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Sony Businesses Intel Unix Apple

How Sony, Intel, and Unix Made Apple's Mac a PC Competitor 296

smaxp writes In 2007, Sony's supply chain lessons, the network effect from the shift to Intel architecture, and a better OS X for developers combined to renew the Mac's growth. The network effects of the Microsoft Wintel ecosystem that Rappaport explained 20 years ago in the Harvard Business Review are no longer a big advantage. By turning itself into a premium PC company with a proprietary OS, Apple has taken the best of PC ecosystem, but avoided taking on the disadvantages.
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How Sony, Intel, and Unix Made Apple's Mac a PC Competitor

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  • Confusing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 23, 2014 @09:19PM (#48217475)

    Sorry, cannot understand summary.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Sorry, cannot understand summary.

      That's amusing, since the summary is nothing more than the last paragraph of the article copypasta'd.
      English Comp 101 says it should be a concise summary of the preceding essay's main points.

      • Sorry, cannot understand summary.

        That's amusing, since the summary is nothing more than the last paragraph of the article copypasta'd.
        English Comp 101 says it should be a concise summary of the preceding essay's main points.

        At least this fluff piece was worth a good laugh...

    • Re:Confusing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @01:55AM (#48218647) Homepage Journal

      "MACS ARE SELLING LIKE PEECEEES! because apple so smart they use pc parts!"

      clear enough for you? maybe too clear, since it's clearly bullshit - the blurb tries to imply that macs are selling in pc numbers.

      it's not like apple had much choice. either sell shit or move to pc based parts.

    • Re:Confusing (Score:4, Interesting)

      by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @02:37AM (#48218825)
      The article is as bad as the summary :/

      I read the whole thing and can safely say I gained absolutely nothing by reading it.
  • Yawn... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Heavy on words and opinion, light on proof. Mostly just the authors "thoughts" on how Apple's PC growth came to be what it is today...

    No idea why this has a Sony image with the post, the article is in large part about Apple and doesn't provide any proof of what exactly Apple consumed in Sony's supply chain.

    1 out of 5. Would not read again.

    • Yeah, Sony has been making parts for Apple well... pretty much since Apple started making computers. The author is either ignorant of history or just plain doesn't care. Either way a worthless article.
    • by hjf ( 703092 )

      i'm pretty sure it refers to IBM's inability to deliver enough chips (powerPC), which caused problems for Sony, and was the reason Apple moved to Intel.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @09:30PM (#48217523)

    PPC. Always a day late and a dollar too much. Apple wasn't a big enough customer to justify to IBM to spend more on making foundries and there were always supply problems.

    By using the same intel chips as the competition, Apple shed one of it's biggest boat anchors around it's neck. The people who really care about which chips are in it are gamers and they stay with intel/MS since it's what they can play the most games on.

    Other than that, the people don't pay attention unless it's a hindrance. Which PPC was but Apple thought it was being different back in the 90s for whatever reason. To the point that there were RISC vs CISC arguments in the 90s directed at end consumers, the last people in the world who should actually give a damn about it.

    Apple woke up not too coincidentally when PPC had no viable path for mobile and it's probably one of the best moves Jobs ever made, and in hindsight, most common sense. Surprisingly it took him nearly a decade to shed that inherited weight.

    • by Alomex ( 148003 )

      The main advantage of the PPC was supposed to be higher clock rate, and looking at press releases there were supposedly higher clock rates chips available for PPC over x86.

      Yet at one point I took the time to track down the actual "shipping now" announcements for the main PC manufacturers and for Apple and almost invariably by the time computers came out the door speeds were comparable.

      The fact that PPC wouldn't commit to a mobile low power version was the final straw.

    • by dbc ( 135354 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @10:51PM (#48217909)

      There was a time when the PPC was significantly better at multi-media processing tasks than most other processors. And Apple was historically a strong contender in graphic arts and video editing even before the PPC days. Those two things combined are why all those tatooed hippies were willing to pay so much for an Apple machine -- it actually *did* make them much more productive because the PPC hardware was good at media, the media apps were well done, and the connectivity to still and video cameras was much less hassle compared to the baling wire, bubble gum, and prayer it took to get video into a Windows machine.

      Eventually Intel added various kinds of SIMD and media instructions to boost media performance, IBM's development tempo on the PPC fell behind and they weren't releasing new chips often enough, and the IBM fab process made the PPC chips rather power hungry. (A friend of mine had a PPC laptop, and has a bad back. One night he tweaked his back, took some gnarly pain meds for it, fell asleep with a PPC laptop on his legs, and ended up in the emergency room for burn treatment. They were that hot.)

      Apple put a lot of work into making OS X portable. That went on for a long time and the effort must not be discounted. The first pay-off was being able to switch away from PPC -- to anything they wanted. Intel won that one. But they can build for other chips quite easily, witness tablet/laptops. Apple could decide tomorrow to switch away from Intel, and it would be relatively pain-free. That is the real lesson here -- portability pays dividends. Apple was on PPC in part because they were chasing good media processing -- Apple went to Intel because they were still chasing good media processing. Apple's new A8/M8 chips in the iPhone 6 have good media processing. There's a theme here....

      • There was a time when the PPC was significantly better at multi-media processing tasks than most other processors.

        I never used a PPC mac for anything much. However, back in the '90s I used a PPC workstation running AIX. That seemed like a fast machine.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 23, 2014 @11:29PM (#48218085)

      A brief history of the final days of PPC at Apple:

      PPC. Always a day late and a dollar too much. Apple wasn't a big enough customer to justify to IBM to spend more on making foundries and there were always supply problems.

      IBM was not concerned with power management at the time, and wanted to build bigger and bigger server class hardware. This was before people actually realized one of the huge costs in building an actual large data center was going to be a major cost compared to hardware and flooring (i.e. the 19 inch racks needed to hold the large iron). It wasn't until Enron emerged from bankruptcy in 2004 and started selling off pieces of itself, culminating with the sale of its last real non-debt instrument asset, Prisma, to Ashmore Energy, that the PG&E contract rate handwriting was on the wall, that energy prices were going to be high in California - where most of the data centers live - for the next 10 years to pay for the long term contracts for natural gas, from Texas, for the power generation plants.

      By then, it was far too late for IBM to correct its miscalculation and start producing reasonably power efficient chips in time for Apple.

      Apple woke up not too coincidentally when PPC had no viable path for mobile and it's probably one of the best moves Jobs ever made, and in hindsight, most common sense. Surprisingly it took him nearly a decade to shed that inherited weight.

      I disagree. Apple had already been in talks with P.A. Semi over the PA6T processor to have a G5 class processor without massive liquid cooling requirements for use in mobile.

      The G5 processors from IBM were already looking at massive cooling overhead so that they could survive being overclocked to desktop speeds, and P.A. Semi had the answer Apple needed, but the T.I. foundries were unable to accommodate the necessary feature size shrink to get them to where they needed to be in time.

      It was either lose a product cycle (or two), while a willing foundry was being searched out and contracted - which likely meant IBM, at a premium cost, or Intel, which does foundries correctly - or jump ship to Intel. This was at a time Steve was in the middle of his Pancreatic cancer, and it looked like he wouldn't be able to push through to a legacy that would survive his death, without a radical change.

      It's a testament to the belief of Apple in the P.A. Semi team that they still bought the company, even though the commitment to an Intel switch, meant that the PA6T and the PWRficient were effectively ruled out. At the time, there were massive problems in the memory bandwidth of ARM processors, and the iPhone was being worked on. So they set the P.A. Semi team, as an "acquihire" rather than a "bring the PPC design in house" play to solving that problem. The Apple CPU still beats the Tegra 4, which is the next closest CPU in memory bandwidth, by about a factor of 4 (8, if you count the 64 bit parts).

      So it was a chain of events, and Steve's impending mortality, more than anything else, that killed the PPC at Apple, not that there wasn't a path forward into the mobile marketplace (and Apple had in fact built G4-based iPad prototypes, among other things), and not that Intel was a better path forward onto the supply chain. For Intel, it offered a technology demonstrator opportunity that they needed, because no one was pushing their top end tech until one release cycle behind, and for Steve it was a way to ensure his legacy, while getting back at both IBM and Motorola (it's no mistake that the Intel announcement happened so soon after FreeScale divested themselves of the Intel version of their CodeWarrior product), which he took.

      Obviously, my view on some of the details is skewed by where I was in the company at the time; I'm certain other people saw other parts of the elephant, so to speak, but that's roughly how I remember the hallway discussion.

      One of the great tragedies, I think, is that there was no Official Apple Historian, with Steve's confidence with regard to secrecy of projects, to document the history of Apple so that we could look at it in clear hindsight.

    • Want to know a big reason people have been getting Macs, that Apple doesn't like to admit? You can run Windows on them now. The Intel switch made it viable to run Windows on them, natively if you wanted, and good virtualization tech means it runs fast in OS-X. That lets people get their shiny status symbol, but still use the programs they need.

      We've seen that at work (an Engineering college). Prior to the Intel conversion, there were almost no Mac users. The thing is engineering software just isn't written

      • by ogdenk ( 712300 )

        Most people using VMWare or Parallels use it to run a couple programs in "Unity Mode" while doing the rest with native apps. The students would need it to run those stupid-ass Windows-only CD's in the back of their textbooks.

        They even have AutoCAD for OSX. And Eagle. So what was this mythical software everyone needed so badly they couldn't function without it?

        It's also quite common to run a legacy OS environment using virtualization or emulation until native apps become available. Hell, being able to na

  • I kept looking for a "next page" link. That article didn't go into any depth whatsoever.
    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Yeah, I was pretty lost on Sony's part in the whole thing until I read the parts that mentioned it a second time.
      Seems like a pretty weak link to them considering the time between the Powerbook 100 and this "2007" Renaissance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 23, 2014 @09:48PM (#48217607)

    I say this not as a consumer, but a certified Apple technician.

    There's no premium in Apple products anymore. Only Ive's obsession with "thin" devices, sacrificing tons of functionality and potential resources at every turn. Case in point, the original iMac G5 machines were wonderfully designed (yes, I'm aware of all the problems they had with the G5 and capacitors) internally. Totally modular, with a great deal being user serviceable. Today's iMac is sealed with foam around the LCD, the same foam you need to cut out and replace every time you open the machine. Likewise, the LCD is now fused to the front glass where before it used to sit just behind it, with the glass being attached to magnets so it was removable with a pair of Apple approved suction cups.

    All the laptops are basically disposable now. Soldered in RAM, soldered CPU, soldered GPU, no optical drives, proprietary SSDs. We replace Retina logic boards on a weekly basis now due to failed RAM. A keyboard replacement requires swapping out the entire lower half of the chassis, and a web cam failure means replacing the entire LCD screen.

    Apple products are overpriced disposable garbage. The only thing "premium" about them is their insistence on using milled aluminum for their chassis, but even that comes at a huge price- most of the systems aren't very structurally sound, which we've already seen with the iPhone 6 and 6+. They don't even have the "premium" software anymore- I can't tell you how many customers come in here complaining about perpetual updates that change everything (iOS 7), and more recently we've had a ton of complaints and downgrade requests from 10.10 because it's hard to look at.

    IMHO; unless Apple smartens the fuck up in the next ~2 years, people are going to start losing interest in their products. This form-over-function thing has gone way too far on the hardware and their recent war on good user interfaces has turned their "premium" experience into a muddled bland mess of white space and blurry fonts.

    • Apple needs to make OSX for all systems (remove the locks in it)

    • by Bonobo_Unknown ( 925651 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @11:47PM (#48218133)
      While all of those things you listed affect the technician or enthusiast almost none of them have any bearing on regular users. Most people don't upgrade their own machines anymore. If they ever did.
    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      The only thing "premium" about them is their insistence on using milled aluminum for their chassis, but even that comes at a huge price- most of the systems aren't very structurally sound

      I'm guessing you've never had the pleasure of repairing an "aluminum"-era MBP? The case design that started back in the PPC era was flimsy as shit. Compared to that, the current models are built like tanks. And I also had a Pismo-era PowerBook, which was flimsier than that.

      One major problem was that the optical drive would get out of alignment with the slot in front, and it would be unable to eject discs. Another problem was that the latch wouldn't close because dust or something clogged the little latch t

  • I don't understand the summary, and so I am scared to read the linked articles.
    Can someone please translate the summary so I can make an informed decision whether to read the articles or not.

  • 1. "In 1991, Andrew Rapport declared Microsoft the winner in the PC contest because Microsoft and Intel had harnessed the Asian supply chain and dramatically undercut the cost of the eccentric Steve Jobs’s Apple Mac." No, by 1991, it was John Scully's Mac, as Jobs was ousted in 1985.
    2. "When Apple’s first notebook, the Macintosh 100, wasn’t embraced by consumers because it was two big, too heavy, and too expensive" No, that would have been the original Mac Portable (1989), which was all of those things. The Powerbook (not Macintosh) 100 was actually a very light ultra-portable.

    Since author Steven Max Patterson and his editors couldn't be bothered to perform basic fact-checking, I stopped reading at that point...

  • by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @11:18PM (#48218039)

    There's no Macintosh 100.

    There were two Mac Portables before the MacBook 100/140/170 came out.

    Indeed both were enormous, each even had a lead-acid battery! The first one didn't even have a backlight.

    The Sony-designed MacBook 100 was actually designed to just be a smaller version of the original Macintosh Portables, which is why it also was based upon the much slower 68000 processor (the 140/170 used 68030 processors).

    The Powerbook 100 was well designed and small, but it wasn't really a big seller. The PowerBook 140 and PowerBook 170 took most of the sales. The later Powerbooks (145b, 160, 180, etc.) were all nearly identical to the 140/170 and not Sony's 100. This seemed to show that Apple didn't really take all that much from Sony's PowerBook 100.

  • If memory serves me well, the appeal of OS X to unix pros became a selling point quite late in the Apple revival and shift to Intel CPUs. Back then, Windows XP was clearly too old, ugly, clunky and misused to be part of *any* high end PC offering. In my opinion, the OEM attempts to improve the Windows XP experience by way of pre-installed utilities were even worse.

    The elegant UI and experience that OS X offered was way ahead of what Windows XP and most contemporary Linux distros could offer and that's what

  • I was planing on doing some development with the Unity/Unreal engine and unfortunately it does not support Linux (for development). Since I don't want to replace my (powerful) pc and I would kill myself if I had to develop in windows, I have considered installing a hackintosh. My top priority is getting the video card and wifi supported without any problems.

    Also I have never used Mac OSX for more than 5 minutes, the main feature I can not live without is customizability of shortcuts (specially the shortcut

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