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1/10/2006
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Shift To Intel Chips Likely Bumpy For Some Apple Users

Users PowerPC-based machines will have a harder time with the switch than will those of dual-core processor-based machines, one analyst predicts.

Users of PowerPC-based Apple computers will likely face a difficult transition when they shift to new Intel-based Apple computers, according to processor expert Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst of Insight64.

On the other hand, upgrades from dual-core processor-based machines are likely to proceed relatively smoothly when they are upgraded from 32-bit to 64-bit architectures, he said in an interview on the eve of Apple's annual Macworld bash.

"PowerPC to Intel (processors) will be a painful transition," he said. "Users will even have some pain when they run old PowerPC programs under emulation. They'll have to buy new (emulation) versions when they become available."

Apple's Steve Jobs, however, has promised the transition will be relatively seamless when users move to models based on Intel processors.

Indeed, Brookwood said the models based on 32-bit dual-core processors will likely be upgraded later this year to 64-bit models without significant discomfort to users. "It's just a chip in the motherboard that needs to be changed," he said.

New Apple machines based on Intel's Core Duo processor—codenamed Yonah--have been rumored for months for iBook models.

Brookwood said he expects both Intel and AMD to institute major shifts from 32-bit to 64-bit processors for personal computers later this year.

After a 14-year relationship with IBM, Apple made the decision last spring to drop IBM's PowerPC and shift to Intel processors, in the process shaking up the processor ecosystem. Dell Computer, for years a virtually exclusive user of Intel processors, suddenly began showing interest in using AMD processors after Apple embraced Intel.

There was even widespread speculation that Apple personal computers with Apple's much-admired operating system could pose a challenge to Microsoft's dominant software position.

In a recent interview with Endgadget, however, Microsoft's co-founder and chief software architect Bill Gates downplayed any potential competition from Apple. "It doesn't really change anything for us," Gates said "Apple has always leveraged technologies that the PC industry has driven to critical mass… Now they're taking advantage of the Intel chip. The users don't really care what’s inside the machine in terms of the processor."

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