Since the announcement of Apple’s move to Intel x86 chips, a lot of people have been asking why Intel?, why not AMD? When they’re not decrying the x86 ISA and swearing to switch to Linux so they can run inferior (though still good) software on basically the same hardware they could be running OS X on, that is.
Well, as it turns out, there are some very good reasons for this which are gone into in depth over at DrunkenBlog, and which I’ll provide a (brief) overview of. For one, AMD is in a similar underdog position as Apple. Actually, one might argue that AMD is in an even worse position than Apple. Yes they have a slightly larger share of the processor market than Apple does of the desktop (16% as opposed to Apple’s ~2%, ok maybe that’s not so slight), but that’s about all they have going for them. Intel, by comparison, has about 80% of the processor market. Intel is also consistently profitable, something AMD has never been and something AMD probably won’t be in the near future. Despite the common perception, AMD’s technology isn’t really all that superior to Intels. It is in some areas (most notably the server area where the Opteron wipes the floor with the Xeon and even the Power4 and G5), but the truth is having burst back onto the scene with the cheap, fast, reliable Athlons AMD is starting to fall behind again. The Pentium M is by far the superior mobile chip when compared with AMD’s Turion, and even in the dual-core processor arena Intel is consistently getting higher clock speeds than AMD (and as these are both x86 chips, let’s forget about the MHz-myth-myth).
In reality, the only real appeal of AMD right now (unless you’re looking at servers) is that they enjoy the same underdog status as Apple, and unlike Intel are neither monopolistic nor tainted by a close association with Microsoft. AMD may be the cool kid of the x86 block, but Intel’s a bully that can actually back up its bravado. So, as much as we might not like Intel for being part of the unholy Wintel alliance, and as much as we might not like Intel’s monopolistic tendencies, and as much as we might buy the PR that AMD has done so well with, the truth is that Intel is definitely the right choice for Apple. For now, anyway.
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