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Apple's Early Decision to Switch to Intel Not All That Amazing

There's a story in Forbes describing a panel of ex-Apple employees who claim that Apple was plotting a switch to Intel chips (from PowerPC) before Steve Jobs returned to the company. And that--get this--this desire to switch to Intel was one of the reasons Apple chose NeXT over the competition, thus ensuring that company co-founder Steve Jobs returned to the company.

"One of the many intriguing stories: Apple was thinking about how to get rid of PowerPC processors for Intel‘s chips even before Jobs returned to the company," the article notes. "It turns out, in fact, that preparing for such a switch is one of the reasons why Jobs returned, explains Larry Tesler, who jumped from Xerox Parc to Apple after introducing Jobs to the idea of a graphical operating system."

"It was actually one of the reasons that the company decided to acquire NeXT," Tesler claimed. "We had actually tried a few years before to port the MacOS to Intel, but there was so much machine code still there, that to make it be able to run both, it was just really, really hard. And so a number of the senior engineers and I got together and we recommended that first we modernize the operating system, and then we try to get it to run on Intel, initially by developing our own in-house operating system which turned out to be one of these projects that just grew and grew and never finished. And when we realized that wouldn't work we realized we had to acquire an operating system, either BeOS or NeXT, and one of the plusses was once we had that we could have the option of making an Intel machine."

Wow, that is fascinating.

Unless you know your tech industry history, that is. Apple actually considered four alternative operating systems to replace the aging Mac OS. These were Be's BeOS, Microsoft Windows NT, NeXT's NeXTStep/OpenStep, and Sun Solaris. And every single one of them--all four of them--ran on Intel chips. So Intel compatibility was not one of the reasons Jobs returned to Apple. It was, however, one of the reasons his OS was even in the running.

More interesting to me, and to the wider world, I'd think, is that Apple's switch to Intel, apparently in the planning stages by 1996, took a full 10 years to come to fruition. Apple announced its plans to do so in 2005 and completed the transition a year later.

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