Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The lack of Intel Mac software

Now that I’ve had time to sleep and think straight after Steve Job’s keynote yesterday, it’s dawned on me that buying an Intel-based Mac now is probably not the best of ideas. The reason? Software.
Because the Intel-based Macs have completely different software architectures to older PowerPC-based Macs, all your Mac software will need to be recompiled so that it will work on Intel Macs. Now this is fine if all you use is Apple’s own software, as I imagine that’s all good to go already, but if not, then you have to run them in Rosetta.
Rosetta essentially emulates a PowerPC processor (as far as I understand it anyway), so that it will allow applications written for PowerPC processors to run on your Intel-based Mac. But they will run more slowly than if they were compiled natively, if they will even run at all. Despite Apple’s claims, not all apps will run in Rosetta – NeoOffice being one example. That’s a program I have to use regularly for writing essays and preparing presentations and can’t do without, even if it as slow as a decapitated tortoise at times.
Because Apple brought forward the expected launch date of the Intel-based Macs, it looks like many third-party developers are simply not ready to ship updated versions of their software. The situation will improve, but if you rush out to buy a new Intel-based Mac you may find that some programs will be slower than expected, and others just simply won’t work at all.
On the plus side, Intel Macs definitely will run Windows. It’ll be unsupported and Apple won’t sell it, but they won’t stop you from running it either. Which is good news.


  1. You know, I’ve found that openoffice 2 via X11 runs a lot faster than neooffice. When I tried Neooffice it even seemed to stuggle just scrolling through an average document. Sure it looks worse and you have to put up with the menubar being in the wrong place and the file dialog being all stupid but I’m sure it must be better than putting up with jerky scrolling and lots of waiting around for nothing to happen.
    You’re right about it being wise for heavy uses to put off buying a new mac for a few months. I’d personally wait for a native photoshop as the litmus test of when it’s about time. But I’m sure the average joe who will mostly be using iLife will have no hassles at all.

  2. For me, OOo2 is faster once it’s up and running, but still takes a long time before it’s usable. You also only get a very restricted selection of fonts – essentially just the Bitstream and Lucida fonts.
    I’ve also yet to work out how to print, short of exporting to a PDF and then opening it in Preview.

  3. Hmm. I wonder if the Intel Macs will run Linux x86, then?

  4. Just googled itunes and ogg, and found your blog. I thought I’d comment about emulation and Macs. The transition from G5s to Intel it not the first time it becomes necessary on Macs. I don’t know if you can remember how many different chip manufacterer Apple has used… First it was on Motorola, then IBM (with motorola), now it’s on Intel. AFAIK, Apple has a good track of staying backwards compatible for a while (remember classic mode, that was an emulation).
    I’ve used emulation before (running Windows on a linux machine), and performance can go from damned slow to almost native depending on the software used. With any solution offered by Apple, I’ll gamble that it will be actually decent as they know their old hardward/OS much better than any external cie.