Thursday, June 25th 2020

Bad Intel Quality Assurance Responsible for Apple-Intel Split?

Apple's decision to switch from Intel processors for its Mac computers to its own, based on the Arm architecture, has shaken up the tech world, even though rumors of the transition have been doing rounds for months. Intel's first official response, coupled with facts such as Intel's CPU technology execution being thrown completely off gear due to foundry problems; pointed toward the likelihood of Intel not being able to keep up with Apple's growing performance/Watt demands. It turns out now, that Intel's reasons are a lot more basic, and date back to 2016.

According to a sensational PC Gamer report citing former Intel principal engineer François Piednoël, Apple's dissatisfaction with Intel dates back to some of its first 14 nm chips, based on the "Skylake" microarchitecture. "The quality assurance of Skylake was more than a problem," says Piednoël. It was abnormally bad. We were getting way too much citing for little things inside Skylake. Basically our buddies at Apple became the number one filer of problems in the architecture. And that went really, really bad. When your customer starts finding almost as much bugs as you found yourself, you're not leading into the right place," he adds.
It was around that time that decisions were taken at the highest levels in Apple to execute a machine architecture switch away from Intel and x86, the second of its kind following Apple's mid-2000s switch from PowerPC to Intel x86. For me this is the inflection point," says Piednoël. "This is where the Apple guys who were always contemplating to switch, they went and looked at it and said: 'Well, we've probably got to do it.' Basically the bad quality assurance of Skylake is responsible for them to actually go away from the platform." Apple's decision to dump Intel may have only been more precipitated with 2019 marking a string of cybersecurity flaws affecting Intel microarchitectures. The PC Gamer report cautions that Piednoël's comments should be taken with a pinch of salt, as he has been among the more outspoken engineers at Intel.Image Courtesy: ComputerWorld
Source: PC Gamer
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81 Comments on Bad Intel Quality Assurance Responsible for Apple-Intel Split?

#1
davideneco
"citing former Intel principal engineer François Piednoël"
Fake news so
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#2
Fourstaff
Its interesting how you can still buy an iMac for $1299.
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#3
AnarchoPrimitiv
Too bad they didn't go to AMD.... And I say this because I want AMD to reach 50% market share in x86 before Intel strikes back to better ensure that the newfound competition we all enjoy isn't a finite resource
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#4
R0H1T
We've heard similar horror stories about Icelake, it isn't just their leading nodes (fabs) that's an issue these days!
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#6
R0H1T
Nope, I'd say the conclusions from this (PC Gamer) piece sound sensationalist at least to me.
btarunr
It was around that time that decisions were taken at the highest levels in Apple to execute a machine architecture switch away from Intel and x86
Apple was always going ARM no matter what Intel did. They probably already achieved near parity in terms of perf/w with Intel's best chips for workloads under 10W about 4 or 5 years back, so it was always a matter of when not if regardless of SKL.
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#7
Darmok N Jalad
Well if the issues started with Skylake, and then we had years of Skylake refreshes, no wonder Apple went their own way. Apple couldn’t really refresh the Mac lineup much with such iterative changes. I think Zen 4000 was what Apple was looking for, it was just too late to the party. Zen 3000 mobile just didn’t have enough efficiency.
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#8
Chomiq
AnarchoPrimitiv
Too bad they didn't go to AMD.... And I say this because I want AMD to reach 50% market share in x86 before Intel strikes back to better ensure that the newfound competition we all enjoy isn't a finite resource
Nope, they made their own advances in ARM optimization so they want to use it to benefit the desktop line. When iPad pro performs better than iMac in Adobe suit you know something's wrong.
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#9
sepheronx
Chomiq
Nope, they made their own advances in ARM optimization so they want to use it to benefit the desktop line. When iPad pro performs better than iMac in Adobe suit you know something's wrong.
But is that the case? I mean, I cant believe that ARM processor would outdo the x86 in such a task. But I may be wrong. I just need some kind of evidence of it though.
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#10
john_
If that was the truth, Apple would have gone AMD for desktop models from 2018 and for laptops from this year, while getting ready for the final ARM transition anyway. If Skylake was that bad and considering the performance of Ryzen 2000 and Threadripper models, Apple would have already gone AMD.
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#11
edbe
Darmok N Jalad
Well if the issues started with Skylake, and then we had years of Skylake refreshes, no wonder Apple went their own way. Apple couldn’t really refresh the Mac lineup much with such iterative changes. I think Zen 4000 was what Apple was looking for, it was just too late to the party. Zen 3000 mobile just didn’t have enough efficiency.
I agree, but what will make AMD stronger it will be the apu 5000 5nm+ with ddr5 8400mhz/pcix5/sata4/usb4 at maybe 5watt tdp maximum 10watt and not like example apu 4000 series like 4500U where 15watt is maximum but it can go up till 27watt. This is not good as it should be 15watt maximum of the maximum but AMD has failed for me with the 4000 series so i will wait for the 5000 series APU.
And Intel they won't catch up anymore the big bang in cpu race has started and the main players will be ARM Aarch64 vs AMD x86 or Windows 10 ARM64 vs Windows 10 x64.
Intel will still sell for people who are fans or don't know about real things.
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#12
Gungar
R0H1T
Nope, I'd say the conclusions from this (PC Gamer) piece sound sensationalist at least to me.
Apple was always going ARM no matter what Intel did. They probably already achieved near parity in terms of perf/w with Intel's best chips for workloads under 10W about 4 or 5 years back, so it was always a matter of when not if regardless of SKL.
Yeap just another clickbait article.
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#13
3rold
Fourstaff
Its interesting how you can still buy an iMac for $1299.
even more interesting is that it still comes with an HDD
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#14
Houd.ini
davideneco
"citing former Intel principal engineer François Piednoël"
Fake news so
The guy is very real, I remember him from the Xtremesystems forums from around 2010, I have no problem believing this.
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#16
qcmadness
An excuse only.
Apple is preparing this for at least 5 years.
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#17
zlobby
Stop, it's already dead!
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#18
claes
Yeah can’t imagine this was the case — didn’t Apple start to hint at a “modular Mac Pro” around the same time as Skylake? Seems like an architecture that makes you rethink your architecture is a bad time to build a flagship product based on said architecture.
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#19
Valantar
davideneco
"citing former Intel principal engineer François Piednoël"
Fake news so
... so it's "fake news" because it is sourced from someone who at the time was perfectly positioned to have access to this information? Yeah, sorry, your logic doesn't hold there. You seem to be implying that former employee = disgruntled former employee, which is nonsense. There is no reason to suspect Piednoel to hold any grudge towards his former employer; he quit on his own volition and has no history of criticizing them previously.

I really wish people would stop abusing the term "fake news".
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#20
TheLostSwede
davideneco
"citing former Intel principal engineer François Piednoël"
Fake news so
Huh? Do you even know François? I mean, he's a character, but I think he knows his shit, at least based on the times I've met him and talked to him.
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#21
R0H1T
edbe
Well if the issues started with Skylake, and then we had years of Skylake refreshes, no wonder Apple went their own way. Apple couldn’t really refresh the Mac lineup much with such iterative changes. I think Zen 4000 was what Apple was looking for, it was just too late to the party. Zen 3000 mobile just didn’t have enough efficiency.
AMD was pretty close to Intel in terms of efficiency even at 14/12nm & again I'll reiterate Apple was always going to go ARM no matter if Intel actually pulled off their 7nm this year! The margins/profits are way too much for Apple to let go of this opportunity, Intel may have delayed it by a year or two at best.
www.anandtech.com/show/15881/amd-succeeds-in-its-25x20-goal-renoir-zen2-vega-crosses-the-line-in-2020

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#22
TheLostSwede
Chomiq
Nope, they made their own advances in ARM optimization so they want to use it to benefit the desktop line. When iPad pro performs better than iMac in Adobe suit you know something's wrong.
One tricky thing with ARM processors is that they rely a LOT on "outside" processing. I.e. you have have a lot of sub-processors/accelerators that handle things. This might work well for Apple, as they control the OS as well, but this is why, imho, Microsoft is having issues with Windows on ARM.
Beyond the GPU, you have things like media encoders/decoders (ARM processors aren't great at doing software video decoding and are even worse at encoding), network accelerators, crypto accelerators, etc. I mean, Apple provided a great example of this themselves.



This is sort of the core advantage of x86/x64, the CPU cores are a lot more multi-purpose and can process a lot of different data "better" than ARM cores. Obviously some of this comes down to software optimisation and some to pure raw GHz, as most ARM SoCs are still clocked far slower than the equivalent x86/x64 parts. However, as power efficient as ARM processors are, there are a lot of things they're unlikely to overtake the x86/x64 processors in doing, at least not in the foreseeable future.

Relying on accelerators/co-processors does have some advantages as well, as you can fairly easily swap out one IP block for another and have a slightly different SKU. I'm not sure this fits the Apple business model though. I guess they could also re-purpose a lot of the IP blocks between different SoC SKUs. The downside is as pointed out above, that if your SoC lacks an accelerator for something, you simply can't do it. Take Google's VP9 for example. It can quite easily be software decoded on an x86/x64 system, whereas on ARM based systems, you simply can't use it, unless you have a built in decoder specifically for that codec.

This also makes for far more complex SoCs and if one of these sub-processors fail, you have a dud chip, as you can't bin chips as a lower SKU if say the crypto accelerator doesn't work.

It's going to be interesting to see where Apple ends up, but personally I think this will be a slow transition that will take longer than they have said.
It'll also highly depend on Apple's customers, as I can't imagine everyone will be happy about this transition, especially those that dual boot and need access to Windows or another OS at times.
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#23
Darmok N Jalad
R0H1T
AMD was pretty close to Intel in terms of efficiency even at 14/12nm & again I'll reiterate Apple was always going to go ARM no matter if Intel actually pulled off their 7nm this year! The margins/profits are way too much for Apple to let go of this opportunity, Intel may have delayed it by a year or two at best.
www.anandtech.com/show/15881/amd-succeeds-in-its-25x20-goal-renoir-zen2-vega-crosses-the-line-in-2020


I’m talking mobile, not desktop. Before Zen 2, Ryzen scaled down rather poorly to mobile, with Intel being better at idle. Compare the 2 Surface Books and the Intel version did way better than the AMD version in terms of battery life.



That’s not to say you aren’t right that Apple decided to go their own way anyway, but Apple has always sought good battery life in their mobile products, and building their own architecture was something they could afford to do.
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#24
Assimilator
This sounds more to me like Apple has been building a justification for its move to ARM from basically the moment it switched away from PPC. Which lends even more credence to my theory that Apple has been planning this switch for a very, very long time. That gels well with Apple's China-like method of market domination: make intricate long-term plans, don't tell anyone about them, execute them flawlessly, and only reveal them when they're so far along nothing can be done to stop them.
john_
If that was the truth, Apple would have gone AMD for desktop models from 2018 and for laptops from this year, while getting ready for the final ARM transition anyway. If Skylake was that bad and considering the performance of Ryzen 2000 and Threadripper models, Apple would have already gone AMD.
There also almost certainly was a watertight agreement between Apple and Intel regarding sourcing of CPUs only from the latter.

But regardless, the push to ARM meant Apple would never even have given AMD a look. And even if they didn't have ARM at all and AMD was the top dog in performance, they still likely wouldn't have given AMD a look, because they'd have had to figure out how to integrate AMD's CPUs and chipsets into their Macs, which given AMD's terribly lacking support infrastructure for integration, would have been an absolute nightmare.

So no, AMD never had a chance.
Chomiq
www.tomsguide.com/us/new-ipad-pro-benchmarks,news-28453.html
Oh hey look, it's another article based on useless synthetic S**tbench 4 results, which means it's idiotic clickbait that should be ignored.
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#25
Vayra86
Not at all because of bad Intel quality.

Apple just thought it could do more with less. Intel chips on x86 are not the epitome of efficiency. The world and especially mobile is asking for high efficiency. Fixed devices are becoming more mobile and the desire for smaller and varied form factors is a push that is still going on.

Developments on x86 are not moving in that direction - it is even getting harder to keep small devices cool and quiet AND performant within the niche Apple is looking for.

AMD cannot offer that either. This is a long term strategic move, Intel is just a supplier.
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