For the past few years Apple has been telling us, their dedicated users, that 64-bit is the future. They’ve given us the 64-bit G5 processor and have consistently mentioned the 64-bit-ness of the Mac OS. And we, the consumers, have had little reason to question this; after all, 64 is a bigger number than 32 and we all know how big an improvement the move from 32-bits to 64-bits gave us in console gaming.
Ignoring for a moment the actual technical merits (or lack thereof) of 64-bit over 32-bit, lets take a look at what we know about the near future for Apple. First off, we know that Apple will be switching from IBM and Motorola/Freescale’s PPC chips to Intel’s x86 chips, and that we’ll first start seeing x86 Macs in 2006. Second, we know that this change is due to IBM’s inability to provide Apple with the chips they need, in particular 3+ GHz G5s for the desktops and any G5s for the laptops. Third, we know that Intel’s next laptop chip, the Yonah, will enter production in late 2005 to be seen in commercial products in first quarter 2006.
So it stands to reason that the first x86 Macs we see will likely be Yonah-powered PowerBooks and/or iBooks. Now, the Yonah would seem to be the ideal successor to the G4. It’s dual-core, 65 nm construction should offer a significant advance in the processing power to power consumption ratio, and it’s 667 MHz front-side bus and shared cache technology should offer a significant advance in speed. Finally we’ll not only have the best look laptops around, but the fastest. And what’s more, we’ll actually be able to put them on our laps! But is it really the chip that mobile chip that Mac users are looking for? I’m not it is.
No, I’m not complaining about the x86 ISA (though I do believe PPC to be the superior architecture, I understand and fully support Apple’s move to x86), nor am I particularly concerned about the lack of AltiVec. The problem is the Yonah is not 64-bit. A Yonah-powered PowerBook is not going to be the equivalent of a G5 PowerBook. Rather it will be the equivalent of a significantly speed-bumped G4 PowerBook. A vast improvement, yes, but not really what we were hoping for.
So what is the future of 64-bit computing at Apple? Are we to remain with 64-bit desktops but only 32-bit laptops? According to Infoworld, OS X 10.5 Leopard will be a 64-bit OS, but we’ve been running a 64-bit OS on 32-bit laptops for a while now. While I know that from a technical standpoint a 64-bit processor will make very little, if any, difference in the day to day performance of my computer, I can’t help but think that this is going to hold Apple, and us Mac users, back. Especially as AMD already provides 64-bit mobile chips that Windows could leverage to maintain it’s long-perceived advantage when it comes to processors, in laptops at least.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.