Apple execs explain how the Mac’s M1 processor came to exist

Apple this week announced M1, the most powerful chip it has ever created and the first chip designed specifically for the Mac. Now, Apple’s hardware, software and marketing chiefs have spoken with The Independent to explain how the company’s new M1 processor came to exist.

M1 is the first personal computer chip built using cutting-edge 5-nanometer process technology and is packed with an astounding 16 billion transistors.
M1 is the first personal computer chip built using cutting-edge 5-nanometer process technology and is packed with an astounding 16 billion transistors.

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.

Andrew Griffin for The Independent:

Apple really wants you to know that it loves the Mac just how it is. Or perhaps more accurately, as embodied in its latest computers: just how it is, but a lot, lot faster.

The company’s representatives kept stressing that fact throughout the announcement of the M1 and the three new computers that have it inside: they love the Mac, and they love these Macs. Soon after that event finished, some of Apple’s most senior executives – marketing chief Greg ‘Joz’ Joswiak, software boss Craig Federighi, hardware engineering leader John Ternus – spoke with The Independent to explain exactly why.

Usually, a major advance in computing performance might add 20 or 30 per cent faster processing speed – but the new computers multiply that number by 10, with numbers showing that the computers as much as three times more powerful generally and up to 11 times faster at some tasks.

That might sound fairly unbelievable. Apple knows this, since it wasn’t actually expecting these computers to be quite such a step up: even when he got his hands on the new computers, Joz says he “couldn’t believe it”.

Ternus says that as momentum built, it became more clear that the chip was doing things they hadn’t expected. “This was just building momentum within the teams who were so passionate and excited about this product that they just wanted to keep pushing, keep optimising: ‘How much better can we make it? How much better we can make it?’”

Again, that might sound like wild hype, and Federighi knows it. “We are so eager for everyone to get these in their hands and have the same experience that we all had because I think it will speak for itself but we are legitimately positively surprised with the outcome of our work, and really happy we’re able to give this to customers,” he says.

MacDailyNews Take: The very first Apple silicon (M1) Macs trounce Intel in benchmarks, real world performance, and battery life.

As we’ve said:

Intel no longer leads. They haven’t for years now. This move by Apple will merely spotlight that obvious fact.

Apple-designed ARM-based Macs will trounce Intel in benchmarks and real world performance and battery life.

We’ve been anticipating ARM-powered Macs for quite a long time now and we can’t for the the process to begin!MacDailyNews, June 20, 2020

Intel is well-past its glory days. Today, Intel’s claim to fame – besides not being able to make modem chips very well – is peddling inefficient, embarrassing, fatally-flawed junk. — MacDailyNews, May 15, 2019

Apple has been, for years, building strength in the enterprise via BYOD and the rise of mobile which Apple ushered in with iPhone and iPad. “Compatibility with Windows” is not nearly as important today as it was even a few years ago… We expect to see Apple begin the ARM-based Mac transition with products like the MacBook and work their way up from there as the apps are brought over to ARM via Xcode and as the rest of the world continues to throw off the Microsoft Windows shackles into which they stupidly climbed so many years ago, lured, wrongly, solely by Windows PC sticker prices.MacDailyNews, June 19, 2019

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



    Craig Federighi: “We looked at Intel’s roadmap and how they continued to suck it. Constantly delayed product after product. Meeting after meeting where they tried to snow us… Our crack marketing team also explained to us just how costly Intel was. Lastly, all their constant screw ups, they were uh, how do I put this delicately, really ‘messing’ with our launches.”

    Jozwiak added “Right, we really saw, at least 5 or 6 years ago, we could do this better ourselves. Hard to believe a small group of engineers at Apple can just pound on the massive Intel processor company, but hey, the M1 is the new MacBook Air is faster than a Core i-9 in our 16-inch MacBook Pro with the latest Geekbench scores. Oh, we still sell 16-inch MBP’s with Intel? Did I just say that out loud?…”

    HairForce One continued “The point is simply this – Intel blows and continues to blow. Whatever happens to them on the PC side, good luck with all that. All we know is we are crushing it with iPhone, iPad and now Macs, and so much more is yet to come.”

    Any questions?

  2. If the next round of Macs add a slew of GPU’s in a SIP (System-in-package) on the same M1 die Intel needs to pack it in. If the M2 does this in 12 months, Intel needs to close shop…:-)

    We all know this “1.0” Apple CPU package they announced is just the beginning. What will they deliver in 2 years when their self-professed deadline for completing their move away from Intel is complete. I cannot see how Intel will be anywhere close to Apple’s 12 month cadence for design and foundry updates.

    I cannot wait until all of the regular and dev apps I use on my current Intel-based MacBook are fully ported to Apple CPUs. That laptop will respond before I finish typing…;-)

  3. So will Apple simply wait a year or two to exploit the next two generations to out perform all desktop systems or do they plan to produce a supercharged M1x (or wait for a M2x) to more immediately open an even wider gap between itself and Intel. I presume the latter. Therefore I suspect there are a lot of urgent calls to Qualcomm et al presently from box makers to try to get some idea if they can remotely produce something to keep even distant pace with these developments on the Arm side and if so when because they know the limitations with Intel here, because computer makers not to mention Microsoft will need to know where and to what extent they need to commit themselves to any given potential platform to best compete. Arm based PCs have hardly lifted off so far let’s be honest, but these chips are a serious game changer and threaten to leave competitors in the dust especially if they end up backing the wrong horse in trying to compete. It’s not like they can be assured that they can undercut Apple on prices anymore.

    Finally there may be a little irony that IBM all those years ago got blindsided by MS by thinking the hardware was the important ingredient and lost their market as a result, when now it could well be this hardware change in terms of chip design is promising over time at least to reverse the effect. But some way to go yet to answer that question.

    1. The Apple, SGI, Amiga, Sun, Hardware + OS (with co-processor’s) was always the way to go but Apple because of Steve Jobs stayed the course without him it never would have happened, most thought and still do think Wintel is the way to go it never was, to go Apple’s route means you need to except making a profit without all out marketshare….

      PA-Semi, Intrinsity, and Anobit the best 750 million dollars spent in modern Tech.

  4. I don’t anticipate much “First draft syndrome” this time, as this is not really a “new” chip like the PPC 601, but an advancement on the A14 family.

    However, I use an iPad for portability, and want a powerful iMac at home. Small size and power efficiency are NOT critically important to me. Performance is. My current iMac is seven years old, and I’m not seeing a compelling reason to upgrade – the new machines don’t do anything new.

Reader Feedback

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