Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
3/14/2006
12:11 PM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
Commentary
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Fast Macs, Slow Software?

A study says that if Intel-based Macs could run Windows applications as fast as Windows PCs, Apple could sell a million more machines this year. I don't doubt that. And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. The Intel Macs are faster. But there seems to be a problem: they don't run all Mac software faster.

A study says that if Intel-based Macs could run Windows applications as fast as Windows PCs, Apple could sell a million more machines this year. I don't doubt that. And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. The Intel Macs are faster. But there seems to be a problem: they don't run all Mac software faster.Apple promised an easy migration to the Intel platform, but especially for the professional-level applications, that's proving not to be the case.

Take Adobe applications, for example. Please. Adobe has promised that it will produce Universal versions of Creative Suite and Studio and the individual apps -- Photoshop CS2, InDesign CS2, Dreamweaver 8, Flash Professional 8, AfterEffects 7, and so on, built in Apple's Xcode, but it hasn't said when. What is does say is that it won't be any time soon. Adobe will produce Universal versions in the regular update cycles for those products, which run 18 to 24 months. So if you live in Photoshop it could a couple of years before you need to even consider buying an Intel Mac, because it could be that long before a version is available that would offer any appreciable performance improvement on the new Mac hardware.

What's likely to happen sooner is some good emulation software. VMWare and the folks behind Wine are both working on emulators that will run Windows apps on top of OS X. Microsoft (who's sold a lot of Virtual PC for PowerPC Macs even though users say it's anywhere from slow to dog slow) is preparing an Intel Mac product through its Connectix acquisition. But emulation, as Virtual PC users have found, is by definition slower than native execution.

Even running Mac apps in Apple's own Rosetta "dynamic translation" (don't call it emulation if you sit next to Steve Jobs at a dinner party) is apparently not always an improvement over running native PowerPC apps on the slower PowerPC Macs -- and if you thought you wanted an Intel Mac to run Final Cut Studio apps, Aperture, or Logic Pro, you can -- but not on Rosetta. Universal versions are coming March 31, and upgrades . . . pardon me, "crossgrades" . . . will cost you from $0 (to crossgrade Aperture) to $699 (to crossgrade early versions of Final Cut Pro).

Apple originally said it would ship Intel Macs about the middle of the year, then got them out quite a bit sooner. I might wish it had stuck to its original schedule just to give the software some time to catch up.

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