Tuesday, November 6th 2012

Apple May Ditch Intel for CPUs in Macs, But It's Not Over to AMD

In the coming years, Apple could end its partnership with Intel for supply of CPUs, according to a Bloomberg report, citing Gartner research. The company plans to make a transition from x86 to ARM for its Mac product line, which includes MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, and Mac Mini. Such a transition would be similar to the one Apple took from PowerPC to x86 machine architecture, across 2005-06. According to the report, Apple's engineers are confident of designing an ARM-based chip of their own that's powerful enough for mainstream personal computing on Mac products. Apple's engineers foresee a convergence of technologies between mobile devices (such as the iPhone and iPad), and Macs. Currently, Apple designs its own processors for iOS devices, which are ARM-based.

Source: Bloomberg
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74 Comments on Apple May Ditch Intel for CPUs in Macs, But It's Not Over to AMD

#1
crazyeyesreaper
Chief Broken Rig
honesty who cares once APple shifts towards ARM they lose the professionarl market, i don't really see Photoshop Users / Video Editors / 3D Graphics artists using their systems if they do switch so good luck to apple i hope they fail lol switching to ARM will also cause massive problems for school systems so their goes that cash cow to lol
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#2
cadaveca
My name is Dave
by: bostonbuddy
yeah so apple is going to give up making machines people do real work on(I don't forsee arm being able to run video editing software at speeds comparable to x86 for a long time and thats one of the few feilds where mac still has a foothold) and focus soley on the people who want to play angry birds market?
Sure. Apple doesn't just sell PC stuff.. they sell a "lifestyle". When the core of their users are shifting to different ways that they use their devices, it only makes sense for them to change their device design.

x86 isn't the only way to get things done, fortunately, and really, I think tech companies becoming more focused on customer experience, rather than trying to be the fastest option possible, is a really good thing.

Hardware today is barely used to it's fullest extent by anyone, except big business and engineering sort of things. The desktop, at this point, really doesn't have much place in people's homes any more, so it only makes sense for things to take a drastic change...the companies that don't, probably won't be here 10 years from now.

by: crazyeyesreaper
honesty who cares once APple shifts towards ARM they lose the professionarl market, i don't really see Photoshop Users / Video Editors / 3D Graphics artists using their systems if they do switch so good luck to apple i hope they fail lol switching to ARM will also cause massive problems for school systems so their goes that cash cow to lol
I think opinions like this fail the market is a huge way. Without innovation...
Posted on Reply
#3
crazyeyesreaper
Chief Broken Rig
dont get me wrong it will be nice to see change dave but looking at a money flow situation it changes the coding needed on all Apple Apps and all industry software just to work on their next platform while Linux and Windows can just keep on keepin on lol without much change, for typical users however it shouldn't impact much of anything but considering everyone loves to say how awesome Apple is in the professional space i would have to laugh at that if they switch to ARM
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#4
cadaveca
My name is Dave
I see all of that as job creation, which would be a good thing, no? It's not like these things are impossible.. each point of "failure" just needs to have the proper investment of time and money. Apple does have the resources to do basically anything right now.
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#5
deleted
by: de.das.dude
true that they are producing CPUs, but they only managed to get an Indian company, lava to use them. Plus these cpus arent that good as i hear from people. battery life is an issue ofcourse.
Lava, Lenovo, ZTE, and Motorola all have Medfield phones. There's also the Orange San Diego, which is manufactured by Gigabyte. They're not widely available in the US because carriers don't think a phone can be competitive without LTE, but the benchmarks are quite impressive. A single core, hyperthreaded Atom is about as fast and as efficient as a dual core Snapdragon S4, and far more efficient than a quad core Cortex A9 design. The only reason Intel hasn't taken off in the mobile space is because nearly all of the designs so far have been based off of (or directly cloned from) Intel's FFRD, which is a thoroughly midrange device.

There's really no reason that x86 can't be competitive in the mobile market, and there's no reason ARM can't be competitive in the desktop market. At a given level of computing performance, all architectures tend to have roughly the same power draw and heat generation, assuming there's no blatant design problems. The reason ARM hasn't attempted to compete in the desktop space isn't because it's not capable of the same level of performance, but because it would be stupid to try to challenge Intel in a market where they're firmly entrenched, where Intel has massive market presence and backwards compatibility with most systems back to the early 90's, and ARM offers neither. The other problem with expanding to desktops is that it would disprove this mythos and ARM is infinitely more efficient than x86, when it's actually just lower-power.

Apple is the only company that can make this transition from x86 to ARM happen in the desktop space. They've already proven that the majority of their users have no issues following them through architecture changes, and they have a reason to actually do it. Intel makes nearly 40% profit on the CPUs they sell to Apple, but profits from Apple's in-house CPU design department go straight back to Apple. This allows Apple to price their computers more competitively while maintaining their profits, or (more likely) increase their profit margins substantially. The transition may not happen this generation, but it certainly isn't far off.
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#6
Inceptor
ARM may not give equal performance, even with the v8 architecture, but consider how many people use mobile devices as their primary 'personal' computing device. What I mean by 'personal' is web browsing, reference look-up on google, etc, music, videos/movies/television (youtube, itunes, googleplay, etc), light gaming...
That's all most people do, as in the vast majority of people, most of the time, as in the vast majority of the time, outside of work related computing tasks.
So, given that a 2-4 core Cortex A9 is roughly equivalent to a 1-2 core Pentium III of relatively high clocks, and this is what most people are happy with for personal use devices...
Let's extrapolate and speculate, without any data of course, and say that a 2-4 core ARMv8 cpu is somewhere in the performance envelope of a 1-2 core Pentium IV (maybe slightly more than that?)... hey, more processing power for a mobile device at the same power requirements... great for normal 'personal' use, more so than an ARMv7 cpu.

Putting ARM aside, it doesn't matter whether it is ARM or Intel Atom, small personal computing devices are more and more becoming the norm rather than the exception or the add-on purchase. And it will only continue as mobile cpu performance and mobile computing devices increase their product specs over time.
It's not that much of a risk for Apple to introduce an ARM based system as a bridge between their tablet/phone ARM devices and their x86 systems. Something like a dock to plug into one of their large displays that allows the docking of a future iPad or iPhone, plug in a keyboard, go to desktop mode... no brainer to think that one out... they're already implementing some convergence between iOS and the current version of OS/X.
A 2014+ era tablet/phone, quad core ARMv8 (or Atom for a Windows version), 4GB RAM, gpu cores capable of pushing enough pixels to handle a 4K display resolution --- all that is a reasonable expectation. The question is whether it is profitable, and that all depends on how a company like Apple structures its hardware offerings to its customers.
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#7
NC37
Apple had the pro market on RISC CPUs for over a decade. It wouldn't surprise me to see a switch back to RISC design with ARM.

I just hope this means they'll get innovative with case design again. Bring us back to pre 05 Apple, I'll be interested in getting a Mac again.
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#8
LAN_deRf_HA
This will be great for windows market share down the line. If apple machines are suddenly too weak to do heavy design work institutions will suddenly be forced to recognize all that shit can be done on the pc. Students will then be trained on pcs and encouraged to buy them. It will undo all the damage of apple's school programs. On that note God I hated that boat anchor middle school, and so did our tech guys.
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#9
turtile
It won't matter if the ARM CPUs are too slow for professional work. I highly doubt Adobe or any other company is going to look forward to rewriting all of there software!
Posted on Reply
#10
Frick
Fishfaced Nincompoop
by: NC37

I just hope this means they'll get innovative with case design again. Bring us back to pre 05 Apple, I'll be interested in getting a Mac again.
Naaaaaah. You can only do so much with a monitor with a computer in it, and I seriously doubt they'll make anything even remotely close to a desktop (not counting the Mac Pro which they say will get a phat update sooner or later afaik).
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#11
james888
How much power could you expect to see in a 3ghz quad core arm processor?
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#12
dwade
It's the other way around.
Posted on Reply
#13
Xajel
by: Kaynar
If this happens, will it still be possible to install Windows OS on Macbooks?
By that time, MS might already be working on ARM version of Windows, who knows where will ARM be at that time, maybe ARM will be the new Intel.. but a good Intel :D
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#14
james888
by: Xajel
By that time, MS might already be working on ARM version of Windows, who knows where will ARM be at that time, maybe ARM will be the new Intel.. but a good Intel :D
There is an arm version of windows...
Posted on Reply
#15
R_1
To put things in perspective - Google ditched Intel from Chromebook too. At $249 price point Celeron 867 is not an option. :laugh: Now Exynos 5 Dual has compatible performance in Chrome OS as dual core Sandy Bridge CPU. So it is possible, even now, to replace Sandy Bridge CPU with Cortex-A15 one. What about ARMv8 A57 accompanied by Rogue GPU? Apple could build super-computing cluster in MacBook Pro if that's the goal. :roll:
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#16
xenocide
I severely doubt an ARM chip has comparable performance to a dual-core SB-based CPU in all applications. Wait till the successor to Medfield comes out, it should be fun.
Posted on Reply
#17
3870x2
by: cadaveca
Sure. Apple doesn't just sell PC stuff.. they sell a "lifestyle". When the core of their users are shifting to different ways that they use their devices, it only makes sense for them to change their device design.

x86 isn't the only way to get things done, fortunately, and really, I think tech companies becoming more focused on customer experience, rather than trying to be the fastest option possible, is a really good thing.

Hardware today is barely used to it's fullest extent by anyone, except big business and engineering sort of things. The desktop, at this point, really doesn't have much place in people's homes any more, so it only makes sense for things to take a drastic change...the companies that don't, probably won't be here 10 years from now.



I think opinions like this fail the market is a huge way. Without innovation...
That is a nice i7 you have there. You can kiss that and all future enthusiast products goodbye if you are right. We are piggybacking off of the desktop market, we (enthusiasts) are not a market.
Posted on Reply
#18
james888
by: 3870x2
That is a nice i7 you have there. You can kiss that and all future enthusiast products goodbye if you are right. We are piggybacking off of the desktop market, we (enthusiasts) are not a market.
We are a market. Just not large enough market to have as many suppliers as we do now, or to have these relatively low prices we have now. High end computers will probably go up in cost and have a negative feedback loop in popularity do to the cost.
Posted on Reply
#19
3870x2
by: james888
We are a market. Just not large enough market to have as many suppliers as we do now, or to have these relatively low prices we have now. High end computers will probably go up in cost and have a negative feedback loop in popularity do to the cost.
Without the desktop CPUs being made for the general pop, we will fail. We are not a market.

There is no reason to put more money into expensive designs if only very few computer enthusiasts that are going to buy your products.

This is probably much further into the future, but I do fear the removal of the computer enthusiast market to a large degree.
Posted on Reply
#20
Inceptor
by: 3870x2
Without the desktop CPUs being made for the general pop, we will fail. We are not a market.

There is no reason to put more money into expensive designs if only very few computer enthusiasts that are going to buy your products.

This is probably much further into the future, but I do fear the removal of the computer enthusiast market to a large degree.
As you say, 'computer enthusiasts' are not a market.
In the grand scheme of things, Intel 'K' chips are a miniscule product volume within their entire processor lineup... it's the other models, the non-K i3s, i5s, Celerons, Pentiums, and i7s that make their way into the hundreds of millions of corporate desktop client systems, 'standard' consumer systems from the big OEMs, etc ... that is the market.
With gaming being increasingly dominated by consoles, especially with the new consoles being released within the next year or so, and the millions of people buying and playing games coded for their ARM devices, it's entirely possible that any 'enthusiast' system of the future (if you want it to be the best of the best and fastest possible) will be, essentially, a low end workstation.
That being said, I think that for gamers, building a custom PC with over-the-top everything, the embodiment of gratuitous conspicuous consumption, will slowly decline.
If there is less of a desktop market, in the future, there will be less custom and gratuitous 'crap' for 'enthusiasts' to ooh and ahhh about and use. If that occurs, the 'enthusiast' market will be small, niche, and utilize 1P and 2P workstation components, and be a much more expensive choice than today.
General, everyday computing will move to ARM or mobile Atom based systems.
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#21
DannibusX
Hrm. Maybe Apple is going to revamp the iPad line with an OSX powered iPad with a new ARM processor, ala Surface.

I don't see them switching from x86 on their main product lines though.
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#22
Syborfical
It would be nice to see a desktop ARM based computer come out that doesn't suck.
Has 2 sata ports and expendable ram.

Ive played with a few ACORN risc machines they where pretty snappy.From what I can gather they cane out around the same time as the 486.

Fast forward from 1995 to know.
I know for a fact 80% of users don't use there pc to the full potential or need as much processing power as they currently have.

ARM do make a nice CPU / SOC.
And apple would be able to make exactly what they want.

I wonder if Amiga would ever go arm :P
Posted on Reply
#23
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
by: newtekie1
Going ARM in the consumer market is all great and good, but I don't see Apple making that switch. Why? Because they don't just cater to the consumer market. They aren't going to get an ARM processor that can compete in their Mac Pro level of performance. In the consumer area, most Apple customers aren't going to care if there is a slight performance loss as long as the product is sleeker looking. However, in the upper end Mac Pro area, customers are definitely going to care about performance loss. In that area they aren't buying the computers for looks, they are buying them for work, for getting things done.

So the only option would be for Apple to split its desktop market in two. Because the high end machines will have to stay with x86_64 to give the performance professionals need. That would lead to two versions of OSX, an ARM version and a x86_64 version. I don't see Apple doing that. They already have to support iOS, and probably hate it.
I think they'll do it for one reason and one reason alone: money. Apple stayed with the slower IBM processors until IBM cut them off. Maybe they were cheaper, maybe not, but the important thing is that it was much cheaper to use the same instruction set than recode all their software for x86 so they didn't do it until they had no choice.

ARM, on the other hand, is undeniably cheaper. Moreover, they can design the processor to their specific needs and, like Windows 8, migrate all their software to iOS instead of Mac.

I don't think Mac Pro brings in enough money for Apple to care. They'll make up the loses there, and then some, in the reduced cost of ARM compared to x86. Most Apple users don't care about performance so they're not going to care as long as it works.
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#24
Binge
Overclocking Surrealism
Apple ditched Intel for having rectangular ICs without rounded edges.
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