Apple on x86: a gamer’s perspective

In today’s WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs officially announced that Apple is beginning to switch its CPU-based products from the PowerPC architecture to x86. Online responses have been varied, commenting on what effect the move will have on Apple’s sales, Linux, and Microsoft. I haven’t seen any writing that’s been especially enthusiastic about it from a user’s perspective, but I think that’s because a few effects of the transition have so far been missed.

The only thing I’m unhappy about is that come 2006, I’m going to want to replace the 1.5GHz Powerbook I bought last November with one of the new Intel-based Apple laptops we can expect to see soon. On the plus side, that new machine is likely to be considerably faster, cooler, lighter, and less power-hungry than what I currently have.

Better yet, it’s going to have the same processor architecture that Windows and most Linux distros are compiled for. So while I’ll be mostly running OS 10.whatever, I’ll be able to dual-boot with an x86 Linux distro, and probably Windows, too.

This will make my life as a gamer much easier. I just gave away my x86 PC, since the beast of a machine was too heavy and too big to think about taking with me to Japan. So I’ll probably never finish Knights of the Old Republic, Planescape: Torment, and Legacy of Kain: Defiance, which I had on the go. It’s a shame.

But with a new x86 Powerbook, I will be able to play those games again, and not just on Windows, either. With OS X on x86, the way is open for a port of Cedega, which currently lets users play DirectX games on Linux, provided they’ve got an x86. Even Transgaming don’t port Cedega to OS X, I’ll still be able to run it under Ubuntu Linux. Of course, having x86 processors in Apple machines is also going to make it easier for developers to write OS X native ports of Windows games, provided they can wean themselves off their dependence on DirectX. Emulators written for x86 probably won’t suffer the performance hits they currently do on PPC, Virtual PC and so on for OS X will run Windows at close to native speed, and we’ll probably see an OS X port of VMware.

So if Apple keeps putting A-grade GPUs in their Powerbooks, they’ll soon be great work machines that double as gaming platforms. That will make me very happy, and it’s likely to make the Mac a viable choice for gamers for the first time ever. Smart move, Apple.

now playing: No Dancing from the album “My Aim Is True” by Elvis Costello

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.