Intel inside a Mac?

File this under rumors, even if it comes from the Wall Street Journal: Apple is supposedly considering using Intel processors.

Apple’s probably pulling a Dell.It’s technically feasible for Mac OS X to be recompiled and run on Intel; Nextstep ran on Intel processors after Next abandoned the Motorola 68K family. Mac OS X is based on Nextstep.

Of course the x86 is nowhere near binary-compatible with the PowerPC CPU family. But Apple has overcome that before; the PowerPC wasn’t compatible with the m68K either. Existing applications won’t run as fast under emulation, but it can be done.

Keeping people from running OS X on their whitebox PCs and even keeping people from running Windows on their Macs is doable too. Apple already knows how. Try installing Mac OS 9 on a brand-new Apple. You can’t. Would Apple allow Windows to run on their hardware but not the other way? Who knows. It would put them in an interesting marketing position.

But I suspect this is just Apple trying to gain negotiating power with IBM Microelectronics. Dell famously invites AMD over to talk and makes sure Intel knows AMD’s been paying a visit. What better way is there for Apple to get new features, better clock rates, and/or better prices from IBM than by flirting with Intel and making sure IBM knows about it?

I won’t rule out a switch, but I wouldn’t count on it either. Apple is selling 3 million computers a year, which sounds puny today, but that’s as many or more computers as they sold in their glory days. Plus Apple has sources of revenue that it didn’t have 15 years ago. If it could be profitable selling 3 million computers a year in 1990, it’s profitable today, especially considering all of the revenue it can bring in from software (both OS upgrades and applications), Ipods and music.

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