Wow. What a week. I’m still processing all the WWDC announcements myself. Any major change like this really raises the “FUD” (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) factor. If you’re a Mac user, be calm, and remember that through all this, Mac OS X will still be Mac OS X. No viruses. No adware. No spyware. Rock solid. Industry leading features like Spotlight search. The best consumer media suite (iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie) in the business.
In the words of Steve Jobs at the WWDC keynote: “…More than even the processor, more than even the hardware innovations that we bring to the market, the soul of a Mac is its operating system, and we’re not standing still”. Jobs announced that next year, not coincidentally around the same time Microsoft is “scheduled” to release its “Longhorn” Windows update, Apple will release Mac OS 10.5 “Leopard”.
So, what changes in the next year for the great majority of Mac users? Nothing. Zilch. Nada (a little Spanish lingo, there). Even after the first “Macintel” or “Mactel” or “Apptel” machines hit the market, Apple will be fully supporting and updating OS X and its applications for the current PowerPC platform. What about “third-party” applications like Quicken and Photoshop? The current versions will continue to run great on PowerPC, obviously. To ease the transition to OS X on Intel, Apple has released to developers the tools to create what it calls “universal binaries”. Sounding too geeky? Hang with me.
“Mature” Mac users will remember the transition from the 68000 chip to the PowerPC. Software developers created “fat binaries” that contained the code to run on both systems. Universal binaries are roughly the same thing. When you double-click the application to open it, the program wakes up, sees what architecture (PowerPC or Intel) it’s living in, and runs natively in that space. No speed loss. Full functionality.
Mac OS X for Intel also has, for lack of a better word, a new, faster, built-in “emulator” to run applications that are not universal binaries.
But does it work? During the WWDC keynote, all of Steve Jobs’ product demos were done on a Mac running a 3.6 GHz Pentium 4. Could you tell the difference from a PowerPC-based Mac? No. Software giants Microsoft and Adobe were also on hand lend their support. We’ll talk more about this in the weeks (and years) to come.
© 2005 Peter F. Zimowski