AHEAD OF THE CURVE: AMD and Apple are made for each other

AHEAD OF THE CURVE: AMD and Apple are made for each other

In separate launches just eight days apart, AMD and Apple sent up fireworks celebrating their new arrivals. AMD started shipping its dual-core Opteron and Athlon 64 X2 server and desktop processors on April 21. Apple began delivering OS X Tiger (10.4) on April 29, but I got my box on April 28, which means it shipped on April 27. So these things really happened six days apart. Uncanny coincidence, that.

But it doesn't end there. AMD's processors performed rendering for the new all-digital Star Wars flick. Yoda is now working for AMD's marketing department (sell you an Opteron, I will). The DVD bonus material for The Incredibles reveals where the entire production run of Power Mac G5s with 30-inch Cinema Displays has gone. Hey AMD, Apple will see your light sabre and raise you Holly Hunter in tights. The two vendors are in a race for the coolest implicit celebrity endorsements. So far, AMD has Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, and George Lucas. Apple has the entire A-list of gifted but underappreciated independent filmmakers, artists, and musicians.

Apple's G5 and AMD's Opteron also hit the market just days apart. Think about the events that unfolded since Opteron and G5 hit the scene, once again, within a few days of each other. The guys who drew the roadmaps for Itanium and Xeon were invited to a meeting behind Intel's executive woodshed. Microsoft's PR reps buzz the shock belts of Redmond execs whenever the reps assert the irrelevance of open source in public. Someone waited for Steve Ballmer to go on vacation to announce official support for Linux under Virtual Server 2005, a product which, you should note, owes its market potential to Opteron. Meanwhile, Apple's grooving along with PowerPC and Unix, a pairing that no one with good sense expected to succeed. I revel in being a fool.

AMD and Apple both implement their technologies with 100 per cent consistency across notebook, desktop and server products. AMD does AMD64 on notebooks, desktops, workstations, and servers with seamless binary compatibility. Every Mac ships with an OS and a fat collection of standard apps that run identically on G3, G4, and G5 systems. Apple's ISVs often stamp their software with system requirements that read thus: "OS X 10.x or later." Soon we might see "AMD64 or compatible" as a Windows software requirement.

Apple and AMD will ultimately be forced together. Their technology will share the racks of businesses, institutions and organisations that have a growing need for fast computing and/or unrivalled peripheral throughput. These strengths stand out in both architectures. Interestingly, they approach I/O the same way: They use the uniquely fast and scalable HyperTransport bus technology invented by AMD.

The two vendors will sweep into small and midsize businesses and entrepreneurships. They are clearing the path for each other while resetting IT expectations for the capacity of individual clients and servers. My advice to Apple and AMD: Please do compete. We need that. Differentiate, but don't waste marketing money trying to slow each other down. Don't get sucked into the technological horse race you're being set up to run.

Just shine as brightly as you can in your own way and be OK with the fact that occasionally some of your light will fall on the other guy.

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