How Apple could build the dominant computing platform

“Computer processors keep on shrinking, which improves their power and reduces their energy needs and costs. In the not too distant future, this means full PC power in your mobile phone, which could be seamless from your tablet/PC experience,” Shareholders Unite write for Seeking Alpha. “However, we’re not there yet, and there are awkward trade-offs and compromises involving different types of processors and operating systems in the meantime…. Apple (AAPL) is best positioned to eliminate these trade-offs and compromises and arrive first at a unified computing platform.”

“Apple ould have a serious headstart here. Take not of the fact that according to Bloomberg, Apple is seriously considering ditching Intel processors in favor of ARM based ones even for its iMacs,” Shareholders Unite write. “With the coming 64-bit architecture for the ARM based platform, memory limits (the 32-bit chips limit RAM to 4GB) will be a thing of the past. Apple has a long-standing relation with ARM going back to the 1980s and at one stage owned over 40% of the company. Moving to ARM based chips would give Apple, which has heavily invested in chip design capabilities lately, more freedom to design chips according to its own specifications, giving it a leg up versus the competition… Apple pays under $20 for its A6 processor, compare that to Intel processors, a low end Core i3 starts at $117.”

Shareholders Unite write, “Apple could be moving to a single operating system, combined with its own designed chips that go into every Apple device. This would not only give the company a unified space for mobile, tablets, and PC’s, it would create a seamless consumer experience, and doing so at a significant cost advantage… Apple’s lead could be difficult to overcome, at least in the consumer space.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple already has built the dominant computing platform. Apple is, by far, the #1 computer maker on earth.

Related articles:
Apple by far the largest computer maker on the planet when tablets and smartphones are counted – August 28, 2012
Gartner: Apple became the world’s #1 semiconductor buyer in 2011 – March 23, 2012
Apple: The world’s #1 mobile computing company – October 19, 2011

28 Comments

  1. Personally I think Apple moving their desktop line to ARM is inevitable.

    This article is spot on, the move to a completely unified architecture is clearly the way to go. 64 bit ARM chips will be blazing fast, I bet Apple already have iOS/OS X running on some pre-release 64 bit ARM chips.

    Another big piece of the puzzle is Jony Ive is now in charge of HI, which, in my opinion, is the equivalent of having the final say on every aspect of Apple products, and we all know how highly SJ regarded Jony (even though he does say aluminium funny).

    Apple have moved architectures twice previously, they know what to do in order to make this as seamless as possible.

            1. They never said it required the same processor platform. The reason to unify processor platforms is for cost and flexibility. Plus it would make it nearly impossible to copy Apple.

  2. These analysts are not thinking clearly. It’s as if Apple’s hardware can ONLY run on one processor type. It would be a mistake to abandon Intel entirely and switch completely to Apple’s own “ARM-based” CPUs.

    Apple’s chips are extremely efficient in power usage. They belong in devices that are highly mobile and run off battery power. So, I can see MacBook Air using Apple’s A-chips at some point, probably when they are quad-core and 64-bit. This transition may be followed by MacBook Pro, as the chips continue to advance. Maybe Mac mini will also follow, and shrink to the size of Apple TV.

    However, Intel’s chips are extremely powerful. They belong in devices that are mostly stationary (less size/weight constraints) and have an essentially unlimited power source (no battery power). It is unlikely that Apple will be able to surpass Intel (at least in the next five years) on pure processing power. Desktop Macs should keep using Intel indefinitely. Maybe MacBook Pro should remain with Intel, and that can be the key differentiation between “Air” and “Pro.”

    The PowerPC to Intel transition made sense because PowerPC was failing behind, and both PowerPC and Intel chips were used in the same type of devices (laptop and desktop Macs). It would have been dumb to maintain both types of processors. BUT there is no need for an Intel to Apple/ARM transition. One is best-suited for mobile devices where efficiency is most critical. The other is best-suited for devices where processing power is most critical. Each has a separate purpose and strength.

    Mac OS X ran on both Intel and PowerPC hardware for Tiger and Leopard, and it was transparent for users. And Apple’s development tools made it mostly seamless for developers, to create “universal” apps. It will not be a problem to support both Intel and Apple/ARM CPUs indefinitely, as long as there is a good reason to do it. If Apple’s technical development actually surpasses Intel in BOTH efficiency and processing power, that would be an amazing accomplishment. THEN, Apple can consider a full transition to its own chips. But that’s not going to happen any time soon…

    1. You’re right that the analysts are not thinking clearly and that the chip architecture question is not an either/or. Mac OS X (or its successor) should be able to be run on any of the popular chip architectures. However, I think that you may be overlooking a critical point with Intel. They do lead today and will continue to lead in terms of processing power, but efficiency (in terms of power usage) will inevitably become a critical factor as the worldwide demand for energy and power go up. It’s like cars. Eight cylinder, 10 mpg cars were popular when gas was cheap, but people factor in gas mileage now when they buy a car.

      1. Intel is not standing still either. They may not be able to match Apple in pure efficiency for mobile devices, but their chips will also become more power efficient over time. Look at the current Mac mini, which uses Intel. At idle, it uses 11W, which is less then a typical energy-efficient fluorescent light bulb. It will only get better from there…

  3. Wow, I had no idea that it was that simple. Apple must be full of very stupid engineers and managers to overlook this. It make you wonder how they got this far without the genius of ‘Shareholders Unite’.

  4. Apple is clearly not an aggressive company so it will never hold any sort of dominant position for any length of time. Apple has already thrown away any chance of dominance in the smartphone industry and soon the tablet industry. ARM-powered computers won’t be any diffferent.

    Apple just lets lesser companies walk right up and steal their balls away. Apple’s manufacturing capabilities are woefully inadequate to compete against companies that are willing to do anything to sell more products than Apple. By now, Apple should have been easily able to produce 80 million iPhones a year. Companies with far less money than Apple would have willingly gone into debt to get enough production up and running at full speed.

    Samsung is capable of spitting out smartphones like an AK-47 spits out bullets while Apple is using some 1700’s single shot dueling pistol. Seriously, most companies can manage dozens of models of smartphones while Apple is having trouble just managing one single model. That’s really no way to run a company that has to rely on only one model smartphone.

    If Apple were to come out with iOS ARM-powered desktops, Samsung would duplicate them instantly and sell it for much less and the next thing you’d hear is that Samsung owns the Android ARM-powered desktop market and is selling twice as many desktops as Apple is. That’s how it looks to be played out.

    1. Most of those ‘smartphones’ are glorified feature phones, and are cheap plastic crap. Who cares how many they can churn out; people who buy them would never buy an iPhone because they either see no need, or can’t afford one. Even a dimwit like you out to be able to see that, just try asking all the people you know.
      Or don’t you want to, because the answer you’ll get will blow your argument out of the water?

  5. Moving the user interfaces to more commonality is likely a good thing for users. That has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CHIPS. I’m sure AAPL will continue to match: battery, screen, processor, I/O ports, to optimize the specific platform.

    1. I would say chips do matter because they allow Apple more control over what the chips can do and their power efficiency. For example the instant on capability of the iPad is an important feature and is part of the advantage of going to ARM and having control over the chips.

      1. The casual consumer loves the instant on feature, and that alone sells a lot of units. Simplicity and ease of use are golden in an age of increasingly unendurable complexity.

  6. “Apple already has built the dominant computing platform. Apple is, by far, the #1 computer maker on earth.”
    Hardly
    Almost every computerized thing you use or serves your life daily is using either Windows (embedded or some CE variant), Desktop Windows or LINUX with a few UNIX machines. Start counting up all computing devices and it all goes the other way.

  7. What have I been saying? MDN is dead wrong in declaring Apple as a computer maker. According to MDN’s chosen hero, Apple is a mobile device company who missed the opportunity to become the dominant computer maker by giving up just when corporate and government buyers were about to switch. But, no more MacPros – just iMacs which don’t meet the IT test in corporate and government offices. So, it’s a desperate phones, pods, and pads world and that, according to Wall Street, has run its course. AAPL headed for 300 range and never to see 700 again.

  8. Um sure apple have been running a version of Osx on arm for a while now. When it makes sense.

    In another note thanks for making this the first non political topic for the longest time. Cheers.

  9. Wait, “dominant” would imply that Apple has a consumer desktop model available, right? Oh, wait, they DON’T. Currently you cannot purchase an iMac. No biggie…

  10. You are RIGHT!! you cannot go to apple.com and buy or even order an iMac right now.

    The flagship product is NOT for sale. Steve would have fired an entire wing of the campus for this.

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