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Intel Hardware Apple

Apple Considering Switch Away From Intel For Macs 530

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-and-what-ARMy dept.
concealment sends this quote from Bloomberg: "Apple Inc. is exploring ways to replace Intel processors in its Mac personal computers with a version of the chip technology it uses in the iPhone and iPad, according to people familiar with the company's research. Apple engineers have grown confident that the chip designs used for its mobile devices will one day be powerful enough to run its desktops and laptops, said three people with knowledge of the work, who asked to remain anonymous because the plans are confidential. Apple began using Intel chips for Macs in 2005."
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Apple Considering Switch Away From Intel For Macs

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:35PM (#41899633)

    Apple for a while now has been moving away from performance parts. No real beefy GPU in the Mac Pro. The best GPU in a MBP is an upper-mid tier card. Their server is gone. Its not surprising to see them move more and more away from HPC parts. I'm just a little curious how this will affect people dependent on 'pro-tools' (in the future that is).

    • by jsepeta (412566)
      Because who the fuck knows what Apple is going to do in the future, I'm keeping my ProTools and Cubase licenses up to date with current versions of the software. At some point, Apple will probably fuck Logic up beyond recognition, then I'll have no choice but to switch back to a PC (or just use old, outdated Macs like I'm doing now).
  • Using Mac power-level, vs iP* voltages.

    Then you also get alternative/thin boot of iOS.

    Doable. Quickly. See you in 2014.

  • One Day? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So <insert company name here> is doing research that may or may not ever see the light of day to keep its options open and avoid single-source lock-ins. This is news?

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thammoud (193905) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:35PM (#41899643)

    I can see the switch from PowerPC as IBM and Motorola could not keep up with supplies or advances. To switch from Intel to ARM on PC's will be suicide as performance in PC's far outweigh any negligible benefits in power savings. People using Macs are designers, programmers and heavy users. For those advocating unifying the mobile experience with the desktop, please STOP. I produce content on my desktop. I consume it on my iPad.

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TellarHK (159748) <tellarhk.hotmail@com> on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:45PM (#41899831) Homepage Journal

      For the tasks most people want a computer for (or think they want a computer for) an ARM-based solution could work just as well as an x86 based one. Keep in mind that even if Apple made the switch, they wouldn't be making it to the same silicon they're producing today, because they wouldn't need all of the power saving mechanisms that they've had to use for the mobile device markets they're in now. Instead, envision something along the lines of a hybrid machine with one high-end mobile core designed for lower-power usage, and then additional cores that can be brought online as needed with the associated power draw. There are dozens of ways this kind of arrangement could be managed, and people seem to be quick to forget that Apple made some of the big early strides when it came to getting multiprocessor development under control. (Grand Central, for example)

      Additionally, who's to say that they won't have a 16+ core ARM chip running at 3GHz in the next couple years? If die size and power management are less of a premium, that's a lot of raw power that could be thrown at things.

      I think they'll start with something like the MBA, and move up the line from there.

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @06:12PM (#41900273)
        What may be happening (and misinterpreted by the press) is Apple exploring a hybrid machine with ARM used for always on iOS services and intel for booting to full OS X. Didn't Dell do something similar where they had an ARM for playing CDs or other small stuff on a laptop without fully booting the OS?
      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @06:14PM (#41900293) Homepage

        > For the tasks most people want a computer for (or think they want a computer for) an ARM-based solution could work just as well as an x86 based one.

        No, not really. Not at all. This isn't apparent with things like the iPad because it's a tightly controlled and heavily curated experience. You don't realize you're running on a throwback from the 90s because you aren't allowed to do anything that might make that obvious.

        Thinking you can depend on multiple cores has it's own problems and inherent engineering challenges even if you assume that all Mac software has already been modified to accommodate this (which isn't even true).

        • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TellarHK (159748) <tellarhk.hotmail@com> on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @06:35PM (#41900623) Homepage Journal

          Let's see, what do most users do with computers? Browse the web, read and reply to email, shop, manage photos and maybe videos if they've got kids, and maybe do some light office and bookkeeping work.

          Okay, tell me how the iPad isn't enough for that.

          Yes, it's a controlled and curated experience. But Apple has sold more of those controlled, curated, locked down experiences in just the last 4 years than they have ever sold in Macintosh computers. Don't forget that you are not the market Apple is aiming for. You're the market that WISHES Apple was aiming for it, because if they were, then we'd see some pretty astounding products on the shelf. Instead, we get products priced to move by the tens of millions to the people who don't know RAM from storage space. And they are _selling_.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      You can get 64 quad-core A9s for less power than a single Intel. 256 cores at over 1GHz will be much more processing power than the Intel solution. The laptops would have longer batter life and more power. Again, where's the down side?
      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by farble1670 (803356) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @06:37PM (#41900649)

        You can get 64 quad-core A9s for less power than a single Intel. 256 cores at over 1GHz will be much more processing power than the Intel solution.

        sure, if you have a compute job that perfectly parallelizes across 256 cores ... such a job doesn't exist in end user computing. the average PC struggles to find a way to use 4 cores let alone 256.

      • By every single benchmark I have ever seen, watt for watt Intel absolutely slaughters ARM in terms of the work it gets done. ARM runs at lower power, but it is most certainly not more efficient.

        If you have benchmarks showing me wrong, Id be most interested to see them.

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by realmolo (574068) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:53PM (#41899977)

      Apple wants to dump MacOS.

      There is FAR more money to be made from a locked-down OS like iOS that guarantees they get a cut of every app sold. The profits from iOS devices DWARF the profits from MacOS.

      MacOS will be gone in ten years. Less, probably. You'll still be able to buy a Mac, but it will run iOS, and only run "approved" apps. Unless you pay a couple thousand bucks for their "developer" license, in which case you will get a copy of XCode. And a yearly fee on top of that, of course. And probably a limit on the number of apps you can develop before you have to pay more money.

      Apple is NOT about making cool technology anymore. They are about selling content. They're a media company.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Apple would be dumb to not have OS/X running on ARM. Just as Microsoft now as Windows running on ARM. The X86 did beat everyone by being the fastest cpu you could buy. It was the good enough CPU. As the X86 got better and better it came up replacing first minicomputers and then even pushing into the mainframe and super computer space. ARM is also moving up the same way and it too will someday may be good enough. Today it really is good enough for most of what people are buying Celerons, Pentiums, and i3s fo

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anubis IV (1279820) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @06:05PM (#41900161)

      Note the "will one day be powerful enough". I read that as "in 2-5 years we may have something that can compete with laptop or desktop-grade Intel products". From what I understand, and IANACE (I am not a Computer Engineer), there's nothing inherently holding the ARM architecture back from being able to scale up to the sorts of computational performance we see out of Intel's processors, albeit, at the cost of its energy efficiency (of course, it's not there now, but it could be in a few years). Similarly, an Intel exec said a few weeks back that there's nothing technological holding Intel back from being able to scale down to where we see ARM's processors.

      That said, Intel doesn't want to do that, since the profit margins are much lower for mobile processors than they are for desktop-grade processors. Yet the danger for them is that the ARM architecture will be scaled up, allowing it to expand into the much more lucrative end of the market, thus pushing them out. That'd be the end for Intel if that sort of thing was allowed to happen. And Apple is in a good position to try something like that.

      More importantly and more relevantly to these rumors, I read this whole report as leverage in negotiations with Intel. Credibly scaring the seller into thinking they'll lose your business is a great way to get better prices or other concessions (e.g. early or exclusive access) out of them. Apple is probably content to stay with Intel for as long as Intel is supplying chips that meet Apple's expectations and can do so at reasonable prices. But Apple also wants to hedge its bets in case Intel folds at some point or they're not keeping up with the pace of development that Apple would like to see. Having the ability to run OS X on ARM may very well just be a safety measure in that vein.

      • Presuming that someone scales up ARM to a high-performance desktop/server chip, and presuming that they establish a lucrative market for said processors, Intel will simply license ARM and use their world leading fabrication processes to take over the ARM server/desktop processor market, crushing all competitors, just like they did in the x86 processor market.

        If Apple goes it alone, producing their own ARM desktop CPUs for their own computers, they will never be able to compete with Intel's fabs. No matter

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:52PM (#41902041)

      I can see the switch from PowerPC as IBM and Motorola could not keep up with supplies or advances. To switch from Intel to ARM on PC's will be suicide as performance in PC's far outweigh any negligible benefits in power savings.

      It wont be suicide for Apple, their customers will keep buying Apple products because they are finacially and psycologically locked in. No matter what Apple does to them to screw them over they'll keep coming back. Hell, they'll even defend the abuse.

      People using Macs are designers, programmers and heavy users.

      Hahahahahaha,

      No.

      A lot of designers, especially web designers have moved to Windows based PC's. Programmers who use Mac's use Windows on Mac. Mac's are not for heavy use (which is why a $1000 macbook only comes with an Intel IGM).

      Hipsters buy Mac's, not heavy users. People buy Mac's because they hate windows, not because Mac's are any better (in fact, given the limited and overpriced hardware choices, they are a lot worse).

      I've been predicting that Apple will switch to ARM for laptops for some time now and OSX will be depreciated into IOS. The biggest difference between an Ipad and a Desktop Mac in the future will be the OS feature set. This is to say, they'll run the same OS but you'll pay more for options like an IDE. You wont be able to run it on feature limited version of the OS.

      • Hipsters buy Mac's, not heavy users. People buy Mac's because they hate windows, not because Mac's are any better (in fact, given the limited and overpriced hardware choices, they are a lot worse).

        You do realize that Apple has the -only- desktop *nix with a decent user interface, right? Lot's of power users use them for that reason alone. My Macbook Pro has an Nvidia chipset in it.

        That being said, I am not in the market to buy any more Apple stuff.

  • by TellarHK (159748) <tellarhk.hotmail@com> on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:37PM (#41899683) Homepage Journal

    ... It certainly isn't impossible. People already look at iPads and iPhones as "devices" and not what they really are underneath all that glass and aluminum. Just smaller, simpler "computers". I'd say it's a safe bet that 99% of the Slashdot readership at one point had a computer that looks positively ancient compared to last year's iPhone models, but most people simply don't understand the magnitude of what's been accomplished in technology over the last 30 years.

    Now that people look at iDevices and their non-Apple kin as devices, it just takes some time to convince them that the idea of a "computer" really isn't what they ever wanted. They've always wanted devices, and with OSX and now Windows drawing more and more from the closed ecosystem models they spawned off for the mobile realm, people will eventually come around.

    I give it around two years before Apple comes out with a new line of ARM-based Macbook Airs, though that could change depending on how effectively Intel and AMD (really, just Intel) stave off the situation by getting lower powered x86 options into the marketplace.

    • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @06:55PM (#41900901)
      Or as stated by Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO of amazon.com): "People want services, not gadgets."

      Frankly I think Richard Stallman looks more and more like a prophet every year. (And I doubt Jesus or Moses' personal hygene was especially good, either).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by humanrev (2606607)

        Ah, Stallman. He's full of wisdom but continually misses the most important thing about trying to get your message across - appearances matter.

        He seems to believe that his message is sufficiently important such that he does not not need to dress, groom and act in an appropriate manner. But humans are visual and social creatures - the best orators and presenters know this. His audience is generally the same types of folks - free/open-source fans and/or curious techies. But even they can be repulsed when your

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Frankly I think Richard Stallman looks more and more like a prophet every year. (And I doubt Jesus or Moses' personal hygiene was especially good, either).

        They all had long beards.

        Coincidence? I think not.

  • Dear Apple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jailbrekr (73837) <jailbrekr@digitaladdiction.net> on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:38PM (#41899699) Homepage

    The only reason why I have a Mac Mini is because you are running a modified version of UNIX. This pleases me. But be forewarned: If your future plans include replacing BSD UNIX with your shitass iOS, I am so fucking gone. Your shitty phones are already on my do not buy list, and I have no qualms with dumping your PCs.

    • Re:Dear Apple (Score:5, Informative)

      by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:48PM (#41899881) Homepage

      The only reason why I have a Mac Mini is because you are running a modified version of UNIX. This pleases me. But be forewarned: If your future plans include replacing BSD UNIX with your shitass iOS...

      From the Wikipedia article on iOS [wikipedia.org]: "iOS is derived from OS X, with which it shares the Darwin foundation, and is therefore a Unix operating system." So a change from Mac OS X to iOS would not shake the UNIX-ness of the operating system. What you seem to fear is the system being locked down, but that could be done with Mac OS X as it is, if Apple so wished.

    • by s73v3r (963317)

      If your future plans include replacing BSD UNIX with your shitass iOS, I am so fucking gone

      And nothing of value would be lost.

      Also, you might want to look into what iOS actually is. It's running the same fucking kernel as your Mac Mini.

  • Apple would be stupid not to explore alternatives that may only become viable years down the road. Every tech company does it. Bloomberg is just trolling.

    • Apple would be stupid not to explore alternatives that may only become viable years down the road. Every tech company does it. Bloomberg is just trolling.

      What! How can you say Bloomberg is trolling? Didn't you read the article? It's printed right there that "some engineers say" this might happen! How can you doubt the sureness of such a quote and the technical expertise of any engineer?

  • ...said three people with knowledge of the work...

    Cue witch hunt in Apple HQ in 3... 2... 1

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:45PM (#41899829)

    Right now, Apple's ARM stuff isn't powerful enough for anything above the Air, and even that's a stretch. Sure, long-term they might want to push for it, but it will be a long, long time before they even replace their laptop chips with their own design, let alone their desktops (unless they ditch their desktops completely, which isn't beyond possibility).

    However, they'd lose market share doing so. The PPC->Intel transition was fueled by PowerPC being increasingly slow and power-hungry, while Intel was getting their shit together with Core. It was difficult for consumers to survive through the switch, but it was tolerable because you were getting a more powerful system, and the emulation capability was good.

    Now, though, Intel is working just fine. And between ARM being less powerful, and x86 being painful to emulate, you'll have an even rougher transition. The only reason for Apple to switch away is for pure profit - they don't want to be giving Intel money. While some customers might go along with The Great Apple, most won't. It'll be especially bad for Apple, as they brand themselves as "the best, regardless of cost" - switching to weaker processors to save money goes completely against that.

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:52PM (#41899955)

      The air has an i5, what ARM chip competes with that?

  • by SirDrinksAlot (226001) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:51PM (#41899921) Journal

    I'm totally not going to do it again.
    68k to PPC was a disaster, applications that didn't need to be just PPC were just PPC. Everyone who had a recent 68k at the time was boned very quickly. If it wasn't for CodeWarrior (I loved the sh*t out of that back in the day) that transition would have been even more disastrous.
    PPC to x86 Apple just turned around and spit in everyone's [existing ppc userbase] face. They promised more updates that they never delivered and the patches they pushed out just made the platform slower and slower. My PowerBook would run like greased lightning with a clean OS install, HD videos and the works. Let MacOS update it self and it suddenly grew 10 years older with a few patches. I did try formatting it and starting from scratch but it ended up with the exact same behavior.

    I'm not going through another architecture migration because Apple just doesn't care about their existing user base, they already have their money.

    My current iMac x86 doesn't have firmware to reinstall the OS, so after the HDD failed I found I was totally screwed. The Apple store I visited told me I would have to purchase apple care to reinstall MacOS since it's now physical media free (I already had a new drive in it). After this attempt to bend me over, I'm not taking another slap to the face.

    • by Architect_sasyr (938685) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @06:28PM (#41900513)
      Completely un thread related - if they seriously fed you that line of bullshit, make a complaint, the bastards get away with this crap far too often. If your iMac didn't come with system disks (i.e. it came with Lion/ Mountain Lion) they should have been able to show you the command+option+r internet based recovery system - no need to purchase more of their shit.
  • by davolfman (1245316) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:52PM (#41899941)
    Not to knock ARM, but A: I don't know that they have a design for a desktop processor yet (most of their designs seem to be in the Atom/Bobcat realm tops) B: With the absolutely massive amounts of money Intel put's into their Tick-Tock development cadence they have both pretty much the most optimized desktop/laptop architecture their is, and probably the most significant process advantage in the history of semiconductors. Honestly given the way both Intel and AMD have been able to use out-of-order execution and pipelining to achieve multiple Instructions Per Clock and multi-gigahertz clocks on a CISC-backed-by-microcode architecture I'm not convinced RISC actually has an advantage in practice. In addition Apple is stuck with the foundries, the same as pretty much anybody but IBM, and so pretty much CAN'T begin to produce a chip that will compete with Intel's best when comes to raw performance or performance-per-watt. For those reasons this would be pretty foolish any time in the next several years. Even if a decade from now they can work past it they will still be stuck fighting off the suspicion that they don't have the advantage they claim to, the one that more or less was true at the end of their use of PowerPC chips.
  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:53PM (#41899967)
    According to Ars Technica, Apple's R&D budget is 3.4 BILLION dollars [arstechnica.com] (3.4x10^9). That's enough money to "explore" all kinds of crazy stuff. Just because they're spending money looking into something, doesn't make it part of their business plan.
  • by guidryp (702488) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:53PM (#41899989)

    ARM chips are still slower than the PowerPC chips Apple moved away from in 2005.

    This is rumor is pure BS.

    2013 is bringing out an all new OOO execution Intel Atom core on 22nm process. Intel might start dominating Android phones leading to next years rumor that Apple will be moving iOS to Intel.

    I don't see either move as likely in the foreseeable future. Beyond that is pure 100% BS.

  • by retroworks (652802) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @05:55PM (#41900005) Homepage Journal
    Samsung is the biggest investment competitor to Intel in the chip market, right? [ http://tinyurl.com/samsungintel [tinyurl.com] ] What does Apple need Intel for, give the guys at Samsung a call. What could go wrong?
  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:13PM (#41901649)

    I wish that Apple would support emulation for all past Macintosh software all the way back to MacOS1.0. Heck, they should go all the way back to the AppleI. There is a tremendous amount of educational software that was created during the 1990's that has never been redone for Intel and MacOSX. It used to run under Classic but Apple abandoned it. They are destroying both cultural heritage and educational resources. There is also a lot of small business and graphic tools that were made then and never released for MacOSX. I need these tools as do many other people I've spoken with. Apple has the money to keep up the emulation and it would vastly expand the media available to run on their machines which would make more people interested in upgrading to the latest and greatest hardware thus promoting more Apple sales and more money for Apple's pocket. Heck, they could even offer full Windows, DOS and CPM emulation and take over the whole market.

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