Editorial: Kicking and screaming

Editorial: Kicking and screaming

Eight months after Apple announced plans to ditch PowerPC chips in all of its desktops and notebooks, the first Intel-based model is about to hit the shelves. While industry commentators have applauded the move, which looks sure to be a good long-term bet, it seems some members of the user community are showing caution initially.

There are a couple of good reasons why this shouldn't surprise anybody. Firstly, the move to Intel removes one of the qualities that made Apple different (and special) to its army of loyal users. Some industry observers are expressing fears that the move to Intel will mean Apple becomes 'just another PC brand'.

It's a bit like when vinyl started to be phased out in favour of CDs in some ways; most record-lovers eventually got over their initial hatred of the new format but many of them had to be dragged - often kicking and screaming - to the disc.

The move to an Intel chipset alone will not realistically diminish Apple's otherness; the Mac operating system always has been and will continue to be its biggest differentiator. The diehard Mac community will get over this architecture shift but, in the short term, it would be foolish to expect many of them to be pre-ordering the Intel-based MacBook Pro.

Of greater concern to Apple and Intel, in terms of bedding in their new relationship, would be some of the opinions being expressed on user websites. When a brand has a knowledgeable community built around it like the one Apple has managed to foster, it goes without saying that rumours will abound. This has never been more true than it is today in the age of blogging.

For instance, it is common knowledge that third-party applications will have to run through an emulator, known as Rosetta, while complementary software manufacturers play catch up with the new hardware architecture. That is bad news for a company like Apple that has built so much of its success, especially in the design industry that it dominates, on relationships with partners like Adobe and Macromedia.

One user website - Quark vs InDesign - is already speculating that major third-party software companies such as Adobe and Microsoft won't be in any rush to jump into line with the new Apple architecture until the platform has proved itself.

"It is in the best interests of these companies to get Intel-Mac-compatible versions of their products to market as soon as possible, but not at the expense of reliability, functionality, performance, or customer satisfaction," editor-in-chief, Pariah S. Burke, wrote. Poking fun at the Apple advertising literature, he continued: "In the meantime, have patience. Intel-Macs may be faster and more powerful, but faster and more powerful doing what?"

A major shift such as Apple's new partnership with Intel will always need time to take hold and it would be naive to think that there won't be some teething troubles along the way. While the Mac community will embrace the new platform soon enough (given that they will eventually have no choice), Apple will be more interested to see if the Intel partnership can help it win more hearts and minds in the broader PC community. Only time will tell.

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