Comparing Apples to Intels

MacCentral is hyping a New York Times article which regurgitates what a lot of other people have noted: the Pentium IV sucks. In fact most benchmarks suggest that it is slower lower end Pentium IIIs, except with software that is specifically re-compiled for the Pentium IV. But is this time for gloating for Apple fans?

Dennis Sellers thinks so, writing,

He explains how that megahertz ratings are valuable only when making speed comparisons between chips in the same family: comparing a Pentium III with another Pentium III, for example. They’re meaningless when comparing different chips.

“That’s why, for example, a 500-megahertz Macintosh chip is much faster than a 500-megahertz Pentium III,” he says. “Getting excited about a chip just because it runs at 1.5 gigahertz is a little like pouncing on a house just because it’s $50,000; first you’d better find out whether it’s a Taj Mahal or a tool shed.”

Megahertz is definitely not the end-all, be-all of a computer system and the 500mhz Macintosh is certainly much faster than a 500mhz Pentium III. But that comparison isn’t very helpful either.

Here’s a much better comparison. I can buy a 900mhz Athlon system with nice 3d graphics card, 40 gig hard drive, 128mb memory, and 17-inch monitor, for about $1300. For anything I’m going to do, the Athlon system is going to be at least as fast and probably faster than a G4 500mhz system.

A G4 500 mhz system with similar components costs about $2,500 without a monitor. That’s simply an insanely high price given what people can buy in the Wintel-compatible market. Sure you’re stuck using Windows with all its attendant problems, but is the Mac’s usability really worth $1,200? For most people the answer is no.

Intel has made a number of missteps lately, but its mistakes will likely create further openings for AMD and other competitors rather than spur Apple’s growth until Steve Jobs and others find a way to bring Macintosh hardware costs in line with Wintel hardware costs.

Apple today is in much the same position as Dell. Dell has an exclusive arrangement with Intel whereby it only sells computers with Intel processors — as Intel has misfired, Dell’s sales and its stock price have both suffered. Aside from the fact that I have friends who work at Dell, I could care less. If I can’t get the machine I want from Dell I’ll just go buy from any number of manufacturers who sell Athlon-equipped machines. Apple, like Dell, would do well to reconsider its business model that ties its operating system to a single chip vendor prone to missteps.

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