There’s no question about it; this is an exciting and strange time for us as Mac users and aficionados. Years ago, a younger, brasher, probably rather annoying version of myself used to taunt PC-using coworkers with the Flaming Pentium Bunny ads, RISC vs. CISC, those few shining moments when the 604e or the G3 actually surpassed whatever Pentium was new that month. I’m sure more than a few of us might, if pressed, have to admit to doing those kinds of things. Those were the days.
And as a result of all that, it somehow feels a little wrong to embrace them at this point, partially because once upon a time Intel and Windows were inextricably linked. But the rise of AMD allows us to look at Intel a little more fairly, as a company that succeeds (or loses ground) on its merits, not through some kind of monopoly abuse. Most of us don’t think highly of Microsoft Windows, but the chips that run it tend to work as advertised (notwithstanding the fun we had with the Pentium Division Bug a long time ago). Powerful and cheap, the more so now, thanks to stronger competition, and utterly unavailable to those of us with more discerning tastes in our operating system software.
This doesn’t make us wrong about everything we said in the past. The G3 did kick booty once upon a time, and it’s not just Steve Jobs trying to sell shiny metal towers when he says that the G5 is a fine machine today. It doesn’t make the Bunny Man ads any less stupid. It doesn’t stave off the queasy thought of their execrable xylophone tones appended to an ad for the latest Mac. It certainly doesn’t make it okay to tart up the PowerBook of 2006 with the NASCAR-like decorations that PC users are so accustomed to.
What it does do allow Apple to still make the products that they want. If the G5 was never going to make it into a notebook, they weren’t going to come out with a PowerBook G5 that resembles my old 165c, except heavier. It was easy to wonder at the time of the TiBook how they could do any better, size-wise. The only way they’re going to, be it on the desktop, in your lap, or some other way we haven’t even figured out yet is if they have the processors to drive it. They aren’t going to go backwards, so they had to take a hard step to go forward.
Could this backfire? Sure. Native applications could well cease to be economically attractive in five years. But at the same time, it could open the door for new applications that have never been feasible. High-end CAD would be at the top of my list, for instance. Assumptions that applications will disappear are partially predicated on the idea that their market share stays put, but it’s safe to say that that isn’t in their plans. They no doubt see this as the ideal moment to claw for a much larger chunk, with Windows under siege and languishing in overlong development cycles, a huge operating system technology advantage, and unprecedented mindshare with the success of the iPod. It is, for lack of a better term, ballsy.
But for those of us who’ve used the Mac since whenever, do we expect anything less?
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