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Apple on Intel?

So is Apple moving the Mac onto Intel processors?

News.com says so. Other news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, have also reported those rumors.

Meanwhile, analysts and intelligent commentators alike have said that an Apple move to Intel makes no sense.

I tend to be in the latter camp. I honestly can’t see how Apple moving wholesale to Intel processors — forcing yet another platform transition for a platform that’s only now stabilized after the tumultuous march to Mac OS X — makes much sense. Then again, Apple has surprised us in the past, so you can never say never.

If I had to guess, I’d join several of the pundits out there in saying that any new Apple-Intel relationship is more likely about a new technology or new piece of hardware, and not about a wholesale abandonment of the PowerPC chips that have powered the Mac since the mid-’90s. It seems entirely plausible that Apple could build a new class of devices based on Intel processors.

The rumors about Apple-branded PDAs and Tablet PCs have been floating around there for years, and I’ve got no doubt that Apple has created prototypes of such devices. But for Apple to finally release a new computer-yet-not device, the company would need to be convinced that it would truly be a success. (If you haven’t noticed, the Tablet PC — as currently envisioned and promoted by Microsoft — has pretty much been a flop.)

There’s also the possibility that Apple and Intel are talking, not about the main processors of Macs, but about using Intel hardware to support some other sort of technology. For example, WiMax, a promising new wireless networking system that would improve on the existing Wi-Fi technology used in AirPort Extreme.

Whether this is a wholesale processor change, the creation of a new Apple hardware device, or the addition of a new technology to the Mac world, if the rumors of any sort of Apple-Intel alliance are true, it will be an interesting Steve Jobs keynote on Monday at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference.

Could this rumored Intel partnership be a really good thing for Apple? Absolutely. Could it be a watershed event that changes the Mac forever and threatens to infuriate the Mac community? You bet your life. But until we know the facts, all we can do is speculate. Let’s hope all is revealed on Monday.

In the meantime, it’s high drama. So feel free to leave your speculations and opinions in the forum thread attached to this blog entry.

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