05:36 PM

Apple-Intel Rumors Prompt Doubt, Speculation

Most Apple-watchers don't expect to see an 'Intel Inside' label on the Mac anytime soon, if ever. Yet Apple has a number of other products where an Intel deal makes far more sense, including an OS X emulator for Pentium chips.

Don't expect to see the 'Intel Inside' moniker on Macintosh computers anytime soon, if ever. That's what some Apple VARs said this week amid industry buzz--sparked by a Wall Street Journal report--that the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker was in talks with Intel about using its chips.

Solution providers said the notion of Apple switching to the Intel platform is a long-recurring rumor and may just be a negotiating tactic with IBM, maker of the PowerPC processor used in Macs.

George Swords, marketing manager at PowerMacPac, a Portland, Ore.-based Apple specialist, said there's "no chance in hell" that Apple will move the Mac from the PowerPC G5 to Intel chips, at least in the near future. "[Apple] would have to rewrite its entire operating system for it to work properly on an Intel processor, and they just brought out the new Tiger OS," Swords said. "The architecture is so radically different in the Intel processor that I don't see it happening. Somebody just whipped up a rumor mill."

Spokespeople for Apple and Intel declined to comment, calling published reports on the subject industry speculation.

The chief argument behind the Apple-to-Intel tale is that by using Intel chips--which are made in far higher volumes and are less expensive than the PowerPCs--Apple could slash its manufacturing costs and sell cheaper Macs, as well as get a marketing lift from the faster gigahertz speeds of Intel processors. That, in turn, could help the Mac rebound from its historical market-share disadvantage vs. Wintel-based PCs.

But moving the Mac to an Intel processor would be a huge undertaking that could last several years, solution providers said. They noted that Apple likely wouldn't want to get bogged down in a platform transition when it's flying high off hit products like the iPod music player and Mac mini desktop, especially since the company only recently finished migrating to Unix-based Mac OS X.

"There's no way it's going to happen," said Sonny Tohan, CEO of Mac Business Solutions, an Apple VAR in Gaithersburg, Md. "The biggest differentiator Apple has is the PowerPC, RISC-based processor, so I don't see them going to Intel. Another reason is that it would be the biggest transition in Apple's history. It's not like going from the [Motorola] 68040 to the PowerPC platform. That was a big transition; this would be even bigger. And with the market share Apple has, I don't see lots of their [software] developers stopping what they're doing to go out and redevelop for Apple."

Still, several factors continue to fuel the latest Apple-to-Intel chatter. On June 6, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is scheduled to give a keynote speech to kick off the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. A Jobs appearance typically spurs talk of the next new Apple product, and rumors include a video iPod, a Mac tablet and a multifunction handheld with iPod, cell phone and/or PDA functionality. Such offerings would be likelier candidates than the Mac for an Intel chip, VARs said.

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