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Could Apple make the x86 leap?

Ronald Hanaki
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…is the title of this ZDNet story. Bedtime stories you tell in order to scare your children? Hannibal over at Ars Technica has openly speculated about this but despite Motorola’s problems ramping up the PowerPC chip, it seems unlikely that Apple would take this plunge. Let’s hear this astonishing tale:

As Motorola struggles to boost the speed of the PowerPC G4 processor, Mac users have been speculating for months about the possibility that Apple Computer Inc. might dump the chip in favor of CPUs from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. or Intel Corp.

If Apple were to devote time and resources to this project, it could definitely be done,” said Bob Murphy, chief technical officer for ShadeTree, whose business includes porting other companies’ applications to Mac OS X.

Clutch the pearls.

The calls to action began early this year when Apple software engineer Wilfredo Sanchez reported that he had successfully compiled the Darwin OS to run on a PC.

Sanchez’s achievement with Darwin came on one specific PC configuration, and Apple still does not offer PC installers for download. To get Darwin — and ultimately Mac OS X — to run on different configurations, Apple would need to develop new drivers for the mouse, CD-ROM, memory controller, and other components. Manufacturers would have the option, as they do now, of making their hardware work with Apple’s generic drivers — if available — or creating their own.

Apple uses many off-the-shelf PC components, such as USB, PCI and ATA, and their requisite controllers are all capable of supporting an x86 CPU. However, Apple continues to make its own memory controller, which would have to be redesigned to work in an x86 system, said Chris Cooksey, director of engineering at XLR8.

Wow. What is it with this week, anyway? I can’t wait for the weekend to come so we can clear out of here.

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