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What do you use to design an Apple?
February 2, 2011 11:32 AM   Subscribe

I have a guest staying with me who suggests that Apple uses PCs and PC-based CAD software for doing the mechanical design of their products. I'm skeptical, and consult the mighty and infallible Oracle of Metafilter for first hand verification. Anyone know what they use... for real?
posted by FauxScot to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Um, even if they had to use windows-based software (which I doubt) they could run that software natively on apple hardware anyway, since apple computers can run windows natively nowadays.
posted by yeoz at 11:36 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Probably Pro/ENGINEER, Solidworks and/or CATIA. At least, if you look at the design engineer openings on Apple's jobs site, those are relevant keywords.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:45 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


My WAG is that they use some highly customized Siemens CAD software on some kind of highly customized Xserv array, and the engineers use the latest and shiniest MBPs to work on small pieces of puzzles.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:49 AM on February 2, 2011


For a long time AutoCAD was not available for macs, so there might be something to that.
posted by travis08 at 11:49 AM on February 2, 2011


Word of mouth and urban legends being what they are, I wonder if this isn't the 2011 version of 'the first Macintosh was designed on a Cray; the next Cray was designed on a Macintosh.'

See more here.
posted by kimota at 12:36 PM on February 2, 2011


Any company once it gets big enough will contain a mix of computers, even when one platform is dominant or preferred and even when computers if what they make. People in IBM will be working on Apples and vice versa. It means nothing. It's likely to be so trite and true that I would neither bother trying to confirm nor care enough to do so.

Especially interfacing in manufacturing, where a half-million dollar CNC prototyping machine from last century could be running DOS software on hardware you can barely even buy anymore, and with that kind of machine, you talk to it on its terms, it doesn't talk to you on your terms.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:31 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't doubt that they use non-Mac OS X software for one second. Like -harlequin- says, this is a totally underwhelming "revelation."

To give one example of something that Apple needs to do that can't run on Mac OS X: Almost all of the EDA software that Apple would use to design the custom chips that are increasingly used in their hardware, especially the iPhone and iPad, only runs on Linux, Solaris, or Windows. They'd have no problem running Linux or Windows on a Mac, though.
posted by zsazsa at 1:46 PM on February 2, 2011


FWIW, I am thinking that at least now, they would use Apple H/W, and whatever for OS and app software.

Wondering though, in the pre-Intel days if they had a Dell or two around there?

I know that it has formerly been a real issue for me to give up a whole lot of Win s/w for PCB design and micro development to go to a Mac. Now, of course, the rules have changed, but I have hardware that doesn't need replacement, yet. (Why is it that when I WANT my PC to die, the damned thing will run forever?)

I'm still holding out for current or former Apple engineer to reveal something from the inside, especially if it's a few years old. Is there one (or more) here? Your secrets are safe with me!
posted by FauxScot at 2:59 PM on February 2, 2011


The Apple Store(s) used to use the Windows-based Easy Pay to check out purchases (Source). It's not much of a long shot to guess that other parts of the company had access to Windows based machines.
posted by oceano at 5:12 PM on February 2, 2011


If you're scared of this sort of thing, you should realize that there is a Windows version of iTunes. That means that there are not only PCs but *gasp* PC developers working at Apple. Apple is more than ever a specifically targeted company. If they needed switches for their networking closets they're not going to come out with their own just because "they do electronics too."

There are companies that make point of sale devices that run windows CE which Apple used to use, they need to do a specific task etc that isn't on the Mac. They're not going to A: design their own just for themselves or B: Not do that thing in house just because Apple doesn't make the hardware.

BTW Microsoft bought hundreds of G5 tower computers from Apple to develop the xBox 360. It just so happened that the 360 was a PPC CPU computer and so are the G5s (while MS was on Intel). Should Microsoft have put millions of dollars into making some sort of test hardware when they could buy off-the shelf PCs from Apple that did the trick?

Don't do the work or spend the money you don't have to spend. I don't even think there was a single person at either company that had a second thought about it. It's just not a case of "swallowing pride" or having to admit anything to yourself.
posted by Napierzaza at 6:16 PM on February 2, 2011


FWIW, I am thinking that at least now, they would use Apple H/W, and whatever for OS and app software.

Software is only a part of compatibility. Networks aren't my thing, but I imagine that modern Apple hardware probably doesn't interface easily with older PC network hardware. For some kinds of cables/routers/etc, you might be looking at an expansion card requiring an ISA slot and DOS drivers, or legacy drives, or all sorts of weird-ass custom pc hardware. I seriously doubt there is always a way to set that up that kind of stuff on a modern Apple without creating a lot more headaches than you solve.

There is also the issue of personnel. When a company hires an expert at something, sometimes the expert decides what equipment they will do their work on (often to the dismay of IT), and sometimes the company requires the expert make a transition to the company's preferred equipment, depending on various factors. Again, in a big company, you'll get examples of both happening.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:30 PM on February 2, 2011


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