Apple's Macintel Difference (AAPL, INTC)

Includes: AAPL, INTC
by: Yankee Group

By Carl Howe

Newsfactor published an article Friday strangely titled "Apple Moving Away from Macs?". But when you read the article, it largely just points out the obvious: that Apple is now emphasizing iPods and digital entertainment hubs as much as computers. For those of you following along at home, that's probably a "duh".

But one of my Forrester colleagues, Ted Schadler, then notes that the Mac is changing too:

"Apple has established a level of differentiation through its hardware and software," said Forrester analyst Ted Schadler. "It's not going to abandon that. In fact, it's probable that with the Intel switch, there will be more push toward performance, especially with laptops."

I'm going to both disagree and agree with Ted on this point.

  1. I disagree because the hardware will be mostly the same. The days of the Gigahertz wars are over. Apple is going to market with exactly the same processor, support, and graphics chip sets as every Windows/Intel vendor. So any processor performance differences are going to be nil.
  2. I agree because the software and peripherals will be quite different. What this hardware parity will do is to pit Apple's software and drivers against Microsoft's. We've never really seen a head-to-head competition between Windows and Mac OS X on identical hardware. But more than raw horsepower, we're going to see some real differences in design philosophy with the Macintel machines. Features that Mac users take for granted, like Spotlight search, fast wake from sleep, peripherals that just work out of the box, and great dual-processor performance will now become mainstream. You can bet that Apple's software applications like iChat AV, Front Row, Final Cut Pro, and Keynote will be tuned to take every advantage of the Intel hardware. And you can expect some new peripheral features too, like iSight cameras and ultra-wideband wireless USB devices down the road as well.

Now all this said, the article is right in terms of new, non-Mac devices coming. Blackfriars has already predicted an all-in-one flat panel TV system later in 2006 (think an iMac G5 with a 42-inch plasma panel for a display). We'll also undoubtedly see more iPods, video and otherwise. But the Macintel products are going to be the foundations of Apple's move into the digital living room. And they'll be different from others in the industry in perhaps the most important way: they'll just work. And that will be a much bigger difference to consumers than any benchmark results would ever be.