Image via Hardware Zone
The hottest tip on the rumor wires right now is that Apple does have really interesting Mac hardware on the way, as I’ve been known to suggest on a few occasions. Even Apple, at its conference call last week, was willing to acknowledge that it had a “future product transition” coming this quarter.
But the rumor circulating through the Intertubes this week goes further. It claims that Apple intends to use non-Intel silicon on its upcoming Macs. Not for the CPU, which will remain Intel, but for the rest of the chipset. While this rumor has slightly more credibility than it would if Apple had not recently purchased PA Semi or if AMD and VIA weren’t pumping out chipsets like crazy. And as AppleInsider notes, such a move could help Apple to differentiate based on silicon. Everyone else is using Montevina, and Apple could have something unique. It sounds like good judgment.
Except it’s a waste of time and money. Worse, it’s a losing strategy. After all, Apple doesn’t need to differentiate on silicon. Industrial design and software is enough. To read why, click through.
Hardware is only as good as the software that’s running on it and the external case and interface that users interact with. Amazing silicon doesn’t do anything unless the platform built on top of it takes advantage of its capabilities. And the great news for Apple is that other PC-makers are all running Vista or XP, and Apple is the only company that offers a multi-touch trackpad. In the worst case, Apple’s computers are competitive for the best-designed on the market. At best, they’re ahead by an interstellar mile.
To a purist, a Mac that has the same hardware under the hood as a Dell is some kind of disappointment. But to the rest of the world, it’s the difference between a commodity PC and a Mac. The overall design and engineering of the Mac, not to mention the beauty of OS X, completely sets Apple apart, regardless of what’s going on beneath the surface. The experience is just so much better.
And that’s why I will be shocked if Apple uses a genuinely atypical chipset with its next generation of Macs. If the people using those Macs, myself included, can’t see the benefit of Apple using its own supporting chips, there’s no reason to use them — focus on getting the best value for the dollar and optimizing OS X performance on Intel’s standard hardware. Apple differentiates through industrial design and superior software. That’s true on the Mac, and it’s true on the iPhone and iPod, too. Sure, the iPhone has a powerful chip in it, but an equally powerful chip is in the BlackBerry Bold — no one’s going to mistake one for the other. The look of the iPhone sets it apart, but even more so, OS X Mobile is in a class all its own.
People don’t buy computer chips — they buy a great mobile or computing experience. And Apple will use the most stable, robust chipsets that already exist until and unless they come upon a software feature that won’t run well without something exotic on hand.
As it is, this rumor just doesn’t make sense. Don’t swallow it!