Macworld Online readers are split down the middle when it comes to the question of whether Apple should switch to Intel processors.

A total of 3,382 readers voted, with 1,607 saying an Intel move would be welcome, and 1,621 disagreeing. Just 154 were undecided.

Apple is rumoured to have a version of Mac OS X - apparently codenamed Marklar - running on Intel processors. Some industry observers say releasing a version of OS X for non-PowerPC chips may help Apple achieve parity in the processor-speed wars - though at the cost of hardware sales.

With processor speeds stalled at 1.2GHz, Apple faces a PC market in which users can demand speeds of 3GHz and beyond from non-Apple brands.

Though computer performance is not dependent on processor speed, consumers have been conditioned to believe that "bigger is better". With Power Mac sales falling, Apple is being urged by many to offer its professional users more power at a price they are prepared to pay.

Some readers feel such a move would benefit Apple: "It would make Apple a major player in the IT marketplace," said one. "It would mean a processor upgrade path," said another.

Another remarked: "PC users are already starting to taunt, saying the PC platform is faster. It's a repeat of the 90s. Apple has to keep up."

Many agreed that Apple faces a quandary. "It needs to do something, as the G5 is developing too slowly," one reader stressed.

"Moving to Intel would create some interesting marketing dynamics and competitive opportunities that would probably be more in Apple's favour than against them," another remarked.

Equally, many readers are strongly against such a move: "Never"; "Stay with RISC processors"; "Should England speak French?" they cried.

"With G5s around the corner, who needs Intel?: asked another. "Apple should never move to Intel, but a move to AMD should always be on the cards", added another.

One furious Mac user cried: "I don't want to see Intel Inside on the front of my Mac!".

Some readers were more pragmatic: "There's still a lot of life left in the PowerPC architecture but it will be IBM not Motorola who lead the way."

Motorola has been forced to scale-back in several key business areas in recent years as the company has been hard hit by the tech downturn. Though it continues to innovate, shareholder pressure is on. Motorola is focused on profitability, causing some to speculate that PowerPC research and development may be suffering as a result.

"If the Motorola/IBM platform cannot meet the demand soon, then Apple needs a back up plan. Unsavoury as it may be, Intel or AMD need to be considered. Come on Motorola, get your finger out and start making some scalable technology," one voter said.

Others recommend Apple accelerate any move to IBM's recently-announced 64-bit PowerPC processors. Apple's current processors execute 32-bit instruction sets.

"We should move straight on to the 64 bit IBM," they observed.

There would be other challenges to such a plan. Apple has done a great job convincing developers to move to OS X, and attracting new developers to the platform. Would the company be able to take its developer community to a brand new processor architecture so soon after that transition?

"Rewriting applications to use Intel will drive away too many developers," one respondee observed.

"Move to Intel and watch every developer disappear when they are told they will have to rewrite and recompile their Mac apps once again," said another.

One reader suggested that such a strategic shift should already have been planned: "Had they combined moving to Mac OS X with the processor change, then it would have been a good idea."

"It's a big mistake," warned one reader. " Apple is a priority customer for Motorola but if it moves to Intel you can bet it would be way down the priority list."