Apple silicon Macs are the death knell for Wintel

Wintel as we know it is not long for this world. As we wrote last week, “Apple wouldn’t be making the move to Apple silicon-powered Macs if they could not make Macs that are demonstrably better than with Intel chips.”

Apple silicon Macs are the death knell for Wintel. Apple on Monday, June 22, 2020 announced it will transition the Mac to its world-class custom silicon to deliver industry-leading performance and powerful technologies.
Apple on Monday, June 22, 2020 announced it will transition the Mac to its world-class custom silicon to deliver industry-leading performance and powerful technologies.

In an historic day for the Mac, Apple in June announced the transition of the Mac to world-class Apple custom silicon in order to deliver industry-leading performance and powerful new technologies. Developers can now get started updating their apps to take advantage of the advanced capabilities of Apple silicon in the Mac. This transition will also establish a common architecture across all Apple products, making it far easier for developers to write and optimize their apps for the entire ecosystem.

Jean-Louis Gassée for Monday Note:

Not only will Apple Silicon make better Macs, it will force Microsoft to polish its Windows on ARM act, both hardware and software. In turn, this will cause PC OEMs to reconsider their allegiance to x86 silicon…and that will have serious consequences for the old Wintel partnership…

What to expect from Apple Silicon in future Macs: Significantly lower TDP [Thermal Design Power] without losing processing power… Given what we see with today’s A12Z, one can’t imagine tomorrow’s Apple Silicon Macs providing less than a 25% throughput advantage against corresponding x86 PCs. Admittedly, these are speculative, broad strokes assumption for Apple Silicon Macs — think faster, svelter laptops actually lasting 10 hours on a battery charge…

What are Dell, HP, Asus, and others going to do if Apple offers materially better laptops and desktops and Microsoft continues to improve Windows on ARM Surface devices? In order to compete, PC manufacturers will have to follow suit, they’ll “go ARM” because, all defensive rhetoric aside, Apple and Microsoft will have made the x86 architecture feel like what it actually is: old.

This leaves Intel with one path: if you can’t beat them, join them. Intel will re-take an ARM license (it sold its ARM-based XScale business to Marvell in 2006) and come up with a competitive ARM SoC offering for PC OEMs. Margins will inevitably suffer as the ARM-based SoC field is filled with sharp competitors such as Qualcomm and Nvidia, sure to be joined by arch-enemy AMD and others, all ushering in a new era of PCs.

MacDailyNews Take: So, in effect, the unholy alliance – Wintel – based on multiple companies cobbling together upside-down and backwards Macs will continue – just under another, superior architecture (ARM) and, yet again, Apple will drag the moribund PC industry kicking and screaming into the future, as always.

22 Comments

  1. Ah yes, Gassee.

    His greatest claim to fame would have been selling BeOS to Apple. When Apple went with the OS from NeXT instead, he became irrelevant.

    System 7 was supposed to start the end of Wintel. It didn’t.
    PowerPC was supposed to start the end of Wintel. It didn’t.
    Mac OS X was supposed to start the end of Wintel. It didn’t.
    Mac OS on Intel was supposed to start the end of Wintel (at least the reign of the Windows part). It didn’t.

    Now Gassee is spouting that Apple’s upcoming switch to an ARM instruction set based design is going to get everyone, even Intel, to drop x86 instruction set computing?

    It is extremely unlikely to ever happen. While Intel is very, very slow and lumbering, it has a long history of moving forward when their cash cow (x86) is threatened.

    1. While I agree with your general statement that Intel has a long way to go, it is unwise to think that something can’t happen just because it has never happened before.

      1. This whole story is proof that you’re correct. Nobody has ever transitioned their entire lineup to their own silicon as Apple is beginning to do now. And they can because they have the technology to do so right now.

    2. Indeed.

      Intel isn’t going to be ruined by a <10% marketshare Apple moving to another vendor. Intel would be in trouble if it was someone like Dell completely ditching them.

      Likewise for MDN: just how is “better” being defined? The temptation is to believe that it is hardware performance, but it is much, much, MUCH more likely that the real answer here is MONEY.

      Specifically, Apple’s move means that they cut out Intel as a supplier who was taking profit, so Apple can now capture Intel’s CPU markup profit for themselves. CPUs aren’t cheap components, so money is what this move is really about.

  2. Intel (aka Chipzilla) makes chips, primarily for M$ Windows.
    What would stop Intel from making Apple’s custom chips? aside from the fact they mightn’t have the technology advantage of the TMSC foundry.

  3. I’ve heard applecynic is energetically seeking experts for new heat-sink white papers and patents.
    Stilting up old designs for the future of tech is his paradigm. “Long live the residue of Ballmer“, he says, with a gleeful sadness. (Who wouldn’t be sad with that focus?)

  4. I adore the Mac. Maybe by 2023 last quarter there will be an ARM Mac I can look at, in the meantime, and beyond, that Wintel hegemony ain’t going nowhere. It’s too big. It’s too open. Too inexpensive. Too full of choices. Too intrenched in making the motor of the world hum.

    Then again I felt that way about the United States.

  5. Difficult to see how Intel will be competitive making Arm based chips let alone make money from it. Most of the company actually becomes redundant or would cost far too much to transform while they would have to bring in most of the new expertise to even give them a hope. Think we know how well that worked out for them in 5G chip making. They needed to do this years ago but instead were so short sighted instead sold off their Arm based capabilities, would be five to ten times more difficult to compete now.

  6. If they could catch up the two years they seem to tail the far more nimble and increasingly capable Asian fabs maybe, but seiously does anyone think they can do that? Nothing to suggest they could. Change their spots in a new business when they have miserably and increasingly failed this past decade in the one they know and dominate.

    1. Yes. Recall how painfully slow Apple was in creating the new Mac Pro. Apple is not the nimble company everybody thinks will run circles around Intel. Money does not guarantee nimbleness in the silicon world.
      Intel does move slowly but it’s a mile-wide steam roller. Intel makes thousands of different new chips every year; Apple makes a handful.

    2. Intel’s R&D is generally set up as 3 leapfrogging teams so what the public is aware of is usually the ‘oldest’ of the 3 team’s work. In short what you believe to be current is actually 2 generations of R&D behind the cutting edge team’s work. Since Intel develops a lot more than CPU’s used in PCs (it really is a small portion of their product lineup) losing Apple’s CPU income is probably pocket change to them. Also note that Intel does both design and production whereas Apple + Asian fabs together are the competition.

  7. Problem for them is that it’s in Microsofts greater interest to shaft them if it can get away with it.

    If Apple proves the possibilities it further opens the door for them to convince their customers to gradually accept the long term change Surface is already about giving itself greater. I troll and flexibility. It would help them eventually get back into mobile too potentially, without the anchor of and expence of poor and complex harmonisation which has dogged previous efforts to the ‘Windows Everywhere’ misadventure.

  8. Why would this be the death of Wintel when Apple has less than 10% computer market share? I would think AMD would be a bigger threat to Intel than Apple. AMD is building some really decent X86 processors with plenty of cores and lower TDP than Intel processors. AMD processors are also less expensive. Apple will do well with their Apple Silicon, but I wouldn’t think Intel would suffer very much from loss of Apple’s business. There are gamers who swear by over-clockable X86 iron and massively powerful NVidia GPUs. They’re addicted to X86/Windows and definitely not moving to Apple Silicon.

    Corporations are still going to stick with Wintel computers because they’re cheaper and there’s that backwards compatibility of software they need. Wintel computers will not be killed off by Apple Silicon because most people and organizations hate any change to take place.

  9. I have a question: these new Apple silicon chips are SoC. Does that mean the end of discrete RAM on Macs? I’d be concerned about having a desktop without even being able to upgrade the RAM later.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.