When people look back on Steve Jobs’ most audacious moves during his 1997-2011 stint as CEO, launching the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and iPad are most frequently singled out as rightfully big achievements — as is his decision to open Apple-branded retail outlets and the iTunes Stores.
Back on June 6, 2005, Jobs made another major announcement, however, when he revealed that Macs were switching their CPUs over from PowerPC processors to Intel ones.
Here’s why it mattered.
At the time, some analysts were skeptical of Jobs’ decision. After breaking away from beige boxes with the funky iMac, switching to Intel seemed like Jobs was allying himself with the Establishment rather than scrappy underdogs who were also manufacturing the X86 chip Jobs was after at the time.
But Intel’s impressive road map showed that it was innovating — and particularly when it came to mobile computing, which was where Jobs increasingly took Apple during the second half of his stint as Apple CEO. In short, Jobs’ interest in Intel was an early sign of where his thinking was going with devices like the MacBook Air and others.
Switching Macs so seamlessly to Intel was also an example of Jobs’ ability to get things done that others viewed as impossible. Changing CPU architecture had brought down other computer companies before — and Apple had only attempted it once, when it switched from the Motorola 68000 to PowerPC. Inside Apple there was no shortage of engineers who worried what it would mean, particularly when it came to the satisfaction of older customers who would be forced to upgrade. Under the leadership of then-Apple execs Avie Tevanian and Jon Rubinstein, however, the job got done.
The first Intel Macs shipped in early 2006, and the performance upgrade was noticeable to everyone right away.
True, it hasn’t always been plain sailing for Intel since then, but the changeover represents a big moment in Apple history!