I was about to post a longer note about the whole “Apple switching to Intel” brouhaha (and no, I won’t link to the original story), but John Gruber did it faster than I could, as usual.

I agree with him that the original story and its offshoots in other media paints only part of the picture. There are several more likely explanations than Apple ditching all of its AltiVec optimizations and switching to a plain x86 codebase. So, in my view, here’s what might be happening tomorrow (not necessarily in order of probability):

  • WiMax; Intel has the standard chipset for that, and it’s the natural step beyond WiFi.
  • Intel building a PowerPC variation; Apple should have enough rights, as a member of the original AIM consortium, to use outside companies for fabricating such chips. G6? Or perhaps they’d be moving off the G numbers entirely, as they’re getting a little long in the tooth. Hey, perhaps this means that Windows is moving to the PowerPC, following all the game platforms??
  • Intel building a hybrid chip that runs both standard x86 and PowerPC/Altivec code either natively, or with some hardware assist, even if it’s just an endianness switch bit. Doing such a transition with purely software emulation is impossible. Endianness is so pervasive in non-trivial software that you can’t just recompile and hope it works. Also, emulating a PowerPC on x86 at any reasonable speed is unfeasible, because there aren’t enough hardware registers – this could be hacked by doing a special L1 cache implementation, but once you do this, putting in more hardware assistance is trivial.
  • Apple will launch a completely new line of stuff that uses some Intel-owned tech. Like an ARM-powered tablet. Newton, anyone? Or should it be called Einstein now? Or perhaps a set-top box? At least that would mean I won’t have to build fat binaries for my applications.

About the only thing I’m sure won’t happen is Apple building, and running Mac OS X on, standard x86 motherboards. Tomorrow around this time we’ll know for sure; I’ll be at the keynote.