Why Apple is dumping Intel

Apple is dumping Intel CPUs from Macintosh. On Tuesday, Apple announced the new M1, the most powerful chip it has ever created and the first chip designed specifically for the Mac.

Apple is dumping Intel CPUs from Macintosh. M1 is Apple’s first chip designed specifically for the Mac and the most powerful chip it has ever created.
Apple’s M1 for Mac

M1 is optimized for Mac systems in which small size and power efficiency are critically important. As a system on a chip (SoC), M1 combines numerous powerful technologies into a single chip, and features a unified memory architecture for dramatically improved performance and efficiency. M1 is the first personal computer chip built using cutting-edge 5-nanometer process technology and is packed with an astounding 16 billion transistors, the most Apple has ever put into a chip. It features the world’s fastest CPU core in low-power silicon, the world’s best CPU performance per watt, the world’s fastest integrated graphics in a personal computer, and breakthrough machine learning performance with the Apple Neural Engine. As a result, M1 delivers up to 3.5x faster CPU performance, up to 6x faster GPU performance, and up to 15x faster machine learning, all while enabling battery life up to 2x longer than previous-generation Macs. With its profound increase in performance and efficiency, M1 delivers the biggest leap ever for the Mac.

Kif Leswing for CNBC:

Tuesday’s announcement marks the end of a 15-year run where Intel processors powered Apple’s laptops and desktops, and a big shift for the semiconductor industry.

“Apple Silicon is totally in keeping with the strategic goal of Apple to really control an entire stack,” CCS Insight research director Wayne Lam said. “Now in computing, they own everything from silicon to the software to how the user moves the mouse around, so it’s tremendously integrated.”

“Five-nanometer is the leading edge of process technology right now and there are only a few products out at this point,” Gartner research director Jon Erensen said. Currently, Intel is shipping chips with 10-nanometer transistors… “Intel’s had some challenges over the last couple of years on the manufacturing side. And I think those challenges have opened a window or opportunity for ARM-based designs for come in. Apple is one of the the best ARM-based processor designers out there,” Erensen said.

It’s clear that the new Macs will have improved battery life… On the entry-level MacBook Air, Apple says that it can manage 15 hours of web browsing on one charge, nearly 30% more than the advertised 10 to 11 hour battery life of the previous Intel-based model.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple is dumping Intel, because Intel is overpriced, routinely late, stagnant, and woefully inefficient, not to mention that the upgrade to M1 establishes a common architecture across all Apple products, making it far easier for developers to write and optimize their apps for the entire ecosystem.

20 Comments

  1. Apple is recreating what they did with the original PowerPC set under the AIM alliance, but this time doing it almost exclusively in house. (Well, TMSC is fabbing the chips and likely helping with chip layout and tapeout). Under the original AIM alliance the team tuned the early PowerPC chips for Apple’s OS and major software vendors supporting Apple. The 603 and especially the 603e were truly impressive for their day. They were lower power per instruction than any competitor and the instructions per clock and clock rates were extremely good. The 604e was good too, but by comparison very power hungry.

    Apple now has their legs under them with regard to a Mac chip. I’m confident they will use this knowledge to make even bigger leaps into the future. I can only hope that the M1 is like the PowerPC 601 (absolutely no slouch in its day) and the next chip will be as big a jump as the 603e was to the 601.

    1. Your post is about the past and not the future. Certainly if these new chips are powerful enough to overtake all other chips out there, they should be offered at lower price points to customers absent the Intel tax and Apple hopefully will offer better computers at the same prices of high end PCs.

      To the moon, Alice!…

    1. Apple announced Roestta II which will do “on the fly” translation of existing software for Intel process over to M1. Question is what will the “performance” hit of that be.

    2. It will run in Rosetta 2, not emulation. If I understand it properly, the code is translated on the fly from Intel-runnable to Mac Silicon-runnable. This is different than emulation, where a virtual environment emulates the Intel hardware environment. It is also different than Virtual machines (such as Parallels offers) running on Intel-based Macs, which is much faster than emulation (actually usable!). By all reports, Rosetta 2 is lightening fast. Emulation would be very slow (some may remember trying to run Windows emulation on PowerPC chips – it was horrifically slow. While we have much faster chips today, I imagine emulation would still present challenges. Virtual machines which can interact directly with the Intel chips will now, of course, be impossible.

      1. Most of the time it won’t even be on the fly. Apps get translated when they are installed. On the fly translation is reserved for the few cases when translation can’t occur at installation. (Exactly when that is needed is above my knowledge level)

    3. To go native, they don’t exactly have to be “rewritten”. Mostly just recompiled. I’m sure there are some that use assembly language in some spots, and those bits will have to be rewritten. But, for the most part, they just have to click a checkbox in the Xcode UI and recompile.

  2. MacDaily[Snooze] are notorious for using square brackets, to audaciously correct the mistakes of the drivel they steal, and then spew on their site.

    However sometimes they don’t see it. And they have spelt Apple as Appel more times than I can count.

    So, to be a square too:

    “And I think those challenges have opened a window or opportunity for ARM-based designs for come in…” – Erensen said.

    Should be:

    “And I think those challenges have opened a window [of] opportunity for ARM-based designs [to] come in…” – Erensen said.

    Bye bye

  3. So obviously it is great for Apple to create their own chips for performance reasons alone. However there are other considerations that making it a win-win. Apple now fully control the development of the chips and can tailor make for their own needs. That also helps them will improving product development since they are now longer reliant on Intel.
    The other massive win is that now more of the money spent on chip development stays in Apple’s pockets. They do not have to pay Intel the overhead for R&D anymore. That money goes to Apple’s own R&D. Plus Apple can now spread the chip development cost across all CPUs for iOS and Mac devices. And lastly, the manufacturing costs are much lower since again Apple can negotiate better prices with TMSC since they make multiple processors for Apple.
    This is a massive game changer and could propel Macs into otherwise unknown levels of success in the market.

    1. M1 Chips allow Apple to further differentiate its range from others. Nobody else can use the M1 chip, which looks like it will offer tremendous performance coupled with low power consumption. On top of that, the chip is cheaper than buying from Intel, which also gives Apple an additional advantage.

      The major cost with developing chips is incurred during the design process. Production costs are comparatively low and the more chips Apple uses, the cheaper the aggregated cost per chip becomes.

      It’s hard to know how other manufacturers will respond. They already have razor thin margins, so won’t be able to reduce prices, but more powerful Intel chips are much more expensive, which limits their options for matching Apple’s performance, while still making a profit.

  4. What’s nice about the M1 processor is that Apple could easily drop it into an iPad Pro and load it with Big Sur and we’d have a macOS iPad Pro if Apple decided they’d want to market it. I’m not certain of the need for a tablet to run macOS, but I’m sure the tech-heads could think of a few reasons why. A few people have said Big Sur seems somewhat designed for touch use, but even if it isn’t, Apple could build a special version for iPad Pro use. It could probably beat the pants off of Microsoft’s Surface Pro X that runs on ARM. Apple will already have plenty of 64-bit software for any macOS iPad.

  5. Apple’s switch to Intel was caused largely by the fact that Apple was the only one using PowerPC outside of the server realm, so they were on the wrong end of the economies of scale — Intel had all of the research and development money and drive while IBM/Moto really had no reason to plow money or research into producing faster desktop or laptop processors. Now Apple is completely on the other side — ARM is widely used, so Apple gets the benefit of any improvements in the chips and the manufacturing of them, while also being able to add their own research and development to that. Huge, massive difference that Apple could take the jump on when Intel fumbled 5 nm process transition.

    1. Apple asked 3 companies Motorola (GONE), IBM (GOING), and Intel (SINKING) to design chips for mobile/Laptop use they all declined, what were they thinking?

      Motorola was a bright light of Mid-Western tech done like the (Red) Rust Belt…..

  6. Anyone heard from Derek Currie? Is he still saying that Tuesday will never happen? I’m pretty sure he’s got a powerful argument regarding CISC vs. RISC to regale us with 🙂

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