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Consider yourself served, IBM (NYSE: IBM ) . Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) has filed for divorce from Big Blue's PowerPC chip technology. Snow Leopard, the next-generation Mac OS due in September, won't run on PowerPC Macs.
The separation began in 2005, when the iEmpire announced its intent to embrace Intel's (Nasdaq: INTC ) x86 chipset. Today, all new Macs do. And with Snow Leopard, they'll be built to handle 64-bit chips, so named because they're capable of digesting data 64 "bits" at a time. Most PCs are built to digest 32 bits at a time.
Moves like these are where Apple and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) typically diverge. Windows' legacy is so important that users cried foul when Mr. Softy tried to pull the plug on Windows XP. Apple officially moved to Mac OS X in 2001, and it has yet to check the rearview mirror -- save for a barely noticeable nod to emulation software.
Practically, this means PowerPC Mac owners will either upgrade to a new system, ignore Snow Leopard, or switch to cheaper, more modern PCs from the likes of Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) .
I'm not expecting many switchers. Netbooks have yet to prove themselves as laptop replacements, and Macs are getting cheaper. Not as cheap as PCs, sure, but cheap enough to be competitive, especially for what is likely to be some very high-powered hardware.
Despite the possibility of a noticeable user exodus in the short term, Apple's making the right move here. Investors need Apple to keep its promise to innovate. Snow Leopard delivers on that promise -- even if it does so at the expense of the PowerPC.
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