Intel Inside: Apple Partners With Dell, Reintroduces PC Compatibility Card For Mac

After an absence of several years, Apple has announced that it will reintroduce the PC Compatibility Card for Macintosh. The PC Compatibility Card provides hardware support for Windows XP to run on native Intel hardware in a dual-boot Mac. What may come as a surprise to many long-term Apple watchers is that Apple has partnered with super appliance maker Dell to provide the cards.

While Apple and Dell have traditionally been at odds -- billionaire CEOs Steve Jobs (Apple) and Michael Dell (Dell) have been known to disparage each otheris companies in the past -- cost and opportunity apparently drew the two companies together for the new project, which was code named Poisson diAvril within Apple.

"We kept crunching the numbers," said Steve Jobs in a statement, "and the fact is that we could buy this thing from Dell cheaper than we could make it ourselves." Dell is known for making cheap computers in the Wintel world. "Itis what they do," explained Mr. Jobs. "They make cheap PCs."

For Dell, the chance to sell computers to 3% of the market they would normally not have access to was the lure.

"Hey, we had to get more market share somehow," said Michael Dell. "Besides, we already sell the iPod." Dell currently sells the Windows version of the iPod at its retail Web site.

The Apple PC Compatibility Card will carry the Dell logo, although it will be available exclusively through the Apple Store and some of the companyis Apple Specialist retailers. Perhaps more importantly, the product will allow Apple to use the coveted "Intel Inside" labels on Macs that include the card. By advertising "Intel Inside" in Appleis marketing, Intel will pay a percentage of those advertising costs as part of Intelis standard partner branding program.

An Intel spokesperson told TMO that the project has been in the works for some time. "Thereis been a lot of speculation about Apple and Intel, especially since Steve [Jobs] was the keynote speaker at our sales conference earlier this year," offered the spokesperson. "Now you know why."

Mr. Jobs appearance at the sales conference helped renew rumors that Apple might be porting Mac OS X to Intelis processors, but todayis announcement from the company seems to explain the relationship. Occam would no doubt be pleased.

On the technical side, the Apple PC Compatibility Card will run Windows XP only, and Dell has reportedly worked with Microsoft and Apple to ensure smoother operation of the card. In order to limit Appleis support costs, the cards will not run any other x86 operating systems, including Linux. It is not known how this block was implemented, and Apple wouldnit respond to our questions on this issue.

The cards will come in two version:

  • The Apple PC Compatibility Card PCI takes the form of a PCI card. The unit comes with a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4, a large fan, 256 MB of RAM, and one empty RAM slot that can take up to 512 MB of RAM. The other slot can be upgraded to 512 MB of RAM, for a maximum total of 1 GB of RAM. The card allows the Mac to boot into Windows, and can not be used while the Mac is booted into Mac OS X. This product will retail for US$499, not including a Windows license. Apple will be selling Windows XP on its online store, and we are awaiting confirmation on whether or not Windows will be available at the companyis brick and mortal locations as well.
  • The other version is called the Apple PC Compatibility Card Cardbus, and is designed for PowerBook users. The Cardbus card comes equipped with a 1.6 GHz Pentium 4 Mobility, and 512 MB of RAM. It fits into any Type II Cardbus slot, and the external cooling system can be powered through the useris FireWire port, or through a standard outlet. The Cardbus version of the PC Compatibility card will retail for US$699 (also sans Windows license), including the external cooling system.

Both units are available now.