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Monday, June 06, 2005

Apples and Cars

Today Apple announced that it will be switching from Freescale (Formerly Motorola) PowerPC processors to Intel CPUs for the future generation of Mac computers.

I am not sure this is a good idea, for Apple, as this could cause them to lose their distinctiveness, and lose some barriers between the Mac and Windows worlds. OTOH, it may lower the cost of Mac hardware, and it may open the door to some interesting cross-breeding, such as Apple MacOS for Intel based PCs, or (shudder) the option to run Windows on elegant Mac hardware.

So what does this have to do with cars? The PowerPC processor family, a joint venture between IBM and Motorola, is widely used in the automotive world. Smaller versions are used for things like entertainment, brake controllers, climate control, and instrument panels. Many engine controllers (ECUs, aka PCMs) are running with the MPC5xx processors.


The Angry Engineer said...

I would anticipate very little impact at this time. While the automotive PowerPC shares its core with the consumer-level stuff, it's a completely different product and I'm guessing it's not even fabbed in the same facility. Just look at Motorola's support for the 68K automotive products (such as the 68332) well after Macs moved away from that core.

Longer-term, this might cause a bit of financial pain for Freescale and its customers, as they won't have Apple substidizing the development of the core. But that assuming that future PC cores would still be applicable to automotive tasks, which is by no means guaranteed. Maybe it'll force the auto industry to develop thier own standard core, kinda along the lines of the ARM7. That'd go a long ways towards reducing development costs. It'd just require some foresight.

On a seperate note, I can't see this as being a good move for Apple. Why do people buy Macs? Not because they want Wintel machines, that's for sure.

The Auto Prophet said...

I don't think this will affect the automotive business much, either, other than maybe hurting Freescale financially.

Other companies are pursuing the automotive microcontroller business aggressively, including Infineon, Microchip, and Texas Instruments. What keeps Freescale pretty happy, though, is that there is a large base of legacy software and tools which are stable and mature. It is much easier to upgrade to the next generation of a chip family than to have to port software to a different platform.