Fastest Mac Last?

The first Macs to get the Intel treatment were the low-end iMac and the High-end PowerBook (excuse me, MacBook). Next out the gate was the Mac Mini. Rumor has it that the next part of the product line to be X86’d will be the iBook. The final Mac to be intellified is likely to be the PowerMac, possibly in the late summer/early fall.

I’m just curious why this order? I would have guessed the PowerMac would have been one of the first systems to go Intel because:

  1. It’s easier to engineer in a big box than a small one.
  2. The PowerMac user is more performance sensitive than the iMac/iBook/Mini/PowerBook user.

Possible answers:

  • Performance sensitivity demands that the PowerMac wait for more native applications.
  • Apple’s waiting for a new, faster Intel chip for the PowerMac.
  • It’s not so much the performance that matters as the wattage. PowerMacs have watts to burn. PowerBooks and Minis don’t (but the iMac can spare a few watts)
  • That’s just the product cycle. PowerBooks/Minis/iMacs needed a refresh more urgently.
  • The PowerMac engineers just aren’t as fast as the PowerBooks/Minis/iMac engineers. (Shockingly possible: much product timing depends more on who gets done when than on any specific plan.)

Any other ideas?

4 Responses to “Fastest Mac Last?”

  1. George Bailey Says:

    Well, for me personally it’s no big deal to decide to pick up a mini, but I’m not dishing out another $3,000 until I can see the value in it. So from my point of view you’re right that it’s a performance issue.

  2. Scott Ellsworth Says:

    Actually, I suspect it is the quark/photoshop/office triumvirate. For the first few months, we were going to be running a fair amount of software under Rosetta, pretty much regardless of when that clock started.

    At this point, a core duo’s SSE3 implementation is not going to beat a fast G5, especially a quad. Add to that the Rosetta overhead, and you do not have a game winning machine. People would rather have a quad G5 than a current Core Duo. The story changes with the chips coming in September – those are 64 bit, and promise much better speed.

    A powerbook, on the other hand, was lagging so far behind what Intel was offering that there was no reason not to make the move. Even under Rosetta, a MacBook does pretty well, compared with a mid model Powerbook. (The mini story is similar.) Those who wanted true photoshop speed were running G5s, which means that a MacBook was not being marketed to the most performance sensitive crowd.

    So, by shipping the Mini and the MacBook, Apple gave generally better performance on most apps, even under Rosetta. They lost a bit for Photoshop, and gained a bunch with the few early Universal apps.

    As time passes, we will see more Universal apps, and thus an Intel desktop would have fewer places that it would not show well. They then look like better options with a bit of seasoning.


  3. Dave C. Says:

    One compelling reason is Photoshop. It’s unacceptably slow under Rosetta and because it’s built with CodeWarrior rather than XCode, it’s difficult to port to Intel. Consequently, Apple must continue to offer a high-end PowerPC-based system until Adobe release the next version of Photoshop, probably in 2007.

  4. Wes Felter Says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about it; I expect the new MacMac Pro to come in July or August (just after Woodcrest is released). Transitioning the whole product line in 8 months is pretty impressive.

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