Rants & Essays

Rupture Relief

By Paul Somerson

Boom! (Splash.) Hey, what was that? Something just whistled overhead and it landed awfully close. Wait…over there. Where all the smoke is. It's…the big guns from Apple. But was that a shot across our bow, or just bad aim? Hold on---they're yelling something that sounds faintly religions. Something about…rapture? No, it's…rupture. "The coming rupture." What in the world are they talking about? Now they're hollering about Wintel, the monolithic market domination of Windows and Intel. The dark side, the evil empire. The bad guys on the big screen who eat the sledgehammer in the 1984 Big Brother TV commercial.

Apple's message? The Wintel world is about to undergo a painful rupture - x86 CISC will slam into a dead end and blow up. Ditto all that bloated assembly language-based fatware. The only thing that can pick up the pieces and save us is RISC, as in PowerPC RISC.

It doesn't help that there are only a few hundred native PowerPC apps, and just a dozen or so that you'd recognize. Or that the only other PowerPC player, IBM, pulled its PPC products a week before introduction and still doesn't have a real operating system for them.

The guys from Apple sound bitter. Why? Maybe it's that the industry is heading in the direction they pioneered, but all they can scrape out is a static 10 percent market share, and little of that in the corporate world.

Maybe it's that for the first time they have to give up the family jewels and license the precious ROM, and they're mad both because they're being forced to do it and even more because it took them so long.

Or maybe it's takeover fever, and the loss of control that comes with it. Who's buying? Maybe Motorola, who could turn the Mac into another quasar disaster. Or monolithic market dominator AT&T. Or a Nipponese company (what would they call it? Japple? Nipple?).

And if it's IBM, look out. You know the routines: "What do you get if you cross Apple and IBM? IBM." And if IBM had invented sushi they'd market it as raw, dead fish.

Then the Apple execs trot out the technology goodies. And they're insanely great: QuickTime VR which lets you produce mind-boggling interactive fly-through demos that navigate you around scenes and objects and hardly take up any file space. New intuitive 3-D graphics that make your jaw drop. Groundbreaking OS features in their next two releases ("Copland" and "Gershwin"). And more. But technology isn't everything.

The problem is that the PowerMac is like a nitro-fueled race car - fast, sleek, futuristic, fun. The Windows/Intel world is a Mack truck: a giant, antiquated, fuming diesel barreling down the road carrying all our business stuff. On a track, Mac beats Mack. But put Apple in the same business fast lane with the big rig and point them at each other and…