Thursday, June 23

Survey: Intel transition may cool Mac sales

This survey is rather informal (respondents include Macworld readers, not industry professionals), but it sheds some interesting insights into Apple's recent decision to switch to Intel processors. Fully one-third of those surveyed who had been thinking about purchasing new Apple hardware in the next 12 months say their interest had waned in anticipation of the forthcoming change.

However, a certain number—13 percent, to be exact—actually said they would be more likely to purchase a new Mac within the next year. One of those surveyed mentioned a propensity to buy PowerPC-based hardware so that currently-owned software will not require an upgrade.

The switch to Intel processors is a huge change, and software developers of all types will be required to update their programs to work on the new "Mactel" machines. According to Steve Jobs, who outlined this process for developers in his recent WWDC keynote, those developers who have stayed up-to-date with their programming methods will find the changeover quite painless. Those who have lagged a bit and are still making software that requires PowerPC chips to emulate even older hardware will need to undergo a more extensive upgrade process.

In general, I see this as a great move. As an analogy: Like many "computer guys," I find that my machine usually accumulates a good amount of junk on the hard drive. I often play with "test versions" of programs, and install/uninstall software willy-nilly in my quest to make my computer work with me as much as possible. After a while, my computer (much more so in Windows than in OSX) is filled with clutter, and then I usually decide to reformat the hard drive and start again with a clean slate. After I've wiped the drive, I install only the programs I was actually using before the reformat, so that there isn't a lot of unused junk sitting around, taking up space and possibly using RAM if the uninstall process isn't as clean as it ought to have been.

This processor switch is like a platform-wide "hard drive reformat," so that only programs which are being continually developed will live through the transition. Of course, there are several pieces of software that I really hope/need/want to make it through (MakeMusic!, do you hear me?), but this process will certainly separate the wheat from the chaff.

Getting back to the survey, the respondents were asked to indicate how smoothly they felt the transition process would go. Sixty-seven percent felt that there would be "some bumps, [but] nothing serious," and I tend to agree with that viewpoint. Only a total of 7 percent felt that the transition would be either "perfectly hitch-free" or "absolute chaos," with the vast majority expecting a varying degree of problems that would definitely be resolved.

Sixty-two percent also said that they felt the new processors would make Macs either faster, cheaper, or both. In my opinion, anything that makes a Mac more financially competitive, especially if it makes it faster as well, counts as a boon for Apple.

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The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):

Version: 3.12
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a C++> ULXB++++$ L+++ M++ w--() !O !V P+ E---
W+++ N o++ K? PS PE++ Y+ PGP t !5 X- R- tv+@ b++ DI++++ D--- e*++
h--- r+++ y+++ G+

If you really care about knowing what that all means, you either know the code already, or you can get it decoded for you here.