I took the family to Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith a few weeks ago, and after seeing it I commented to my son that if he ever went over to the Dark Side he should bring me back some dark chocolate. He swore that because of his love for milk chocolate, he would never cross over. Seeing another opportunity to impart paternal wisdom, I told him to be cautious about using the word 'never'. Of course, to parallel my teaching, Apple Computer announced the next week that it was going to convert all of its computers to Intel processors, thereby taking the first step towards becoming one with the personal computing department of the Dark Side. My first reaction was to plan an intervention as I would for any friend who had become a lost soul. But my instincts warned that I might be judging too harshly too quickly. Perhaps there was some 'dark chocolate' in this for Mac users used to the sweeter stuff. The situation as it pertains to the average Mac owner is this - come next June, Apple will start shipping certain computer models with Intel processors. By January 2007, all Apple computers will ship with Intel processors. This brings up a bunch of questions as to how this will affect Mac users now and in the future. Apple's founder and chief executive Steve Jobs promised that the transition would be invisible to the average Mac owner. He said that Apple had versions of OSX running on Intel processors for more than five years and that it would only take a few minutes to convert most Mac applications to run on the new processors. The president of Wolfram Research confirmed that Mathematica (probably the most complex Mac application) was converted in 20 minutes. Behind the scenes, IBM and Motorola, the makers of the PowerPC chips that Apple has been using for years, apparently lost interest in developing for desktop PCs and failed to deliver the quantities, price and performance that Apple needed to keep pace with the competition. In addition, there was no PowerPC processor forthcoming in the foreseeable future that would put Apple back into the lead technology-wise. Intel really wants to do business with Apple. Apple makes applications that cause people to demand more powerful computers and this is what keeps chip developers in business. Intel will also be introducing (in concert with Apple's timetable) processors that have the future already built in. We are talking high-speed, multiprocessors, very low power consumption, 64-bit architecture, reasonable price, with built-in video decoding. Furthermore, these chips can be customised. Can you say Powerbook 3GHz quad-processor? Intel can. Now Apple made it clear that OSX would not run directly on common PCs but regular Windows applications could run on the new Intel-ised Macs, and Mac applications converted to the new Macs will also run on Windows machines. Existing Mac software will run on the new Macs just like they do now. Let me re-explain this in practical terms: Your existing software will work on the new Macs. That copy of a Windows-only app that you have been coveting (or chained to) will be able to run on your Mac natively. Your future software will be cheaper. Your future Macs will be blazingly fast. Because of the customisable features, the Intel processors going into new Macs will most likely be different than those running on Windows machines. At a minimum, they will have code that allows you to instal and run OSX on them exclusively. Because of code embedded directly in the new chips, Apple will be able to establish the iTunes Video Store and more advanced home entertainment gizmos. Apparently, though, Apple is not finished with the PowerPC. There are some new products in the pipeline and the PowerPC will be the superior technology until the new Intel chips ship. My friends have been waiting months for me to tell them when to buy new PowerBooks. Because it looks like there will not be a G5, let alone a dual processor G5 PowerBook, I gave them the news last week and they all went out and bought existing models. And they are all delighted. There is no indication that this move by Apple is a move to the Dark Side. But when Apple goes, I will go over with it. I am sure there are plenty of Dark sweets to be found there.