As many readers know I've been disconnected for a couple of weeks and it'll be a while before I recognise the important things that happened in our industry over the period. Two, however, seem to stand out: both with respect to Apple's move to Intel - and I'm not talking about Al Gore being caught out in the Apple share options mess.
In first place was a couple of guys at the blackhat conference showing that they could hijack a MacBook to the point of gaining full system root control in about a minute via its wireless card drivers. The MacDailyNews story linked to above has this quotation from one of the those involved:
Maynor said the two have found at least two similar flaws in device drivers for wireless cards either designed for or embedded in machines running the Windows OS. Still, the presenters said they ultimately decided to run the demo against a Mac due to what Maynor called the 'Mac user base aura of smugness on security.'"
'We're not picking specifically on Macs here, but if you watch those 'Get a Mac' commercials enough, it eventually makes you want to stab one of those users in the eye with a lit cigarette or something,' Maynor said
Hard to argue with that, isn't it? Especially since Mactels are now at least as vulnerable as Wintel machines and they're advertising an advantage they've knowingly given up.
The more interesting Apple event was the introduction of the new Xeon based Xserves. It's a very nice little machine which Apple describes as " up to 5 times faster than the Xserve G5".
Maybe when the Xserve was first introduced, with a single core, single processor - but that was a long time ago and the more interesting comparison is between the Xserve's relative position in terms of bang for the buck then and now.
The new Xserve isn't available until October, but here's the base system description and cost from Apple's on-line store
Two 64-bit 2.0GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors
1.33GHz frontside bus and 4MB shared L2 cache per processor
1GB memory (667MHz DDR2 ECC fully buffered DIMM)
80GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA hard drive
Built-in ATI Radeon X1300 graphics with 64MB RAM
Mac OS X Server 10.4 Unlimited-Client Edition
Starting at $2,999.00
In August of 2004 I did a little price comparison on the then current 2Ghz Xserve G5. Here's what how it placed then:
|Apple Xserve||$4,399||2GB, 160GB, 2 x 2Ghz G5, unlimited users; MacOS-X|
|Dell 2850||$9,370||2GB, 2 x 73GB, 2 x 3.2Ghz Xeon, Windows 2003/XP Server 25 users|
|Sun V20Z||$5,699||2GB, 2 x 73GB, 2 x Opteron 248, Solaris x86|
And today (August 7/06)?
|Apple Xserve||$4,474||2GB, 160GB, 2 x 3.0Ghz dual core "woodcrest" Xeon, unlimited users; MacOS-X|
|Dell 1950||$7,097||2GB, 2 x 73GB, 2 x 3.0Ghz dual core Xeon X64, Windows 2003/XP Server 25 users|
|Sun X4100||$5,245||4GB, 2 x 73GB, 2 x Opteron 275 (dual core), Solaris x86|
Note: the Apple price shown is $2,999 for the base system plus $1,100 for the upgrade to 3.0Ghz, $300 for the upgrade to 2GB, and $75 for the upgrade to the 160GB disk - all from the Mac Pro (which uses the same processors) price list.
Bottom line? In 2004 the Xserve offered market leading performance at a significant discount to Dell's comparable servers and Sun's pinch hitting x86 workstation. Today Apple wants a a few more dollars than before, but the performance lead is gone and both Sun and Dell have reduced their pricing - Dell by 24% and Sun by introducing a custom designed 1U rack server for about 8% less.
Interestingly both Sun and Apple are significantly cheaper than Dell - Apple by about 37% and Sun by about 20% - and they're both getting it from the same place: side-stepping the opportunity to charge the customer $1,796 for a 25 Cal Windows server licence. Make the correction to choose "No Operating System, Microsoft [Included in Price]" and Dell only wants $5,301 -still more than Apple, but comparable to Sun's $5,245.
So bottom line, guess who's making the most money per product sold? Back in 2004, that was Apple and with a market leading product at that; today it's Sun - or Microsoft if you like the Dell label.
Sad. Very, very sad. oh, and the Apple press? profitably applauding the slide downhill.