Friday, September 23, 2005

Bizarre Future

From all accounts, it appears that Mac OS X on x86 pretty much rocks. Obviously results from the first real x86-Mac boxes will be the things to look for; chip-sets, memory and processor variants can make a massive amount of difference. But on what we have today Apple looks like it might be just fine on performance. Lets hope the power dissipation works out in the future as well.

I was confident if Apple had made the decision to go x86 they had thought (and worked) long and hard. Some other coders I'd spoken to weren't so sure - but they seem to be changing their minds based on the, albeit early, evidence. Sure, I'll be sad seeing the PowerPC go from personal computers over the next few years. It's a great architecture. But at least we use (mostly) high-level languages nowadays.

The emulator (Rosetta) does the job well even for games according to my source - which is just what you want. There aren't too many holes in the development version of the operating system overall. All is looking good.

Porting seems easy and the problems minimal - the biggest difficulty is the lack of boxes for people to develop on. Certainly shareware authors can't afford the Dev machine rental. Hopefully the first Intel Mac's won't be far away.

The only issue for shareware and freeware developers longer term is going to be testing both a PowerPC and an Intel build - I don't see how you can do it well without both boxes - perhaps with an Intel box you can rely on an emulator to make 'universal' builds? Additionally quite a few Mac shareware developers will have an old PowerPC box as well. Initially, I guess greater than 95% of PowerPC shareware and full commercial will run just fine on Intel based macs.

I do wonder how Windows programs in an emulator will perform (whos will be first?). It will be good for the occasional programs. It also could provide another excuse for companies avoiding ports but, Mac users being Mac users, they will choose Mac-version alternatives (and why not - they choose Mac, of course).

I'm sure this will encourage new developers - or give older Mac developers new life. That, in my opinion, is worth it's weight in gold. Of course, this has always happened in the past for the Mac (and other 'alternative' platforms). May long it continue - you can have too much commonality in the computer world.


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