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Apple's Intel Mac 'on track' - Jobs

Steaming into the station early?

Apple is on track to ship Macs based on Intel processors by June 2006, CEO Steve Jobs claimed today.

Jobs' comments follows speculation aired this week that the Mac maker could ship Intel-based PowerBooks as early as January 2006, with other rumours pointing to a much later introduction.

Speaking to reporters at a meeting ahead of Apple Expo Paris' first day, Jobs said: "We said we'd be shipping by next June and we are on track to have that be a true statement."

This past weekend website O'Grady's PowerPage - one of the sites, incidentally, that Apple's legal team is pursuing - claimed that Intel-based PowerBooks will not appear in time for January 2006's San Francisco-held Macworld Expo, at which Jobs is expected to once again give the keynote.

Instead, the site claims its sources suggest, the major notebook revision will come "mid to late 2006". In the meantime, however, Apple will shortly tweak the current PowerBook G4 line-up's memory and hard drive specs. The update was said to be "imminent".

The comment followed a Think Secret report last week that the PowerBook G4 range will "likely not see an upgrade before Macworld Expo". With the PowerBook G4 now unchanged since January this year, Think Secret's claim led some Apple watchers to predict earlier-than-anticipated Intel-based PowerBooks.

Certainly, Intel is scheduled to launch the next, third generation of its Centrino platform early next year, based on the 65nm Pentium M processor codenamed 'Yonah', its 945GM chipset and the ProWireless 3945ABG 802.11abg Wi-Fi adaptor. It's tempting to see Centrino 3 as the foundation of next-generation PowerBooks, and such a move wouldn't run contrary to Jobs' statement today.

The timing depends on software developers' readiness for the switch-over. There's little point releasing Intel-based Macs when there are no applications available with x86 binaries. Had software developers been told by Apple to expect Intel-based machines much before Q2 2006, it would have leaked out by now. That suggests they're anticipating availability in line with the officially stated timeframe.

However, we'd expect Apple to ship x86 Macs ahead of time for a number of reasons. Firstly, to minimise any slowdown as punters reject the obsolete PowerPC Mac architecture, but also to tap into early-adopter demand for the new machines. Mac software developers are likely to approach the new platform cautiously, so there's perhaps an advantage in shipping early to hasten them along.

How far ahead, is the question, and that's something we can't yet answer. We can say that Jobs today expressed confidence that the final x86 version of Mac OS X can be tweaked to ensure it won't run on a PC. "We will have technology in OS X for Intel so that it cannot be installed in other PCs," he promised. ®

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