6 Questions about the Transition


1. Will Windows run on a Mac? - VPC faster? :D
2. Will OS X run on other non-Apple machines?
3. What kind of performance will Rosetta offer?
4. Will Macs get cheaper?
5. Will this make it any easier to port Windows only software (games) to the Mac?
6. How Long with PowerPC be supported?

With this new transitition coming and the entire Mac Community up in Arms about these are the most common questions asked. I'm curious about all of them, and if PowerPC is supported for a long time (at least 10 to 15 years AFTER the complete transition).
1. Yes, and probably. Phil Schiller said that while Apple will not support running Windows on its hardware, they will do nothing to prevent it, so it should run just fine. As for VPC, in theory, we ought to get a version offering near-perfect speed, since it will not be running in emulation exactly (like the Windows version of VPC).

2. No. Phil Schiller has made it clear that OS X will only run on Apple-branded hardware. Although, I wouldn't be surprised to see some hacker manage an XPostFacto-like solution to get OS X running on unsupported hardware.

3. Insufficient data! Insufficient data! Beeeeeeeep! *cough* Uh, I mean...*shrug* :)

4. I doubt it. The reason Macs are more expensive isn't because PPCs are more expensive; it's because Apple spends much more money on R&D than anyone else, and Apple has the highest profit margins of any hardware manufacturer. Since Apple's made it clear that OS X will only run on their machines, that means they're still calling the shots, and will probably price their machines about the same way they do now.

5. Again, I doubt it. I don't think it will make much difference at all, actually. The reason Windows games are hard to port isn't so much because of the chip difference, it's because of the software. Most Windows games rely heavily on DirectX, a Microsoft Windows technology. To port them to the Mac, developers need to rewrite them using OpenGL. This won't change. Some people have said Apple might try to license DirectX, but...I think they were joking. I don't think that could ever happen, personally.

6. Apple will still be selling PPC systems into 2007, and I think Steve said they would still support them for some time afterwards. Apple supported 68k processors for quite a while after the move to PPC, so I expect them to be pretty good about backwards compatibility with current PPC systems. But 10 to 15 years? I doubt it. I mean, OS X can't run on 10-year-old machines as it is. I can't remember the last OS release that could run on 10-year-old hardware, really.
I disagree on #1. There are still lots and lots of things that *could* be different about the Intel Mac than the Intel PC Clones. Lots. And knowing apple, I'd bet they'll be plenty different. A CPU is but *one* component in the machine.
Also on #5 - Direct X is heavily used, but OpenGL is just as heavily used. I think it's more about system hooks and platform-specific API calls than the video IO.
Too many people are panicking. This does not mark a convergence of Mac and Windows. Only people who need to learn a lot more about computers really think that's the case.
1. Will Windows run on a Mac? - VPC faster?
Yes, probably Windows will run on the Mactels, inside some kind of environment, but will need some hacking or a dedicated app like VPC ... Booting into windows directly might perhaps be well nigh impossible, due to hardware considerations.

2. Will OS X run on other non-Apple machines?
Probably, with a mod-chip or "PearPC" sans emulation. Expect vigourous lawyer activity from Apple if something like that spreads too much or becomes too easy.

3. What kind of performance will Rosetta offer?
The company that probably made Rosetta (Transitive, AFAIK) claims 80%. I've heard mixed reactions, so it's unclear.

4. Will Macs get cheaper?
Possibly. On the short term Apple is going to phase out the PPC macs, so therre might be some inventory cleaning discounts. Resellers might offer even higher discounts to get rid of their old stuff. However, whether intel chips are significantly cheaper than IBM's is as of yet unclear.

5. Will this make it any easier to port Windows only software (games) to the Mac?
Just a little bit, since, as has already been pointed out, the issue seems to be mainly DirectX and API's. However, all minor issues that might have been related to the different processor architectures, are obviously gone. Also it is not yet clear whether the motherboards are going to be more standard ones, supplied by intel, with intel chipsets. This also might make things easier. Moreover, taking AltiVec out of the equation might actually be an improvement ...

6. How Long with PowerPC be supported?
Jobs said it would be complete by the end of 2007. Imagine buying a PPCMac for Christmas 2007 with 3 years of AppleCare ... 2010 seems like a good bet. However, it is doubtful what the third party developers will do. If they start making x86Mac binaries only from a certain point onward, the PPCMac platform will die sooner.
Windows will almost certainly boot more than happily in an Intel-powered Mac. After the convergence of the architectures, a Mac and a PC are pretty much only an Open Firmware away.

My opinion is, VirtualPC will boom (moreso than Windows as a dual-boot system), since it integrates somewhat into OS X (the Dock/taskbar options) and is less invasive, as well as sandboxed to its own image - less security problems.

PearPC, the current (sloooow) PPC emulator for x86 platforms already emulate the Mac's Open Firmware. That's how they can load OS X. My bet is, with OS X on Intel processors, all they'll need to make Pear run OS X at near-100% speed is to remove the processor emulation tasks (which are what slows it down now). Rosetta is also an interesting thing. With some tweaking/hacking, I wonder how difficult it would be to port it to Windows (or at least some Linux distro. Certainly OpenStep, which supports Objective-C).

Rosetta performance, I'm guessing based on its demo at WWDC, will be at about 60 - 75% of an equivalent PPC (I'd call a 3.6GHz P4 equivalent to a 2.5GHz G5). Nothing too flash.

Games/App porting will be roughly the same as they are now, due to proprietary software.

There will be a slight problem with PPC developers who have linked their applications specifically to the PPC platform, with things like AltiVec, but those things will be ironed out in time.

I don't foresee PPC Macs being properly deprecated by developers for at least three years (after 2007, when all new Macs are Intel-based).