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Analysis: Intel spills Apple's future product secrets

What's in store for Apple PCs, Intel and you

Apple's famed for its secrecy when it comes to new products in the same way that Intel's known for its openness. So with the partnership between the two companies well under way, we find out whether we'll remain in the dark when it comes to new Apple products.

As positive as the switch to Intel-built processors has been for Apple, one aspect of that partnership must drive Steve Jobs' control-freak nature absolutely bonkers: secrecy. Or, more to the point, the lack of it, when it comes to future product announcements.

Prior to Apple's 2005 decision to use Intel chips in its hardware, the Mac's processors were provided by IBM and Freescale (née Motorola). Apple could tightly control what little, if any, information it provided about its products prior to their introduction.

Neither chipmaker released roadmaps of their product lines that were anywhere near as detailed as Intel's.

Intel, on the other hand, keeps its partners, and, by extension, the general public, well informed about its product plans years in advance. Although this openness insulates the entire PC ecology from expensive surprises, it can also inflate customer expectations while delaying purchases. After all, if you know that a much more powerful chip is going to be released real soon, why write a cheque today?

Tim Deal, senior analyst at market-research firm Pike & Fischer, acknowledges that Apple formerly was able to keep its product plans "a closely guarded secret" and that the company "tightly managed and exploited this secrecy to create anticipation (and drama) around its new product releases".

But he believes that the new Intel-enforced openness is a good thing.

"[Apple's] reliance on the not-so-secret Intel processor development cycle allows the market to get a glimpse of future processor incarnations for the Mac," Deal said.

"This does not inhibit the company's ability to generate excitement about future product releases nor does it preclude Apple's customary mystique and showmanship surrounding a given product release."

What's more, when Apple was tied to PowerPC processors with lower clock speeds than competing Intel chips, it struggled to explain away what it then called the 'Megahertz Myth'.

As Deal explains: "Consumers are now able to compare Mac computers alongside of PCs with greater effectiveness."

What's in a name

That's true, of course, only if customers can decode the sometimes arcane world of Intel roadmaps, codenames, product lines, and platforms. Recently, for example, came the announcement that a six-core Xeon processor codenamed Dunnington would be released in the second half of this year.

The mere codename of this chip speaks volumes about the difficulty of deciphering Intel's roadmaps - Dunnington's original codename was Aliceton, but it was renamed after the development of another Dunnington processor was halted when a third processor-development effort, codenamed Whitefield, upon which the first Dunnington was based, was discontinued.

NEXT PAGE: Where quad core processors fit in

  1. Apple and Intel's plans for the future
  2. Where quad core processors fit in
  3. The maxi Mac mini


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