PACKET RAT: With Mac's new core, the world doesn't look the same

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

When the Rat heard the recent rumors that Apple Computer Inc. would be switching its systems to CPUs manufactured by Intel Corp., he was convinced that someone had been playing too much in their reality distortion field again.

It wasn't that he didn't think it was possible'one of the Rat's secret intelligence agents had sent him CDs with an Intel build of Mac OS X a few years ago. In fact, the Rat knew that Apple's problems trying to get IBM Corp. to make a version of the G5 processor that wouldn't melt right through the brushed-aluminum bottom of a PowerBook actually made such a move more likely.

It was just that the rumors had been around for so long'the past five years'that the whiskered one had given up on them. But as it turned out, the whole time the Rat was wishing Apple would give him an alternative to Windows on Intel, Apple was in fact compiling Mac OS X on Intel 'just in case.'

The move could end up giving Apple another crack at wider adoption in government agencies. Since OS X is based on BSD Unix, it might even start displacing Linux in places where the open-source OS has made it to the desktop. Autodesk Inc. just announced it was releasing a new version of AutoCAD for Mac OS; Intel-based Macs could make pretty snazzy engineering workstations.

Apparently, Apple's 'Marklar' project had verified every release of OS X on standard Intel PC hardware. And that means that as Apple moves its own computers to the Intel processor, there's a chance that it will be able to install the operating system on other companies' PCs'just around the time Microsoft Corp. ships Longhorn, its next Windows release.

And maybe, Longhorn will be able to run on Macs.

'My head hurts,' the Rat moaned.

Apple's switch to x86 wasn't the only move in Silicon Valley to surprise the Rat recently. Hewlett-Packard Co.'s attempt to find volunteers for employee severance packages certainly didn't catch the furry one off guard, but Sun Microsystems Inc.'s $4 billion cash purchase of StorageTek Corp. made him gasp. 'Four billion? I guess all that money from Microsoft is burning a hole in McNealy's pocket.'

But Apple's Steve Jobs had even more surprises in store at his World Wide Developer Conference medicine show. Adobe Systems Inc. CEO Bruce Chizen appeared on stage with the master of mojo, pledging Adobe's support for Apple's move to Intel.

Considering how much ill will had been hanging between Apple's Cupertino campus and the Adobe monoliths in San Jose, his appearance was almost as unsettling as Paul Otellini, Intel's CEO, showing up on stage and giving Jobs a big bear hug'followed by a five-minute recounting of the timeline of Intel's unrequited love for Apple.

Kamar Alukah, CEO of Adobe's competitor Quark, wasn't on stage with Steve, however. While Quark execs claimed to have concluded their own long-standing feud with Apple, Quark was holding its own user conference at the same time in Colorado.

Two days after Apple's event, Quark's board got together and decided that Alukah should clean out his desk.

'Coincidence?' opined the wirebiter, 'I think not.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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