Silicon Insider: Meet the MacIntel

Nothing like a common enemy to get two long-frustrated corporate lovers to finally jump in bed together…

As you might have read, the big news to come out of this week's annual MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, long the occasion for Apple Computer to announce new products, was the word that the company would start selling new desktop and laptop computers using Intel processors -- immediately. In other words, six months earlier than Apple had predicted just last June.

The news took even the army of the ever-awestruck Macolytes by surprise. Better yet, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs was pleased to announce to the crowd, these new Intel-based computers, including the horribly named MacBook Pro laptop, will be "screamers," thanks to their use of the latest Intel dual-core processors. The more expensive laptop, for example, will blast along at 1.83 GHz, a rate made even faster thanks to Apple's superior operating system. All in all, the new Apple/Intels will run several times faster than their Apple/PowerPC predecessors.

Intel's CEO, Paul Otellini, was apparently so excited by the announcement that he willingly became the latest Steve Jobs stage prop, coming on stage dressed head-to-toe in a clean-room "bunny suit" -- certainly a proud moment for Intel employees everywhere.

Nevertheless, Otellini did have reason to be pleased: For 20 years, Intel has been both the greatest beneficiary and the biggest victim of the "Wintel" revolution in PCs. By providing the processor of choice for the original IBM PC and all that followed, Intel, until then a troubled company fighting to stay ahead of Motorola and others, suddenly was catapulted to the pinnacle of the high-tech world. It became the most valued, and at times the most valuable, high-tech company on the planet.

But with that success came a straitjacket: Microsoft. For two decades now, Intel has struggled to free itself from the burden of propping up the ever-more kludgy Windows operating system. It killed Intel designers to realize that almost all of the new power they were putting into each new generation of Pentiums and beyond was largely being burned up supporting an obsolete OS and helping line Bill Gates' very large pockets.

That's why, during the Sculley era at Apple, Andy Grove, Intel's mighty CEO, humbled himself and drove over to Apple for audience with Pepsi John -- ultimately, for nothing. And that's why Intel has always made nice to Apple, even when most other Valley companies have despised the place.

Jobs Rights a Prior Error

On Apple's part, as I noted before, the use of anything-but-Intel processors was due to Jobs' duplicity, Apple's Original Sin, dating back to the very first hours of the company. But, to Jobs' credit, he knew he had made a near-fatal mistake. … And like Grove himself, Jobs had the rare courage among CEOs to admit that he was wrong.

Still, making the decision to jump from the PowerPC processor, a Motorola design that had in recent years been produced by IBM and the Moto spinoff Freescale Semiconductors, was comparatively easy. For one thing, there wasn't enough Kool-Aid in the world for Apple fanatics to drink that would convince them that the PowerPC was a superior chip.

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