The Intel Switch

The first Apple computer I owned was a G4 Mac mini (PowerMac10,1). It was a PowerPC-based 1.42 GHz machine with a 1GB stick of RAM I’d installed with putty knife surgery.

Quite frankly, it was a dog. iTunes was slow, iPhoto was slower, and Safari was a beachballer. So when Steve Jobs confirmed the Intel Macintosh rumors on June 6, 2005 at WWDC, I was pretty excited. My custom-built PC from a couple years previous felt much snappier than the Mac mini I desperately wanted to love.

In January 2006, I finally got a Macintosh I could love. I bought the first iMac (2GHz Core Duo) with an Intel CPU, and I loved it. The machine was incredibly fast and had a gorgeous 20″ screen1. I was completely sold. I was a Mac.

Then on April 5, I felt the wind leave my Macintosh sail. Apple announced Boot Camp, an application for installing Windows XP onto Intel-based Macintosh computers. The hacker community had been doing this since the Intel builds of OS X leaked, but this was an official process blessed by Cupertino.

How could they do this? Especially after they’d seemingly started to gain momentum with curious iPod owners checking out Macs. Lots of people wondered if they were trying to focus on hardware, which seemed highly unlikely. In the WWDC keynote, Steve emphasized that the Intel switch was about making the best computer they could for their customers, with a long-term view in mind. Blessing Windows on those computers seemed insane.

Of course, it’s clearer now. Intel and Macintosh was only part of the story. We hadn’t yet heard of the iPhone or iPad, or what we now call iOS.

Interestingly enough, I know very few people that run Windows on their Macintosh bare-metal; most people seem to run Windows in Parallels/Virtual Box/VMWare. Instead, there’s a large community of people interested in running OS X on cheap Intel machines.

With Apple’s announcements at this year’s WWDC regarding Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8) and the new Macbook Pro, it seems Cupertino still has a sharp focus on making the very best computers for their customers.

  1. I finally replaced that original iMac with a 27″ model last fall. The old iMac still works great, and is used frequently for capturing old VHS movies in iMovie.