No One, on June 3rd 2005, 08:55 PM, said:
This is unbelievable! I wonder what this means for game porting. Or for cost of Macs.
My initial take is that CNet has some of the details wrong. For example, the real truth could be that a) Intel is going to fab PowerPC chips or b) Intel will be supplying chips for, say, Airport base stations or iPods or something. These make much more sense than a total architecture switch.
Having said that, let's assume for a brief moment that Apple will announce a move to the x86 architecture.
This would have a noticeable effect on companies that port software, IMHO. I would expect that it wouldn't be very long before someone comes up with a virtual-box solution to run Win32 apps on an x86 Mac, similar to VirtualPC
for the PC or vmWare
. You'd get 95-99% of the speed of running natively under Windows since, unlike VirtualPC for the Mac, it's just a virtual box running x86 apps without the need for a CPU emulator.
With that piece in place, I think the number of people who would be willing to wait for Mac ports of games would drop over time to a much lower level than now, perhaps to the point of putting a number of porting houses out of business. From an end-user standpoint, this probably would be an advantage of sorts - you could buy and play pretty much any PC game at this point. From my unique perspective of doing Mac game ports, this isn't a scenario I am particularly thrilled about, but what the heck.
Continuing the speculation, it also means that a Win32 virtual box running on MacOS X would have implications for business software. Microsoft Office, Quark, Photoshop - if these Win32 apps ran in a virtual box on the Mac, it would reduce the need and urgency for OSX-specific versions. I don't know if this is to the benefit of end users, but I can see these companies getting enthusiastic about dropping the Mac version and thus cutting costs.
The other wrinkle is a reverse-scenario. If OSX ran on x86, but say only on Mac hardware, it would only be a matter of time before some enterprising hacker wrote an OSX "virtual box" app to let any old x86-based PC run OSX apps on non-Apple hardware. Here's where I think the rumor of the x86 switch falls apart. Apple must surely be aware of this scenario, and it would have pretty big implications for their bottom line. I can't quite picture Apple looking forward to losing their hardware lock-in like this.