This is How Apple Will Transition Macs to its A-Series Chips (Premium)

Many are wondering whether Apple will switch the Mac from Intel chipsets to its own A-series chips. That's the wrong question. The real question is when it will do so.

For an important hint at how this will happen, I strongly recommend watching the Computer History Museum's two-part Oral History of Avadis Tevanian on YouTube. Over four and a half hours, Avie---as he prefers to be called---tells the story of he designed the Mach operating system, and how he brought this system to Next for NextStep and OpenStep and later to Apple, where it became Mac OS X (now macOS).

Mr. Tevanian reveals an incredible number of important historical details from both NextStep and Apple. But for purposes of this discussion, his description of Apple's switch from PowerPC to the Mac, which is in part two of the video series, is the most pertinent. (Also important, I think, is that Mach was designed to be platform independent, which of course helped make the later switch possible.)

Interviewer John Markoff kicks off this discussion by throwing out that Apple's switch from PowerPC to Intel didn't really happen on the one-year schedule that the company publicized at the time.

"[Steve Jobs] telegraphed to me this switch to Intel a year before it happened," he said, after lauding Jobs's prowess as a "strategist." "We had a conversation about a year before ... and this was all in his head. He had sort of told me it was going to happen."

"Him telling you a year in advance is only a surprise in that you were a member of the press," Tevanian says in response to this statement. "We were already working on it [at that time, a year before Apple announced its plans]."

"One of the things about being in tech is [that] when a product is announced, it was already working well before that," he continues. "And so, the people who are already working on it knew that it was coming. He may not have known the exact date, but as far as I was concerned, we were working on that product the day I started at Apple in 1997."

Now that is interesting.

Apple announced its intention to switch the Mac to Intel on June 6, 2005. Avie Tevanian had started working at Apple over 8 years earlier when the Next acquisition in February 1997. Obviously, Mac OS X didn't become a thing until 2001, but before that, Next had ported its NextStep OS, which became Mac OS X, to Intel and other processor architectures as OpenStep.

"For me, having our software running on an Intel processor at some point in time was inevitable," Tevanian continues. "It always was about [having] options, and how we would execute [on] those options."

Among those options, by the way, was licensing Mac OS X to PC makers. As you may recall, Next had had to get out of the hardware business. And with Tevanian and other key executives coming to what was in the early 2000s still a "beleaguered" Apple, there was a fear that they would have to exit the hardware market yet again. Ensuring that Mac OS X ran on the m...

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