PowerPC is Dead

2009-July-24

I've been halfway avoiding writing this for awhile, because although I can admit it and joke about it with some of my friends, both in person and online, I'm somewhat terrified of what might happened if, as a whole, society realized what I'm about to say.

The PowerPC Mac platform is dead. As of Apple's WWDC 2009 event when they announced that Snow Leopard, the next version of Mac OS X will only run on Intel processors, any Mac with a PowerPC processor is officially a dead-end machine, and the platform as a whole is "dead."

What does that mean? The way I like to put it is that G4s and G5s running Leopard are now essentially the equivalent of any other old abandoned platform. HP-UX on HPPA hardware, IRIX on MIPS hardware, OpenSTEP on 68k hardware, and even to a certain extent, Solaris on SPARC hardware.

Of course there are various levels of abandonment -- OpenSTEP has been gone for years, but it's still possible to compile and install newer software on IRIX and HP-UX, even though (unlike Solaris) IRIX is no longer receiving any updates from the vendor, and even though Silicon Graphics had been selling IRIX system through about 2003 to maybe 2005 or 2006, they hadn't bothered to update their system's UNIX/POSIX certification in an extraordinarily long time.

The situation isn't so bad (yet) with Leopard. Everything currently running on Intel Macs will run on a well-equipped G4 or G5, albeit at the loss of some speed, however it'll be really interesting to see if and when G4 and G5 Macs become really unsuitable for use as modern computers, as a result of software that exists on Mac OS X Snow Leopard, but not on "Regular" Leopard.

But it still stands that I do have an insane and unreasonable desire for a reasonably quick dual G4 or some sort of G5 either as a desktop machine or as a file/web/UNIX server.