5.11. Universal Apps (Intel Macs)
By the end of 2006, Apple had switched its entire Macintosh product line over to Intel's
Core Duo processors (the successor to the Pentium).
Yes, that Intel. The company that Mac partisans had derided for years as part of the Dark
Side. The company that Steve Jobs routinely belittled in his demonstrations of PowerPC
chips (which IBM and Motorola supplied to Apple for more than a decade). The
company whose marketing mascot Apple lit on fire in a 1996 attack ad on TV.
Why the change? Apple's computers can only be as fast as the chips inside them, and the
chips that IBM had in the works just weren't keeping up with the industry. As one
editorial put it, "Apple's doing a U-turn out of a dead-end road."
And sure enough, Intel-based Macs start up and run much faster than the old Macs,
thanks to the endless march of speed improvements in the chip-making world. And
thanks to that Intel chip, today's Macs can even run Microsoft Windows and all of the
thousands of Windows programs. (Chapter 8 has details.)
At the time, though, there was a small glitch: Existing Mac software didn't run on Intel
Apple would have to ask the world's software companies to rewrite their programs yet
again, after already having dragged them through the Mac OS 9-to-Mac OS X transition
only a few years earlier.
Fortunately, the transition wasn't as gruesome as you might expect. First, Apple had
already secretly recompiled (reworked) Mac OS X itself to run on Intel chips, beginning
with Mac OS X 10.4.4.
Furthermore, Apple wrote an invisible translation program, code-named Rosetta, which
permits the existing library of Mac OS X programs—Photoshop, Word, and so on—to
run, unmodified, on Intel Macs.
They do not, however, run especially fast on Intel Macs. In fact, many of them run slower
than they did on pre-Intel Macs.
To make their programs perform at full speed on Intel-based Macs, programmers have to
update their wares. All the big software companies promised to make their programs into
universal binaries—programs that run equally well on PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs
with a double-click on the very same Finder icon.
Figure 5-21. Here's a quick way to tell if a program is an old one that will run slowly
on an Intel Mac (instead of a Universal one that won't require the Rosetta software
translation). Highlight its icon and choose File Get Info. Near the top, you'll see
either "Application: PowerPC" (meaning "old and slow") or "Application:
Universal" (meaning "runs fast on both Intel and PowerPC machines").
It took two years for all the big-name programs to fall in line, but they finally did.
Photoshop CS3, Microsoft Office 2008, Final Cut Pro, QuarkXPress, FileMaker,
Firefox…one by one, the world's most popular Mac programs were reworked into
Universal versions. (There's even a list of them—over 7,000 so far—at
You have only two indications that you're using a program originally designed for
PowerPC-based Macs: first, you'll see a notation in the program's Get Info window (see
Figure 5-21). Second, you'll probably discover that the program isn't as fast as it used to
If all this talk about architectures and chips makes your brain hurt, you can at least take
comfort in one fact: No matter which kind of Mac you've got Leopard installed on, every
feature, tip, and trick you've learned from this book will work exactly the same.