June 6, 2005: Steve Jobs reveals that the Mac is switching over its CPUs from PowerPC processors to Intel ones.
Speaking at that year’s WWDC, Jobs’ revelation reminds us that he is a CEO who can get things done. Given Intel’s focus on mobile computing, it also offers a hint at what Apple’s CEO has planned for the second half of his reign at the top of Apple…
Standing on stage at WWDC, Jobs talked about the limits of the then-present generation PowerPC processors. Changing CPU architecture was something Apple had only attempted once before, when it switched from the Motorola 68000 to PowerPC in the early 1990s.
It was a risky move for a tech company, and had been enough to topple other computer makers such as one-time Apple rivals Commodore and Atari in the past. However, as Jobs explained, Apple was unable to deliver what it wanted to do without making the change.
“I stood up here two years ago in front of you and I promised you [a 3 GHz Power Macintosh G5], and we haven’t been able to deliver that to you yet,” he said. “I think a lot of you would like a G5 in your PowerBook and we haven’t been able to deliver that to you yet … As we look ahead, though we may have great products right now — and we’ve got some great PowerPC product still yet to come — as we look ahead we can envision some amazing products we want to build for you and we don’t know how to build them with the future PowerPC road map.”
Intel processors, on the other hand, represented where Jobs wanted to take Apple. The PowerPC G5 processor generated too much heat, and consumed too much energy, to be used in the kind of ultra-thin, ultra-light products Jobs wanted to make with computers like the MacBook Air.
Jobs had got a look at Intel’s road map, and was suitably impressed. Since more than half Apple’s computer sales came from laptops, this was an important transition for Apple to make. The transition was carried out under the leadership of then-Apple execs Avie Tevanian and Jon Rubinstein.
The right move for Apple
Steve Jobs was a master at talking up new products, but he was also great at under-promising and over-delivering. That’s what happened with the Intel Macs. At WWDC, Jobs said that the first Macs with Intel processors would arrive one year after the event. Instead, Apple worked to get this done in half that time.
At the MacWorld Expo in January 2006, Apple announced its latest slate of Macs, which ran using the new Intel Core Duo processor. These included the first 15-inch MacBook Pro, Apple’s thinnest, fastest and lightest laptop yet. The reception the computers got showed that Apple was right to make the move that it had!
Do you remember the transition to Intel Macs? Leave your comments below.
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