What the Power PC to Intel transition tells us about Apple Silicon release dates

The past is another country, and the old apple of ten and a half years ago has long been replaced by the monster it has become. Yet the decisions Apple made on Intel in 2005 are repeating themselves now – and they give us a guide as to what we’ll get and when we’ll see the Apple Silicon Macs.

Not counting entire platform migrations, Apple has experienced a major processor transition in the Mac twice before, but the company in 2020 is barely recognizable from what it was in 1994 or 2005. For all the resources it has now, for all of the far greater pressure that its own success has put on Apple, the transition job requires the same steps it does – and Apple is following them in order.

There is historical interest in how Apple is able to make these moves when other companies can’t, and it’s fascinating how carefully Tim Cook uses the same phrases as Steve Jobs. But we can also compare what each man said and what were Apple’s first moves.

If you’re currently hesitant to buy an Intel Mac or wondering what Apple is going to come up with with Intel processors, first take a look at your own workflow to see how much you depend on Intel. Then after that, watching the salute can help you decide when to jump.

Apple to Intel PowerPC pipeline

“We plan to continue to support and release new versions of macOS for Intel Macs for years to come,” Cook said during the Apple Silicon announcement in 2020. “In fact, we have new Macs. Intel in development which we are really excited about. ”

“We still have some great PowerPC products in the works,” Steve Jobs said when Intel launched in 2005. “But starting next year we’ll start to introduce Macs with Intel processors and over time this transition will occur. . ”

The two men chose that same language in their need to balance people’s interest in the new transition and reassure them that they shouldn’t stop buying Macs. And the two men have undoubtedly talked about the release of Macs with the old processor. Mac. Plural.

This new Intel Mac was released 43 days after Apple Silicon announced. For comparison, the first PowerPC Mac to release after Intel’s announcement was the dual core Power Mac G5 135 days later.

You can safely say that this is a measure of how different Apple is today, that it has the resources to act faster. What you can’t discuss, however, is what happened next.

“We still have some great PowerPC products to come,” Jobs repeated when announcing the 2005 transition. But they hadn’t. This dual core Power Mac G5 was the last PowerPC Mac to be released and the only one to come out during this transition.

We’re not saying Jobs lied and we’re certainly not saying Cook did, but both men definitely knew what they needed to say – because of the Osbourne effect. Today, Apple won’t fall if everyone stops buying Macs while they wait for Apple Silicon, but it was different in 2005.

Maybe even Steve Jobs’ Apple wasn’t in as much of a stick as Osbourne Computer Corporation, whose early announcement of a superior product doomed it. Osbourne only had one product and Apple had the iPod.

The first new Intel machines

It took Steve Jobs’ Apple 218 days between the announcement and the unveiling of the very first Intel Mac, an iMac Core Duo, on January 10, 2006. Assuming all goes well, we know that Tim Cook’s Apple will ship its first Apple Silicon Mac faster, in no more than 192 days.

This is the time between the announcement of Apple Silicon and the end of the year, that is, when Cook announced that the first new Macs would be delivered. In theory, we could see an Apple Silicon Mac any day, but he clarified that it would be by the end of the year.

Apple really likes to push the limits on any deadline it sets. The iMac Pro was announced on June 5, 2017 and didn’t ship until 192 days later, on December 14.

Oddly in the same way, the cylindrical Mac Pro was announced on June 10, 2013, and you can only get it 192 days later, on December 19. Apple was slightly faster with the 2019 Mac Pro, which passed 190 days between its announcement and delivery. December 10.

Luckily, if Apple just likes the 192-day figure, that would put the first Apple Silicon Mac as released on December 31, 2020.

Apple has planned a big end of 2020

While there are likely production reasons why the first Apple Silicon Mac will take until the end of the year, there are certainly marketing ones as well. Apple has a pretty heavy slate for the rest of 2020.

There are only a limited number of production lines in the world.

These will come in September or October, but when they do, even a company with the resources of Apple today wouldn’t find it easy to manage the logistics of all these releases and the millions of devices involved. But it’s not just a matter of physical processes.

Apple is extremely good at choosing the right time to launch a product so that it receives maximum attention for itself and does not harm any other Apple device. The Apple kept getting heralded at iPhone events because it needed the lift that the biggest launch gave it, but the iPad has had its own events for years.

Tim Cook is famous for managing supply lines and relying on just-in-time manufacturing, but even if Apple’s suppliers could physically manufacture all the devices they needed, they wouldn’t go anywhere. The sheer volume of iPhones released means that this device alone has a stranglehold on international shipments in October and November.

So the weight of other considerations means that Apple won’t release a new Apple Silicon Mac until December. In the time left before that, and the time between iOS launches, Apple is also not going to release an Intel Mac with a new head-turning design.

It won’t do it now, even though it had more months to go until its own Apple Silicon Macs were released. Apple is championing this Apple silicon and you are not doing it by making its design a copy of the previous machine.

Cook can therefore say that he is excited about the arrival of the new Intel Macs, but at most, they will be specification versions. There will be no launch event for any of them.

This combination of mundane updates and having to slip versions between much bigger announcements makes it less likely that there will be even more Intel Macs. What would make that certain is if the transition happened faster than Apple had promised.

Two-year promise, one-year delivery

A faster transition is also likely. Jobs promised the same, even saying it would take two years, just like Cook did. Instead, it took just over a year between its announcement and the replacement of the latest PowerPC Mac with an Intel model. Under promise and over deliver.

Things just might have turned out a lot better, easier, and smoother than Apple had expected. Apple is more likely to ease the transition by managing expectations and making room for unforeseen issues.

Tim Cook (left) and Steve Jobs

Tim Cook (left) and Steve Jobs

Certainly part of reassuring people that their investment is so solid that they should keep buying new Macs was also to insist that there would be new Macs with the old processor. . That’s why Jobs said it, that’s why Cook said it.

The Mac Pro will likely be Apple’s last Intel Mac

The current announced timeline and the expected timing of other Apple launches would be enough to convince us that we have seen the latest Intel Mac. Except for one thing.

As fast as Apple Silicon is, it won’t beat the current Mac Pro for some time. If this period matches the two full years of the announced transition, Mac Pro users will be a little unhappy without any updates.

Mac Pro users have been quite often unhappy before, but this 2019 model seemed to show a new commitment to power users. If Apple leaves this one as long without updates as, say, the iMac Pro, it’ll be more difficult to sell the next time it promotes a Mac as being for power users.

No company can do it all, not even a $ 2 trillion Apple. So maybe Apple decided to let the Mac Pro go obsolete, maybe there are Apple Silicon Mac Pro models being tested.

This is probably the part of the transition that takes the longest, as an Apple Silicon Mac Pro needs to beat Intel’s current performance – and probably significantly. There’s also the marketing sting of telling business users that the $ 50,000 Mac Pro machine you promised was now obsolete for them.

Maybe this is really where Tim Cook means there will be new Intel-based versions. Not necessarily new machines and nothing that can compete with its Apple Silicon models. But, probably the ones who keep the current Intel Mac Pro going longer.

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