Is it just me or Universal Binaries for Mac are a world domination scheme to increase the bandwidth usage of the world?
I know that the Apple folks didn’t want people to start figuring out “Do I have an Intel process or a PowerPC one?”, after all most people don’t really know what’s inside their machines, but in 99% of the cases, when downloading from the web most sites that do provide the software could tell quite easily if the the browser is running on an Intel Mac or a PowerPC Mac by looking at the “User-Agent” string that the browser sends.
I also have another solution, add a patch to older OS versions (and add it to new ones) so that they could look inside the .app file (executable or whatever they call it) and see if it has the necessary bits to tell it if its Intel or PowerPC. If it’s the wrong version, the file itself should include a link to the correct version.
This adds a bit of a burden to the creators of the software (they need to provide a link to the Intel version on the PPC version and vice versa and use a specific compiler and compile two sets of the application) but makes the whole thing a lot more pleasant.
Combine these two methods together and you get decreased bandwidth costs for everyone. Only at the worst case where both the web application failed to detect the correct Mac version and the person downloaded the wrong version that doesn’t fit his/her Mac type, only then they will download both.
Luckily Apple’s market share in PCs worldwide is still a single digit percentage so the bandwidth issue is still small, though its probably rising around Silicon Vally ;-)