Linux a non-option for me. To be honest, OSX has been the most satisfying platform I’ve used (well, since the days when I could start a machine and be in graphics mode in a single line of code). While it would be a shame to move away from such a nice platform, it’s pretty hard to accept that fact that Apple has been planning to potentially screw their customers for about five years now. We could have all been planning to transition to x86, developers could have already been building universal binaries, but Apple decided to keep their “secret double life” to themselves. Not that they really had the option of letting us in on the secret, but it’s become clear that Apple drastically underestimates the value of stability to it’s customers.