Update:Um, I guess I was pretty wrong. Hmmm. Well, being a Mac user has always been interesting....
OK, I can't help myself. I'm weighing in on this insanity tonight, before the big unveiling of something, or nothing. Then I can either say I'm incredibly prescient or I got it wrong like everyone else. So what the hell is going on with Apple and Intel?
There is just too much credibility in an CNET and WSJ report to dismiss this as idle rumor. Apple and Intel are up to something. But what? I'm in the camp that says Apple cannot simply announce a switch to x86, and not only because I just bought a brand new G5. Lots of reasons have been cited, including the pain for developers, but I think the biggest reason is that developers would simply stop developing for Mac.
Think about it: if Apple switches to x86, they either have to have some weird hardware lock that makes it impossible to boot into Windows, or they don't. I can't imagine how the former is going to go over in the market, and if the latter is true, doom ensues. If a developer knows that most Mac users can simply boot into Windows, why spend the money on a Mac version for such a small slice of the market? Mac software development stops, and Apple is suddenly a maker of high quality PCs with an esoteric operating system that runs some elegant Apple apps and shareware.
No, I don't buy it. What I do buy is the scenario laid out over on Blackfriar's Blog. Apple, I think, owns enough rights in the PowerPC platform to put another player into business. If they didn't before, think about that 3 Ghz guarantee Steve made long ago: how much you wanna bet there was a clause in the IBM supply agreement that if IBM didn't hit 3 Ghz by the end of '05, Apple had the right to turn to another supplier? That's where Intel comes in.
So Apple gets Intel in on the PowerPC game. Intel's 64-bit Itanium has languished. The PowerPC architecture is making major inroads in embedded systems, game consoles, and of course scales all the way up to 64-bit servers. Intel is no Microsoft, and is far too dependent on Microsoft. Imagine Intel with an alternative, mature OS running on Intel 64-bit PowerPC-based motherboards. Dell is probably chomping at the bit, too. They toyed with Linux, but Mac OSX is really better for any commercial systems vendor.
Intel can push other initiatives like WiMax, and Apple gets another vendor, newer high-volume parts that wind up on custom Apple motherboards as well as Intel motherboards for other PC vendors.
So that's my prediction: a PowerPC-based chip from Intel. Not x86. We'll see...