Why Apple is winning the silicon race

“Apple has long attracted some of the biggest, brightest silicon talent in the industry. So, if accurate, this comes as no surprise: ‘Apple has a secret in Washington County. They’ve hired close to two-dozen people in a hardware engineering lab there, raiding Intel and other Oregon tech employers for a variety of roles, according to job postings, social media profiles and an individual familiar with Apple’s recruiting efforts,'” Rene Ritchie writes for iMore. “Simply put, for the reasons elaborated on below, from the best up-and-comers to legends in the field, the environment Apple offers is compelling. Probably especially so now that Intel is hurting post 14-nanometer.”

“In 2010, Apple launched the iPad with A4, the companies first in-house system-on-a-chip (SoC). In 2012, Apple shifted from licensing the ARM design to licensing the ARM instruction set, making A6 the first Apple designed SoC,” Ritchie writes. “In 2013, the Apple A7 was the first 64-bit mobile processor. It caught everyone from Qualcomm to Samsung not just flat footed but flabbergasted and, in many ways, they’re still struggling to catch up.”

“In 2016, Apple A10 Fusion still mopped the floor with both the Samsung Exynos 8895 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 found in the Galaxy S8 when it came to single-threaded operations,” Ritchie writes. “Apple had obviously seen the value in over-delivering on single threaded operations and it shows. For things like interface and interactions, that’s often the bottleneck. No matter how fast modern chipsets can swap, if the experience feels slow then the phone feels slow. In other words, it’s really no mystery why iPhone scrolls better and feels more responsive than anything else on the market — monstrous single-threaded processing enables it to.”

“Apple’s platform technologies team doesn’t have to worry about being hobbled or constrained in any way — all they have to do is run iOS and iOS apps faster than anything else on the planet. That’s their only customer,” Ritchie writes. “It makes for an incredibly appealing work environment for legends of the industry and the best and brightest new minds, a startling number of whom have now found a home at Apple. It’s a dream job that doesn’t just let them dream but actively encourages them make those dreams into a reality.”

Much more in the full article – highly recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: As we just wrote:

Imagine, after being stuck toiling on x86 for umpteen years, finally being able to work on something powerful, modern, and efficient. That sentiment goes for the former Intel employees nearly as much as for portable Mac users.

Apple poaches Intel employees for secret Oregon engineering lab – May 31, 2018
How Apple might approach an ARM-based Mac – May 30, 2018
Pegatron said to assemble Apple’s upcoming ‘ARM-based MacBook’ codenamed ‘Star’ – May 29, 2018
Intel 10nm Cannon Lake delays push MacBook Pro with potential 32GB RAM into 2019 – April 27, 2018
Why the next Mac processor transition won’t be like the last two – April 4, 2018
Apple’s ‘Kalamata’ project will move Macs from Intel to Apple A-series processors – April 2, 2018
Apple plans on dumping Intel for its own chips in Macs as early as 2020 – April 2, 2018
Apple is working to unite iOS and macOS; will they standardize their chip platform next? – December 21, 2017
Why Apple would want to unify iOS and Mac apps in 2018 – December 20, 2017
Apple to provide tool for developers build cross-platform apps that run on iOS and macOS in 2018 – December 20, 2017
The once and future OS for Apple – December 8, 2017
Apple ships more microprocessors than Intel – October 2, 2017
Apple embarrasses Intel – June 14, 2017
Apple developing new chip for Macintosh in test of Intel independence – February 1, 2017
Apple’s A10 Fusion chip ‘blows away the competition,’ could easily power MacBook Air – Linley Group – October 21, 2016


  1. I’m all for faster chips and better ways of doing things as long it doesn’t make expensive computers that should have a 5-7 year life span suddenly outmoded and unsupported overnight.

    x86 has certainly outstayed it’s welcome becoming mired in Moore’s Law difficulties, and it’s inevitable. All things must eventually pass or metamorphosis into something much progressively better.

    1. Apple products have never been unsupported within that timeframe, no matter what processor transitions Apple has made over the years. Apple obsolescence is driven by constantly changing ports that make investments in peripherals difficult.

      1. Let us hope. The problems with chip transitions go beyond just Apple. I know what you mean about ports having perfectly good audio Firewire peripherals. There is a point where the technology has already been advanced to accommodate technologies, certainly with sound. This is why a PC Workstation is a great allure since all the legacy ports can easily be installed. No dongles required.

      2. Most of Apple’s port transitions in recent times were to support the PC Dinosaur, one being firewire which was dropped for the Intel/MS market, and the 30 pin interface was also dropped for the same reason. Performance had nothing to do with it.

      3. Apple… and actually no one… can currently ship a laptop using a mobile processor that uses LPDDR4 memory. Part of it is about not sucking your battery down on standby, yeah, but LPDDR4 is also 30% faster memory than LDDR4 and allows 32G of memory. Intel is currently shipping a LOW END mobile processor. They won’t be shipping the high end until next year. MAYBE. 🙂 They’ve slipped on their timelines before.

  2. Very nice article! It clearly and succinctly explains Apple’s silicon strategy and why the iPhone continues to be so successful despite the decade-long copy and extinguish effort by Apple’s competitors.

    This is the type of insight that Apple insiders – most of the people on this forum – figured out many years ago. Most of the pundits and analysts, however, still fail to comprehend its importance.

    In the end, the custom A-series silicon serves to advance the two aspects that Steve Jobs valued above all – a superior user experience and providing the power to enable people to explore their passions. When a company like Apple makes a compelling portable computing device that is highly capable and flexible, is it any wonder that the majority of people love it and prefer it over the competition?

    1. The only way Apple can rise above the rest is controlling the hardware and software and designing those same critical elements to differentiate, which they have done. They are now beginning to pull away since others don’t have this luxury. Leaving others in the dust is the goal. Let’s hope they keep up with software innovation too.

      1. CPUs and computers may get faster but as long as humans don’t get faster there will come a time when other processors will be fast enough for the huge majority.

  3. I live in the heart of Washington County (born and raised). One thing you have going with Intel employee’s – lifers if you will – is they have pretty much brainwashed themselves that their tech is the best. Not all, but close to all, universally H A T E Apple.

    When at a social event or the like, and asking those Intel-its why they don’t use an iPhone, or are wearing a gargantuan stupid looking watch, their answers that come from from some prehistoric age of the 80’s. They say things like “Yah, I don’t like being locked into propriety technology without choice.” I then will ask something snarky like “How many watch faces and configurations can you perform on your watch? Can you put your boarding pass on that?” You know, something to show them how stupid they are.

    Or, I’ll play Columbo and ask questions about security with texting, etc…

    Their response will be akin to a non-thinking bloke who just spouts off what they’ve heard “I have nothing to hide.” To which I say “Can I have your phone? I mean, unlock it and give it to me for about 15 minutes…” or “Do you lock your home when you leave?” No one wants anyone rifling through their stuff, let alone selling it and profiting from your behaviors and life. But they tell me it’s just fine until put to the test… Morons that can’t even be intellectually honest for 5 seconds.

    These are the same people that are on twitter, facebook, you name it – Intel people, who don’t seem to care about anything in life but their Intel stock price. Privacy, logical arguments, ethics, many I know don’t really care. Again, they say they do, but they sure don’t live or work like it.

    And make no mistake. Intel is a culture. It’s arrogant, if not brainwashed, and if why AMD blindsided them with 64-bit processors, why Apple is crushing them in mobile and, and, and…

    Apple won’t poach many from the older class just riding out the game until their Pension fully materializes and they can retire. And they won’t poach many newbies, as they are trying to make a splash in the Corporate ladder game. Ugh…

    The people Apple CAN get, is those that don’t drink the corporate coolaid, but are really talented and aren’t caring for the environment. They are more Maverick than corporate Intel cool-aid drinkers. There aren’t many of those at Intel – that’s not who Intel looks for, but the few that are around, those are who Apple can get.

    But for the Apple can get, they won’t likely bolt any time soon. People live in Oregon for the lifestyle. The hiking, the beach, the moderate temps, the beauty of it all. And to have a great job with it? Yah, most they get will likely stay, but it’ll be difficult to get as many as they want I should think…

    1. The other article on ma daily regarding this states Apple has a lab in Oregon they are that the poached employees are going to.
      l” Apple’s hiring says the lab is in Washington County near the border between Beaverton and Hillsboro“
      So they get to stay in the area for the lifestyle etc.

  4. Another reason why Apple is winning the silicon race is sheer numbers. Apple only makes a very few models of iPhones ( and iPads ), but it sells products by the hundreds of millions and knows from the outset that it can be sure to sell them in that sort of quantity. Therefore design and manufacturing costs can be amortised over a massive number of units sold in twelve months.

    Other manufacturers have production runs that are more like tens of millions and they have a slew of different products. Apple’s tight focus means that they can spend an eye-watering amount of development money, yet be confident of recouping all of it and still making a massive profit.

    If Apple were making a dozen different types of iPhone and selling just ten million of each and maybe twenty million of some, there’s no way that they could risk so much on development and therefore no way they could enjoy the cutting edge silicon which they are now benefitting from.

  5. Apple’s winning because they’re building a processor for ONE customer that’s 100% willing to modify the software to adopt to newer/better ways of doing things. If they determine there’s a better way to do something, they get with the software guys, have them optimize the compiler for it, and done. If they determine that going 64 bit only is the way to go, the software, API, communication, and marketing teams are all in on it.

    For everything Intel and ARM produces, they have to figure out how to do the new thing while still supporting the OLD things IN HARDWARE. ARM just today announced their first 64 bit only design. Apple beat everyone to a 64 bit processor (that’s actually mass produced and used widely) because they’re in a unique position to do so.

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