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Why PowerPC is done


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#1 Sandpaper

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 11:23 PM

Browsing some of the threads here, it is not hard to find the posts where people hold on to that last shred of hope that popular new games, meaning titles in 2007 and beyond, will show up on PowerPC Mac.  In no particular order, here are some reasons why we believe that the PowerPC porting business is over.  Try to take the perspective of a developer who doesn't just want to sell one boxed copy and call it a day, but rather keep the product viable and updated for a few years.

One is very simple, it's the performance curve of the installed base.  Try to remember what it was like when Apple was shipping G4's from 1999 to 2005 or thereabouts across much of the product line... they made up the vast majority of their PPC sales, and all of their laptop sales until 2006.  PowerPC ports of popular PC games, do-able on G4 ?  No.

Two is the relative sizes of the installed bases.  Based on some data we have looked at, Intel already outnumbers PowerPC for players of current titles on OS X.  That ratio will only continue to get steeper - and it only looks close when you compare Intel to G4+G5, and G4 doesn't matter.  If you just compare Intel to G5 player count, PowerPC is long gone.

Third, is middleware.  Not everyone can pony up the big bucks to get a company like Havok to port to PowerPC Mac, debug it, test it, and keep it live through a series of updates.  If you think that Havok is the only significant bit of middleware that matters to a typical port from Windows, please reconsider.

Fourth, is developer cost and testing cost.  It's not unrealistic to see testing costs for a Mac port double if you keep support for PowerPC, and possibly higher because the odds of lurking endian bugs become much bigger than zero (plus tiny math bugs).

Fifth, is the OS and video driver gap.  Even if all of the current PowerPC systems are running 10.4, due to the way the Intel Mac launch went and the way OpenGL evolved after 2006, all those PowerPC systems are missing key features which have been released on OpenGL for Intel.  Even if you consider a dual high-GHz G5 tower to be a "close match" for the entry level 2GHz iMac, it's fighting with one CPU tied behind its back - OpenGL hasn't improved on PowerPC since 10.4.3 or something.  Leopard promises to address that gap, but if you take that as a prerequisite for building a competitive title on G5, now you need that little sliver of high-GHz G5 tower owners to also upgrade to Leopard before they can play your game.  Wonder how big that sliver is after all that whittling?

Sixth, is uncertainty about tools and OS support from Apple.  If you want to ship a title that will last a few years, you need to be able to keep building and debugging it throughout its lifetime.  Since Apple won't set a long-term roadmap for PowerPC support on tools, even though things look nice right now, it could all come apart with the next "Transition".

Seventh, is Cider.  Not all developers who want to support Mac will go this route, but we already know a lot of titles will.  The ones that don't (ditch PowerPC) are inevitably going to feel the weight of all the above factors, take longer to get to market, and/or have more bugs... and they are going to wonder if there is an easier way if they just embrace Intel.  There is.

Not every developer will face all of these challenges.  But if you're a developer, you are probably thinking about a lot of these and hoping to see Apple's Intel Mac sales rate continue to climb so you can get disentangled from PowerPC Mac as quickly as possible.  G4's are dead.  Single G5 iMacs are comatose.  High end tower G5's are few.  None of them are getting any faster.  None of them will ever get a DX10 GPU.

Is there good news for a Quad G5 owner ?  Yes: they fetch > $2K on eBay.  Get out while you can.

Is there good news for a Mac player?  Yes, Apple is kicking ass and moving a lot of machines, and they are great performers - though integrated graphics remain a definite sore spot for games, and we honestly wonder how many of the EA titles being promoted this year will run nicely on the MacBook.

#2 Frost

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 12:09 AM

Your IP has been traced to Apple. Nice attempt to kill the hopes of the PowerPC owners.

;)
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#3 Arenzera

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 12:25 AM

View PostSandpaper, on July 18th 2007, 03:23 PM, said:

Third, is middleware.  Not everyone can pony up the big bucks to get a company like Havok to port to PowerPC Mac, debug it, test it, and keep it live through a series of updates.  If you think that Havok is the only significant bit of middleware that matters to a typical port from Windows, please reconsider.

I can't back this up with proof but for some reason I was under the impression the Havok library was available for both PowerPC and Intel Macs. It's just no Mac lovin' company except Blizzard could afford to buy a license for it. Am I wrong?

Kiel

#4 Eric5h5

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 12:39 AM

An Apple infiltrator, eh?  Well, if you're listening, how about putting out some better computers?  Even if I wanted a new Mac right now, there isn't a good replacement for the Power Mac.  They still kind of worked as consumer machines, but Mac Pros really live up to their names too much.  For example, the highly expensive memory that still has performance issues.  iMacs are far too limited to be remotely appealing.  You really really really need some kind of prosumer tower.  And better graphics card choices.  That is all.  :)  Oh, wait, and you need to make OS X on x86 run like it does on PPC.  Last time I used Intel Macs, they were kind of flaky and crash-prone.  It was quite unpleasant, actually, though granted it was almost a year ago.  (Well, actually, I also used a Mac Pro a few months ago, but it was only for a few minutes so I wasn't really able to get any kind of impression.)

--Eric

#5 Smoke_Tetsu

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 12:43 AM

I was also under the same impression. As far as I can see there aren't any other Havok titles coming to the Mac and it doesn't seem like the intel transition has helped. I would like it if I was wrong on that though.
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Slower and faster? I'm sorry to hear such good news?

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#6 Quicksilver

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 01:17 AM

View PostEric5h5, on July 18th 2007, 01:39 AM, said:

Oh, wait, and you need to make OS X on x86 run like it does on PPC.  Last time I used Intel Macs, they were kind of flaky and crash-prone.  It was quite unpleasant, actually, though granted it was almost a year ago.  (Well, actually, I also used a Mac Pro a few months ago, but it was only for a few minutes so I wasn't really able to get any kind of impression.)

I've had almost exactly the opposite experience.  The thing is, OS X on Intel is much snappier than it is on PPC.  Apps launch way faster, and systems boot in about half the time--the only thing that hasn't improved is reliability, which was already great (with an odd lemon here and there) on nearly the entire run of PPC-powered Macs.  Where did you use those beforementioned Intel Macs?  Was it at a school, at someone's house, or somewhere else?
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#7 Eric5h5

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 02:00 AM

View PostQuicksilver, on July 18th 2007, 03:17 AM, said:

Where did you use those beforementioned Intel Macs?  Was it at a school, at someone's house, or somewhere else?

At a business.  They had about 6, and they were all new (running 10.4.5? I think?)...if it was just one, I'd say there was something wacky with it, but they all did the same thing.  You'd be, for example, typing something on TextEdit or Mail and suddenly it would just quit.  It wasn't every few minutes or anything, but it was often enough to be noticeable, since I'm really not used to that sort of thing on OS X (OS 9, sure ;) ).  The actual booting-from-disk time was slower than my G5 (probably because my hd is faster), but what was faster was the hardware initialization.  Whatever's happening with EFI seems quite a bit zippier than OpenFirmware.

But like I said, that was about a year ago, and I do hope 10.4 has been improved on x86 since then.  Certainly the x86 updates have consistently been far bigger than the PPC updates, so they must be tuning a lot of code, or something.

--Eric

#8 Riko

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 07:05 AM

Don't know about a year ago, but my 3? month young 2.66 dual Intel Mac runs like a speed devil.
The only thing that keeps crashing once in a while is xxx Safari 2 (and i have no input managers)
but then I run Applejack and everything is ok again.

And I keep jumping up & down from joy when I see Cinema4D 10 render files as big as 10.000 x 6000 px
in under 3 hours. PSCS3 crashed sofar once, Flash not a single time.

Back OT, it still sucks for the people who bought a G5.

#9 Huntn

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 08:44 AM

View PostSandpaper, on July 18th 2007, 12:23 AM, said:

Browsing some of the threads here, it is not hard to find the posts where people hold on to that last shred of hope that popular new games, meaning titles in 2007 and beyond, will show up on PowerPC Mac.  In no particular order, here are some reasons why we believe that the PowerPC porting business is over.

Just who is "we"? :)

Havok, due to pricing is still a major obstacle to native Mac gaming I think.

#10 Douglas

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 08:49 AM

View PostEric5h5, on July 17th 2007, 11:39 PM, said:

An Apple infiltrator, eh?  Well, if you're listening, how about putting out some better computers?  Even if I wanted a new Mac right now, there isn't a good replacement for the Power Mac.  They still kind of worked as consumer machines, but Mac Pros really live up to their names too much.  For example, the highly expensive memory that still has performance issues.  iMacs are far too limited to be remotely appealing.  You really really really need some kind of prosumer tower.  And better graphics card choices.  That is all.  :)  Oh, wait, and you need to make OS X on x86 run like it does on PPC.  Last time I used Intel Macs, they were kind of flaky and crash-prone.  It was quite unpleasant, actually, though granted it was almost a year ago.  (Well, actually, I also used a Mac Pro a few months ago, but it was only for a few minutes so I wasn't really able to get any kind of impression.)

--Eric
Or how about supporting your high end video cards (radeon) on the mac pro with proper drivers so the games that we already own actually work like they should...
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#11 Blackshawk

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 10:42 AM

Interesting read, at the least. Nothing that hasn't been said before, but scattered throughout half a dozen threads or so.
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#12 dojoboy

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 10:49 AM

An interesting first post, and just joined today.   :unsure:
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#13 nagromme

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 01:10 PM

View PostEric5h5, on July 18th 2007, 02:39 AM, said:

Oh, wait, and you need to make OS X on x86 run like it does on PPC.  Last time I used Intel Macs, they were kind of flaky and crash-prone.

Even when Intel Macs were brand-new there was no such trend: your experience, luckily, was a fluke. Macs are as stable post-Intel as ever. You wouldn't know what chip is inside, you'll just know it's fast :) (As was PPC, before Motorola and IBM decided to get out of the computer business.)

#14 Eric5h5

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 01:26 PM

View Postnagromme, on July 18th 2007, 03:10 PM, said:

Even when Intel Macs were brand-new there was no such trend: your experience, luckily, was a fluke. Macs are as stable post-Intel as ever.

I really hope so, since I'll have to replace my G5 at some point. But I was somewhat disconcerted by that experience (as you would imagine, since I wasn't expecting that at all) and did some research, and turned up a fair amount of similar complaints on various forums.  It didn't leave me with the most positive of impressions.  I do figure that at least some of it was due to Rosetta, which is less of an issue now compared to a year ago.

--Eric

#15 nagromme

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 04:28 PM

Rosetta was a speed issue, but not a reliability issue that I've ever heard of. Rosetta delivers decent G4-like speeds, but can't match a G5.

As for turning up problems online, don't be too put off :) You could search for any product and find tons of problem reports: it's human nature to post when you have a problem, because you want a solution and you want to vent! Almost nobody would bother posting "my Intel Mac is still running fine this week" :) So finding complaints in forums is no reflection of statistical reality. You could search for G5 problems or shoelace problems and come up with scary stories too.

#16 Atticus

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 06:02 PM

Ummmm, yyyyyeah, PowerPC computing was, like, dead the moment Apple announced Mactels....?

Glad you finally got the memo! ;-)

But don't be sad. Welcome to the Mactel party! There's plenty of people here. Have some bacon wrapped shrimp, maybe some sushi, and I'll show you where the bar is.

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#17 rbarris

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 07:41 PM

The OP has some good points and some weak ones; will be interesting to see what the trends look like over the next year, if Intel Mac sales keep on ramping or if they reach some new steady state.  Food for thought.

#18 Endymion

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 09:39 PM

Well one thing is for sure, PowerPC users will not be growing on the Mac. Actually make that two things, intel users will only increase. No wait three things, the real variable to consider is the rate of sale of the intel Macs. That's it really.

#19 Fendersrule

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Posted 19 July 2007 - 01:14 AM

I wouldn't say the PPC is "done" or "dead". That's just phony.

I will say the PPC has cancer in it's mid 40's. Which means its got a lot of hope and time left. A vast majority of programs are still being made on it.

We are only seeing a short few games jump to Intel-Mac only.

The real question is how much % of people own GAMEABLE Intel Macs (NOT a Macbook or mini) and how many people own Gameable PPC's?

I would make anyone a bet here that more people have game-ready PPC's.

I have a 20" iMac, and it' s a great machine. It eats my G5 in OSX "zippyness". But for games, my G5 has the clear upper hand with it's 6800 Ultra. The iMac is also a $1800 machine, which tends to lead me to believe that most of the mac-buyers will buy something cheaper like a mini or Macbook...which can't play games worth the asshole.

I still don't know if it's wise from a developer standpoint to only create a game that only less than 50% of mac users will buy, speaking that I'm estimating WAY more people have PPC's for gaming than Intel Macs.

As long as the PPC consumers are there, we will still be seeing games.
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#20 yo-mike

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Posted 19 July 2007 - 02:17 AM

View PostFendersrule, on July 19th 2007, 02:14 AM, said:

I wouldn't say the PPC is "done" or "dead". That's just phony.

Which means its got a lot of hope and time left. A vast majority of programs are still being made on it.

We are only seeing a short few games jump to Intel-Mac only.

The real question is how much % of people own GAMEABLE Intel Macs (NOT a Macbook or mini) and how many people own Gameable PPC's?

I would make anyone a bet here that more people have game-ready PPC's.

I have a 20" iMac, and it' s a great machine. It eats my G5 in OSX "zippyness". But for games, my G5 has the clear upper hand with it's 6800 Ultra. The iMac is also a $1800 machine, which tends to lead me to believe that most of the mac-buyers will buy something cheaper like a mini or Macbook...

I still don't know if it's wise from a developer standpoint to only create a game that only less than 50% of mac users will buy, speaking that I'm estimating WAY more people have PPC's for gaming than Intel Macs.

As long as the PPC consumers are there, we will still be seeing games.

I'll second that.
1. The 32 MB VRAM in the mini PPC and eMac have been enough for my gaming hunger.

Of course if you use a RAM Disk things get quite a bit more interesting and satisfying while gaming on one of these more humble machines.

2. Secondly running games in Classic requires some tinkering with Disk images and if your up to the tinkering, you wont be dissatisfied.

3. While I applaud Apple and the Macintosh fans for Intel Macs, there is a general timeline consumers have for purchasing new computers take...
Generally around seven years.

The wavering of the release of Leopard only makes this timeline more legitimate for the consumer and their hard earned cash.

4. People who buy Macs aren't always gung-ho on buying the next new Mac that hits the store shelf; especially if it has the same Mac OS, and their Mac is still covered by AppleCare.

5. Uru  online  won't  cut it. Besides, they're probably still playing one of the original MYST games running around in circles.
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