BitDepth 536 - August 07

Bold predictions about Apple's new Intel Macs turn out to be true...
Which Mac, when?

Apple's new all-black MacBook is the first obsidian laptop from the company in years, but the big changes across the line are happening inside the case. Photo courtesy Apple Computer.

Yesterday, Apple Computer presented its most forward looking foot at the opening presentation of its developer love-in, the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).
As I write, I have no idea what the company will be announcing, but there's one last hole in its equipment lineup awaiting a switch from Freescale/Motorola's PowerPC processors to the hot new chips from Intel.
Running far ahead of previously announced schedules, Apple has migrated three of its four computer lines to the new chips, with consumer and professional laptops and consumer desktop systems all running various speeds of Intel's Core Duo chip technology.

For its serious professional iron, it seems likely that the company will use either Intel's Core 2 Duo processors or the Zeon, which are 64bit revisions of its chip architecture and match that processor potential with temporary extensions to its current operating system, code named Tiger while pushing more ambitious rewrites of the codebase to 64bit architectures in Leopard, version 10.5 of Mac OS X and the real subject of WWDC.
The only Macs to have a case change to accompany the new internals that support the Intel chips were the iBooks, redubbed MacBooks and packaged with new 13 inch glossy widescreens that are much spiffier and more useable than they look in photos.

Look for new Mac Pro towers with the same case design and completely redesigned internal architectures that will play to the strengths of the new Intel chips and for Mr Jobs to finally crack the three gigahertz barrier he's craved for his top end Macs for years now.
The only thing putting brakes on the runaway train that is the company's switch to Intel chips is the lingering unavailability of high-end, professional software designed to make use of these new processors.

Most smaller software packages have already been successfully issued as "Universal Binary" applications, which can sense whether they are running on older Mac hardware or the newer Macs with Intel chips inside and run at top speed on either computer systems.
The bind has come for users who need the bigger packages, the huge code bases of Microsoft Office and Adobe's Creative Suite run to millions of lines of programming language and the change is demanding time from these developers.
Apple itself wasn't quite ready for its own Intel based Macs when they arrived on store shelves, with high-end video editing packages like Final Cut Pro and Motion refusing to run altogether on the new hardware.

Apple worked fast to resolve this embarrassing situation, but Photoshop and Office users are caught in a different quagmire, because their software will run, just more slowly, using code translation software dubbed Rosetta by Apple.
For Office users, the hit is minimal, if they don't they spend lots of time with long, image rich documents or work on large PowerPoint files. For Adobe's customers, particularly its Photoshop users, the issue is more critical. Photoshop takes a 40 percent performance hit running in Rosetta, which isn't too bad if your current Mac is a ageing G3 or an older G4 model, but if you bought a Mac in the last year and a half, the new systems represent a net loss of performance and end up being a downgrade.

• General users (word processing, e-mail, web browsing) should embrace the upgrade to an Intel based Macintosh. Everything that ships with the new systems is Universal Binary (except for the Office demo), including its iLife suite for creating homemade movies and DVDs, listening to music and managing photos.
• Power users (high-end gamers, software explorers, new adopters) may want to check on the status of the software they use most often. Doom 3 and Quake 4 are available for Intel Macs, but check the game developer's website for an update schedule for your favorite diversion, its Rosetta compatibility and possible upgrade costs.
• Platform agnostics who switch between a Mac and a Wintel machine may be able to work on one computer with fast Windows performance using Apple's Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop, a Windows virtual machine that allows cross-platform users to run Windows applications whenever they wish. Codeweavers is working on its Crossover Mac software based on Wine, a Windows code emulator, which eliminates Microsoft's OS completely, allowing the new Intel Macs to run Windows applications directly.
• Soldiers in the trenches (web developers, illustrators, book and magazine designers, photographers and Photoshop gurus) should hold on to their old iron until their key software makes the jump. Most major applications (MS Office, Adobe's Creative Suite, Quark Xpress) are on a five to eight-month upgrade schedule from this point. Video editors already have a UB version of Final Cut Pro and are gnashing their teeth for an Intel tower to replace their G4's and G5's.

Note: BitDepth536 entered the Guardian's feature desk editorial system on Thursday evening last week, with no chance to update to today's realities. Mac fans will know that there is indeed a Mac Pro, sporting two dualcore Intel 64bit Zeon processors. At the top of the line, Mr Jobs finally has his 3 gigahertz PowerMacs, with the new QuadCore Mac Pro systems. For more up to date information (though I hold to the rationales outlined in BitDepth), view the new Macs and a preview of Leopard, the next revision of MacOS X at...
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