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Apple to NOT drop IBM's chips .. but to have them

Over the past week, there has been renewed rumor-mongering about discussions between Apple and Intel about the possibility of a move to Intel's x86-64 platform. Many have, once again, interpreted this as meaning that Apple would completely drop the PowerPC platform within a short time of moving to x86 -- but that is not at all what we've been hearing from sources in Cupertino.

Apparently, any adoption of an Intel platform (whether it be x86-64 or something based on the Itanium "EPIC" design; the former being much more likely than the latter) would not be an all-or-nothing proposition.

Instead, it would be a move by Apple to introduce its own computer(s) based on Intel and/or AMD hardware, simultaneously with its PowerPC systems -- probably a high-end machine in the PowerMac class. This would include at least some backward compatability for PPC applications and hardware drivers, and would compete within Apple's own offerings against the PowerPC platform.

At times when IBM can't deliver major advances to the G5, this could drive more users to Apple's x86 offerings....and give Apple two separate, but integrated, hardware platforms for users to choose from. There would be no pre-determined roadmap -- instead, the marketplace would make the decisions.

So, rather than dropping PowerPC in favor of Intel, Apple appears to be seriously considering a dual-track strategy that would pit the hardware platforms against each other within Apple's own family of Mac OS X computers -- the winner in the marketplace would determine Apple's long-term direction with regard to hardware. Either way, Mac OS X wins, Apple wins, and the consumer wins.

This would put more pressure on the PowerPC development consortium (primarily IBM today, but with several up-and-coming players soon to make themselves known) to stay Apple that isn't locked into either platform should, in theory, get the best of both worlds and end up with the natural, Darwinistically derived winner.

If true, and if Apple is able to carry this out in a fashion that doesn't create disruptive confusion for its customers, it could be very good news for Mac users as well as those who want to switch to Apple's software but want an otherwise seamless transition on the hardware end of things.

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