Why Intel’s problem won’t be Apple’s problem

“This week, Intel announced that it was laying off 12,000 employees,” Dan Moren writes for Macworld. “If you’re not the type to keep a close eye on the industry, that might come as a surprise, but it’s been clear for a while that Intel missed the boat on the largest revolution to hit Silicon Valley in the past decade: the move to mobile.”

MacDailyNews Take: Intel didn’t just miss the boat, they missed the dock, the shore, the cab from the airport and the plane. By several years.

“This puts Apple in a peculiar position,” Moren writes. “”While the majority of devices that the company sells are now based on chips of Apple’s own design, it still has one long-running product line that relies on Intel: the Mac.”

“Given Apple’s history of switching Mac architectures roughly every 10 years — remember that for the decade before the PowerPC, the Mac ran exclusively on Motorola’s 68k processors — it seems a certainty that somewhere in Cupertino is a Mac prototype running on an ARM chip,” Moren writes. “Apple today is a much more powerful company than it was even a decade ago, so there’s no reason to believe it will be caught flat-footed should Intel no longer be capable or competitive.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Aligning, the stars are.

Think code convergence (more so than today) with UI modifications per device. A unified underlying codebase for Intel, Apple A-series, and, in Apple’s labs, likely other chips, too (just in case). This would allow for a single App Store for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users that features a mix of apps: Some that are touch-only, some that are Mac-only, and some that are universal (can run on both traditional notebooks and desktops as well as on multi-touch computers like iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and – pretty please, Apple – Apple TV). Don’t be surprised to see Apple A-series-powered Macs, either.MacDailyNews Take, January 9, 2014

There is no reason why Apple could not offer both A-series-powered Macs and Intel-based Macs. The two are not mutually exclusive.MacDailyNews, January 14, 2015

In order to build the best products, you have to own the primary technologies. Steve felt that if Apple could do that—make great products and great tools for people—they in turn would do great things. He felt strongly that this would be his contribution to the world at large. We still very much believe that. That’s still the core of this company.Apple CEO Tim Cook, March 18, 2015

SEE ALSO:
Apple’s emphasis on security makes ARM-powered Macs ‘inevitable’ – April 21, 2016

49 Comments

    1. Why do you think that, peterblood71? Apple has demonstrated excellent performance, both in terms of CPU and GPU, from its custom ARM SoCs. It is particularly good in terms of performance/power, and the architecture should be evolvable and scalable for high performance processing. ARM is entirely capable of supplanting Intel’s Core series processors in the long term.

      As far as Windows compatibility is concerned, Apple has a way of making things work. and Windows compatibility may not be nearly as important in the future as it appears to be now.

      1. It’s not important to many dedicated Mac users sure, but it’s an enticement for Windows users to bridge or “mind” the gap. And allow pro’s to use the occasional Windows-only app.

        If Apple can truly match Intel performance with multi-multi-core performance and exceed it then fine. But I don’t think we’ll be at that point for a few more years.

        As it is Apple’s been clueless about the importance of CUDA GPU acceleration on their new Mac Pro & MBP machines. This kind of omission stuff makes me doubtful. It suggests they haven’t done their due diligence, but to be honest if they had I don’t think we would have gotten a trash can MP. How about asking the very pro’s you aim to serve what they truly need first? (And this isn’t an instance of asking late 19th century people who want to travel faster what they want and they respond “a faster horse” instead of a car.) A heavy duty truck with lots of options is what we need!

          1. Peter, except you are forgetting one thing in Intel’s announcement – their description of their future roadmap – which is cloud computing – not desktop computing. Why is the shadow king of desktop computing abandoning desktop computing? Because there is not future there.

            If you understand this you can see the tea leaves that show the demise of the PC desktop and the x86 processor. Those will all but disappear, except for niche pro markets (a very small segment) the whole PC landscape changes and the old computing model is long gone.

            I remember when main-frame computing ran into this same type of technology change, granted I was quite young, but I do remember it. Main-frame computing didn’t completely disappear, it just went to specialized niches. The desktop pro market will do the same.

            Welcome to the brave new world. The latest computer revolution! I would like to point out to anyone not keeping score: Apple led the personal computer revolution with the Apple II. Apple is now leading the mobile computing revolution with the iPhone and other iDevices.

            Do not underestimate Apple. Even if you don’t like them.

            1. I would think even if Intel has their roadmap for cloud computing it would be very bad for them to ignore the client side processors that would interface with their cloud side.. Just as Apple controls a large part of their ecosystem, I would expect Intel to have good control of both HW ends of the cloud computing experience.

            2. Try and tell that to my fellow visual effects professionals. Desktop is not going anywhere soon. And I love Apple but I also have pro needs that need to be properly filled. Cloud computing won’t solve every need.

            3. Perfectly stated. In computing it’s a continual brave new world. In my long career, I’ve had to adapt to cruel exigencies over and over again. It’s uncanny how like Life this industry is—so enriching, so giving, yet seasonal and temporal, and subject to termination without notice, and never offering any guarantees. Lock in that 401K.

      1. It’s inevitable. It will be upon us sooner than you think. Intel is not an omnipotent entity. It’s just a company. Apple will merely overlap the use-case and mission of their chip design team. It’s not magic, it’s allocation of funds and necessity.

          1. Yeah you’ve made up your mind a long time ago based upon old ideas. But it’s just the beginning of a new era.
            The good news is that old ideas die and are buried. You’re about there.

      2. Please folks. iCal my now two years of pointing out that Macs will NEVER go to ARM. Then come crawling to my well-manicured feet and tell me: “You told us so!” 😉

        I’ve also told everyone to go and research CISC vs RISC CPUs for themselves to comprehend the biggest reason why it will never happen. Then look up virtualization. Then look up all the APIs and x86 specific CPU features that are NOT on ARM CPUs, all of which OS X is dependent upon. On and on. And you’ll relent.

  1. Switching to Intel saved the Mac. Without boot camp and the rise of Parallels/VMware, Macs wouldn’t have the footprint they have today (and I would be forced to use a PC. That said, as long as that “compatibility” remains, go for it!

    1. I’ve never believed that it needs to be an either/or situation. There is no reason why Apple couldn’t introduce ARM Macs for those that want them and still produce Intel Macs for those with other requirements.

      Many of us have no use for Intel compatibility, so wouldn’t have any problem switching to ARM powered Macs. The reduced costs for such computers could open up an entirely new market opportunity for Apple.

      1. I think it’s either/or because that’s what Apple usually does. Once they make a decision, they’re going to align the company to that. While there may be a transition time, just like PowerPC to Intel, the day for Intel will be near done once the call is made.

        1. All this talk makes it sounds as if Intel is doomed if Apple no longer has need of their CPUs in Macs.. Intel’s major profit is not from PC semiconductors (though that is what they are relatively known for), but semiconductors that go into everything else that requires computing power from home electronics, appliances, cars and toys,

    2. Coincidence is not causality. The Mac has been on a tear relative to the rest of the PC market for a very long time. Somewhere along the way they transitioned the hardware from PowerPC to Intel for better power per watt performance. That is not the sole reason for the growth of the Mac.

          1. All true, but doesn’t change the fact that Intel is working itself out of the x86, Wintel industry. That is what they announced. DO you all understand the implications of that? They basically announced the death of the Wintel platform. So while getting the Mac into Intel saved it, the future is not the Wintel platform. I predict that it is the ARM/cloud platform. Apple has a good lead on that one, when the rest of the industry starts to catch up, ditching Wintel on the desktop will be a no brainer for all parties.

            1. Intel is definitely not “working itself out of the x86 Wintel industry.” They are just focusing less on the Windows part of it. That will still be a $mega-billion industry.
              They announced a bigger focus on cloud computing. Guess what processor they use there? x86 — and typically Xeons. This may actually speed the migration of many-core Xeon processors into desktop machines.

            2. All things must pass but I don’t think Intel will be losing their x86 business anytime soon. Maybe in another 5-10 years. Apple is definitely headed toward it’s own CPU solutions for non-mobile devices (already exists for mobile devices of course).

  2. My primary interest in the mac is because its x86 based.
    I have no interest in an A Series mac.
    If they ever do go that route I hope they keep offering an x86 version.

    1. It is unclear why you seem so attached to an x86-based processor architecture that was designed and evolved for Windows. The Mac OS did not even run natively on x86 processors until a little over a decade ago.

      Personally, I have a great deal of interest in the A series processors. The ARM-based A series may just represent the successful implementation of RISC that failed to materialize from the PPC CPUs from the old ARM alliance (irony in the acronym for the old consortium?!).

      1. I like the fact that I can run different operating systems on my MBP without needing emulation.

        I routinely need to go between OS X, Windows and Linux. The Mac is the best option.

        If they go A Series I’ll have to look elsewhere I guess.

    2. Stick with x86 as long as you like, but did you read the Intel announcement? The makers of the x86 desktop processor are basically ditching it in the future. They are moving to the cloud. At some point you will ditch it too, because it will not be around in any appreciable quantity or support.

  3. I can just see iPads becoming more computer like in their Pro versions so that from the bottom up they start to absorb the lower echelons of the MacOS territory as most of those users wouldn’t notice the difference for the most part. Where it goes from there will no doubt be dictated by events and success thereafter.

      1. Yes, and the rest will be handled in the cloud. Most folks can’t see it as they have never bluetoothed a keyboard to an iPad or iPhone. Once you try that you can see a future where your computer stays in your pocket/briefcase and your desk just holds a big monitor, keyboard, and mouse/trackpad and any heavy computing/massive storage occurs in the cloud. Corporate cloud, private cloud, or “public” Google cloud (and the like.)

  4. …it seems a certainty that…

    That’s nice. But no ARM Macs. Dead issue. It’s a rumor based on technology illiteracy. I wish the rumor mongers would bother to actually research the feasibility of their fiction.

    1. Derek, read the Intel announcement. Intel on the desktop has started the death march. Intel themselves announced it in stating that their future is cloud computing – not desktop computing. x86 is a senior citizen, ARM is a teenager. x86’s days are numbered. ARM won’t last forever, but it will long outlast x86. Which is good for us as ARM is superior technology, you will not miss x86.

      1. If Intel on the desktop is really in a death march, that bodes poorly for the future of Macs. Oh and Windows! – – Considering the still large installer base of desktop/laptop computers requiring x86 chips, if this is a death march, it’s trudging along to an extremely slow dirge. Someone (AMD?) if not Intel will pick up the manufacturing and distribution of x86 CPUs.

        What’s amusing, looking at my personal history, is how I was a RISC fanatic back in the 1990s and was none too pleased that IBM fscked-up the future of PowerPC. (I’ll skip the nightmare scenario). Apple had no other choice but going Intel. Very disagreeable times. – – And now Macs are stuck with x86, specifically because of their dependence on all the x86 APIs and CPU features that are NOT available for ARM CPUs. – -But I’m starting to yawn over this stupid dead meme again. 💤💤

  5. Windows compatibility is becoming more and more of a niche option. Windows on the consumer end is coming to an end so it’s less and less significant to anyone but old-timers who are coming to an end themselves.

  6. Windows PCs shipped last year: 283 million
    Macs shipped last year: 21 million

    Yeah, 283 million makes it a “niche.” –NOT!!!
    WTF are you talking about?

    1. Not all ‘Windows PCs’ are built on Intel ‘engines’ – AMD & nVidia as well, Google and their cheap Chromebook units (the latter, I realize doesn’t run Windows) — not only are both producing CPUs, but AMD’s “APU” and nVidia’s Tegra architecture used on these ‘NUCs’, Windows mobile devices powered by Quallcomm, and the refinement of smaller scale silicon and their respective nodes/TDP constraints, Intel is late …but doing a helluva job playing catch up.
      Working WITH Apple, their iGPUs have taken the left seat over the last ½ decade to the CPU “power” we aLL ‘think’ we need. Along with the proliferation of solid state storage and its orders of magnitude increases in both R/W speed/performance and reliability/dependability – the lack of multiple thread programming and excellent speeds and reliability of the whole ‘Sandy/Ivy/Broad&Haswell/Skylake core ‘i3/5/7’ architecture line’s stagnation isn’t a bottleneck – they’re incredibly powerful as they stand. Graphic performance without 250-500watt SLI/Crossfire headaches but paritied performance is ‘the race’ Intel HAS to win to remain in the game. Heritage software is only good for do long, before being passed up by even ‘mobile’ apps/software options
      As much as I loved playing Ultimate I, II, III & IV on my IIe (& long for a Lord British ‘family?’ resurrection), or preferred Aperture as my digital photography tool of choice, change happens. And today, 90+% of the population would be perfectly fine with that latest iPad, Note 12.2AXv3, or LG, Sony, fill in your favorite $200+ tablet name here …as email, messages, photos and video management/digestion, …ALL media; from magazine subscriptions to the New York Times best selling fiction or non, podcast or YouTube videos, music/blockbusters/surfing and farting around the ‘net …it’s all ‘most’ ever did, with the occasional and/or gaming only systems …& gaming on tablets & phones has built and sustained a third party of development, games being a monster, if you happen to become the new ‘Rovio’ 😉
      Point being, 4GB of RAM. 256 GB SS NAND, 1440P/4K displays, always ‘on’ and always ‘connected’ with 10, 12, 16 hours away from 110v? In a one pound, ½ pound package?
      I’m 44 and envious of the youngsters. This is Star Trek sh%# IMHO, as it sure doesn’t seem like a long time’s passed since we carried our HDDs as a 3.5″ or 5 ¼” floppy, booting to our ‘app’ from a command line;)

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