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Articles: Apple Tries to Create Tranquility Out of "Universal" Confusion

With Apple's introduction of Intel based Mac models, they also introduced a new icon for Mac users to look for when buying software. The "Universal Binary" icon indicates that software will run on both PowerPC and Intel Macs. The new icon has the suggestion of peace and order by impersonating the Chinese "Yin-Yang." The reality of what this will mean is almost the complete opposite. This is because these first Intel Macs are the incentive for software makers to introduce versions of their applications that will run on both PowerPC and Intel Macs. Even Apple is not ready for all its software to run on these new computers. Before running out today and buying one of the Intel Macs, you'll have to consider what this will mean for you.

People who like to have every new Apple product should of course go ahead and buy now. These systems are the future, so jump on the Intel wagon without fear. Any new home Mac user who has little software beyond what Apple provides should feel safe as well. The Mac users who need to stop and think are the ones with large software investments, are power users with Photoshop or the like, or have to use a PowerPC only program for their livelihood. Those of you who have been Mac users for many years will remember the shift from OS 9 to OS X. Although this switch from PowerPC to Intel Macs will be similar, the actual transition will be a bit more abrupt.

Remember that for a long time during to OS 9 to OS X transition, Apple allowed you to dual boot Macs in OS 9 and OS X. This allowed for OS 9 people to adopt the new features of OS X while still having OS 9 performance in emulation. When you had to use certain OS 9 programs, you could just restart the computer in OS 9. "Classic" was not always an option with many OS 9 applications because they ran slower and sometimes not at all in emulation. Intel Macs are not dual bootable. As a user, your only option for running a PowerPC application is in emulation. "Rosetta" is the new emulation program and although it is a good emulator, it will run your applications slower than native Intel ones. In addition, not many applications have been tested with Rosetta. Be prepared for some programs not to work or to have limited functionality. This is why, if you depend on an application for business, you should wait. Let others do your testing.

Another downside is going to be upgrading your software. If you have the current pro applications from Apple you'll be able to get upgrades, but at a per application charge of $29 or $49 or more, depending on the application. Expect other companies to have similar upgrade fees as well as possibly charging a full-blown version upgrade fee.

Keeping extra software fees in mind, it would be advisable to time your Intel hardware upgrade to coincide with your planned software upgrades. Upgrading will always be the biggest pain of computers. For computers to get faster, software also has to change. The question is never whether you'll want to upgrade, it's when should you upgrade to get the best results. You have the time to investigate your needs, talk it over with someone who knows and decide what works best for you.

Finally, this is one of the reasons we're not particularly fond of Apple becoming such a major force in selling its own products. Their interest is in their products, and they're famous for putting a positive spin on everything they introduce, ignoring the often major negative aspects, and often paying little attention to older machines that have been discontinued. After all, they only make money when people buy new machines.

We encourage you to support Apple's resellers for this reason: their interest is in serving the customer (you!) and providing you with all the information you need, good and bad, in order to help you make the right decision.
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