Apple ships Athlon-equipped Macs to testers?

If IBM's new desktop 64-bit PowerPC chip doesn't fly, it looks like Apple has at least AMD's Athlon XP processors as a backup. TR reader Jrdbeau sent me a link to this interesting story on what may be Apple's contingency plan if it's forced to move to an x86 platform.
Nevertheless, these observers report that Apple has been serious enough about its ace in the hole to seed a few lucky civilians with prototype boxes – delivered heavily swaddled in layers of cloak-and-dagger security, natch. Specifically, recent testers report taking delivery of Athlon-powered boxes that Apple had assiduously welded shut to prevent prying eyes from ogling whatever other gremlins might be lurking inside these nondescript beige chassis.
Apparently, Apple is shipping Athlon-based tests systems with versions of OS X, Final Cut Pro, and other OS X applications. As you might expect, the article reports that Final Cut Pro is much faster with an Athlon than on a Mac.

The idea of OS X on x86 hardware is an interesting one, and it certainly doesn't seem too farfetched that Apple would have a skunk project keeping OS X and various applications compatible with something like the Athlon to hedge against disaster with Motorola and IBM. That disaster seems unlikely, especially with IBM, but Apple has more than a couple of quarters to get through before the new Power4 pops up. What will they do to keep the Mac aficionados happy until then?

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