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Five Years

February 8, 2011 - Dave Hecei
Last month marked the fifth anniversary of the Intel Macintosh. Back in January of 2006, Apple released the first Macs using the Intel processor. We are now several generations into the Intel architecture and it’s easy to see why Apple decided to drop Motorola and adopt Intel. When Apple announced this plan back in 2005 many did not see a bright future for the Mac.

It was back during the 2005 WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) that Apple shocked most everyone by announcing the switch from the Motorola/IBM PowerPC chips to Intel. Intel chips are used in Microsoft Windows based PCs.

At the time, there were decidedly two camps. In the first camp were the PowerPC (PPC) advocates who hated all things Microsoft and Intel. They felt betrayed that Apple could ‘sell out’ and somehow switch over to the enemy. The other camp had predicted this move and knew in their hearts that this was the best course for Apple and the Macintosh.

In reality, the switch was a necessary one and one that Apple had actually been working on as a ‘Plan B’. The G5 chip was technologically advanced and had enough power for desktop machines. However, there were some problems with the PPC G5 series, both minor and major.

The biggest problem facing Apple back in 2005 was the lack of a mobile PPC chip. The G5 was a blast furnace creating way too much heat for smaller devices. IBM did not look like they would be producing a working notebook chip anytime soon. The current G4 mobile processor was very underpowered compared to the G5. Add to this the Intel and AMD chips that were blazing fast in Windows based notebooks, which were getting faster and faster as time went by.

When Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, announced the switch to Intel he stated that the major force behind the decision was power consumption, not speed. Intel was on a path creating great processors that used much less power. A benefit of needing less power is a notebook would have longer battery life, plus generate much less heat.

The actual transition started in January of 2006 with the MacBook Pro 15-inch notebook and the iMac. In February they released the Mac mini Core Duo, April was the 17-inch MacBook Pro, May was the MacBook, and in August the last model to transition was the Mac Pro tower. In all, instead of taking a year and a half, as they had announced, it took less than nine months.

During the last five years we have gone from the Core Solo and Core Duo to the Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Duo Extreme, Core 2 Quad (Xeon processors in the Mac Pro), to the latest line of Core i-Series processors. This includes the i3 (dual-core), i5 (quad-core), i7 (quad-core), and the latest Xeon, the six-core 7400-series.

We have gone from single core minis to dual-core. IMacs have gone from Core 2 Duos to the new quad-core i5 and i7. The Mac Pro towers have gone from two dual-core Xeons, to two quad-core Xeons, to the latest behemoth with two six-core Xeons, which makes for a 12-processor speed-demon workstation.

This brings us to Intel’s latest announcement today. Starting on February 20th, Intel will start shipping their latest chips codenamed ‘Sandy Bridge’. This will be a new series of chips based on the i5 and i7 for notebooks.

There will be several different models based on both dual- and quad-core designs. These new chips will likely find there way into the next generation of MacBooks, MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, Mac minis, and maybe even iMacs.

With a release date of February 20, it is quite likely that we may see new products from Apple as soon as March, which is less than a month from now. There have been some rumors that MacBook Pro stock has started to diminish, so be on the lookout for new models soon. The 15-inch MBP was last updated April last year, and the mini was June 2010.


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