Apple was widely expected to abandon Intel processors in favor of its own ARM chips as early as 2020. Axios reported today that some developers and Intel executives expect Apple to make the move as early as next year. While Apple has yet to make a public statement, developers and Intel executives have privately said they expect Apple to ditch Intel processors in favor of its own ARM chips as early as next year, Axios reported.

Bloomberg provided more specifics in a report on Wednesday, saying the first ARM-based Macs could arrive in 2020. Sometime in 2021, Apple is said to be planning to let developers create an app that is theoretically compatible with all of Apple’s hardware, including iPhones and Macs.

The plan originally debuted at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2018. While Apple doesn’t officially call it that, it has released four new iOS-based apps on the Mac: Voice Memos, News, Home, and Stocks.

The move could give developers a bigger market for an app, though the transition may not be smooth.

Technology media 9to5mac pointed out that on the software side, this may be a smooth transition, as Apple can develop an Intel version and an ARM version of the Mac OS. However, the transition on the hardware side may be a little more difficult, as Apple needs to move the hardware to use ARM-based chips, which could take a few years. The company also needs to make future versions of the Mac OS compatible with Intel chips, because there will still be many users with older Macs.

Of course, for Intel, this would mean the loss of an important customer, but it probably wouldn’t be a huge hit to its bottom line. In 2020, Intel may have more Mac business than some expected, according to Bloomberg’s timeline.

The key question, Axios said, is not the timeline, but how smoothly Apple can make the transition. For developers, this can mean an awkward period of time supporting both old and new Macs, as well as old and new Mac OSes.

In the Mac’s 25-year history, Apple has made several major shifts, moving from Motorola chips to PowerPC processors and then to Intel. It also moved from the classic Macintosh operating system to the Unix-based Mac OS X.

In order to control the core technology for yourself

In fact, there have been rumors for years that Apple’s Mac computers will use ARM-based chips. At the time, this argument was mostly due to delays in Intel chips that led to delays in Mac products – and it has to be admitted that although it has fallen behind Qualcomm in the mobile era, Intel’s X86 architecture chips still dominate the home computer field. In addition to Apple, Lenovo, Asus, HP and other manufacturers also have to follow the pace of Intel chips to plan their products.

This may be one of the reasons why Apple wants to replace its own computer with ARM-based chips. With the character of this company, they must want to control the overall situation by themselves. Of course, the core components need to be produced by themselves, but Intel’s R&D strength on the X86 architecture cannot be surpassed in the short term.

In fact, Apple’s computers did not use Intel chips from the beginning. In fact, their cooperation with Intel was not long: in 2005, Apple announced the end of its ten-year alliance with IBM, switching from IBM and Motorola’s PowerPC chips to Intel. .

In terms of self-developed chips, Apple has the successful experience of the A series on the iPhone/iPad. It is already the most powerful chip in the field of mobile devices (the recent conferences have claimed that its product performance exceeds that of computers); while for Mac products , Apple is also constantly trying, for example, the iMac Pro and the new MacBook Pro have a chip called T2. It is not the main computing part, but it integrates several components, including the system management controller, image signal processor, SSD controller, and a secure enclave with a hardware-based encryption engine.

Apple is Intel’s main customer, accounting for about 5% of Intel’s annual revenue, so when Apple decided to break up with Intel, it was a major blow to the latter. Of course, it will be a victory for users in the long run, if Apple’s ARM-based chips can successfully replace the current Intel X86.

Can Apple SoCs really make x86 CPUs obsolete?

Apple Mac computers will completely stop Intel (Intel) and switch to their own application processors based on Arm (Arm-based)? Rumors and predictions of this type in the world of tech media and analysts have long ‘flashes’, but they tend to fade away after a while; however, these voices seem to have reached a crescendo recently. Why? Taken as a whole, it’s the latest (potential) step in the company’s internal processor architecture transformation — and it all started with the Apple-designed A4 found in its first-generation iPad. Ironically, the iPad is now dubbed the ultimate successor to its laptops. With that in mind, and in the spirit of “the picture is the truth,” let’s talk through a photo of the latest-generation Apple iPad Pro tablet paired with its keyboard accessory:

Let’s take a step back and think: Why would Apple want to get into the “buy-an-Arm-license-and-develop-it-yourself” business? Once the number of products shipped is sufficient to offset licensing and R&D expenses, bypass the “middlemen” (especially Samsung – the supplier of the A4 SoC for the Apple iPhone 4) and do more overall development work on your own, leaving only the IC foundry With manufacturing, packaging and testing left to third-party partners, the margins will become very attractive. Apple’s in-house developed Arm cores are used not only in all of the company’s iPhones and iPads, but also in all generations of Apple Watch, Apple TV, HomePod, and more.

Of course, Apple is now expanding the main processor cores into other system building blocks; the company is now reportedly working on building its own graphics IP (but this will be detrimental to the business of its longtime partner Imagination Technology), and Power management ICs have also been developed in-house, and there are even rumors that it is currently looking to develop its own cellular voice-plus-data technology. So what’s next? Will it be flash memory?

So, conceptually, you can also see how attractive it would be for Apple to cut out the Intel middleman and design its own PC processors. However, this is not the case for many reasons, such as:

PC shipments are much lower than the other previously mentioned markets;

In fact, Intel’s large x86 patent portfolio and its team of lawyers may make it impossible for Apple to develop its own x86 SoC designs even if it wants to (I’ve even heard that if Apple or others go the way of buying AMD, but in fact Nor does the acquiring entity necessarily legally inherit Intel’s patent cross-licensing agreement with AMD…);

The x86 instruction set dominates today’s Apple Mac operating system and suite of applications and programs (both in-house and third-party development), which will make it difficult for Arm-based SoC alternatives to offer a competitive cost/performance/power combination, Even in today’s age of high-efficiency operating system and application emulation and virtualization.

Difficult…but not impossible. After all, Apple has traveled this path before…and several times. Macs started with Motorola’s 68000 processor; in 1994, Apple moved to PowerPC CPUs developed by IBM and Motorola. Of course, as I’ve written before, Steve Jobs mentioned in his keynote at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in June 2005 that the company’s various Mac product lines will Start a quick transition from PowerPC to Intel x86 CPU. In fact, this is where we are still, after almost 15 years.

How Apple successfully navigated that transition in the mid-2000s offers some hints as to how it might help this time around. The company quickly began shipping x86 versions of the Mac OS operating system and x86-based computer hardware at the same time,

And a “universal binary” application development kit used by internal teams and partners to compile code for PowerPC (legacy) and x86 (newer) hardware. In addition, the new x86-based operating system also includes a hardware emulation layer called ‘Rosetta’ that efficiently executes legacy PowerPC-based applications on the new x86 hardware.

In fact, Apple is better prepared this time around. Much like Microsoft’s attempts to support its own and partner Windows RT-based systems, Apple has largely (though not completely) successfully migrated its own and partner app distribution channels to its own App Store infrastructure (here I would like to point out that Microsoft has not given up on this idea, and recently cooperated with Qualcomm and system partners on Arm-based “never shut down, always connected PC”. After launching the Mac OS application development kit that supports Arm, This is a relatively simple step before starting to distribute through the App Store “universal binary” applications that run on x86-based legacy hardware or new Arm-based hardware, or (to minimize code payload size), or automatically download x86 or Arm binary versions of specific applications based on detected guest hardware.

The Apple Rosetta’ hardware emulation technology developed by Transitive in 2005 is impressive, and, as I mentioned earlier, it and the wider virtualization situation get better. As for this, and echoing my previous comment that ARM-based SoCs struggle to perform x86 binary encoding in analog mode and thus cannot “offer a competitive price/performance/power mix” for their x86 native alternatives.

Soon after Apple announced the iPad Pros with the A12X Bionic SoC at the end of October, it was rumored to be faster than “92% of portable PCs”, and Geekbench benchmark results also mysteriously appeared online. For example, the iPad Pro’s single-core score of 5030 is equivalent to the 5053 score of the 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7. Note, however, that despite the A12X Bionic SoC being an 8-core design and a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 CPU supporting 6 cores, the iPad Pro’s multi-core score of 17,995 is still behind the 15-inch MacBook Pro’s score of 21,421.

In general, though, there is a long list of provisos between such comparisons… Geekbench is a synthetic benchmark, and on the one hand, its correlation with real-life comparison results is accidental. Also, the systems used for comparison have different operating systems, include different amounts and types of DRAM, different graphics processors, and different screen sizes…etc. It’s worth noting that, in Apple’s liking, keep in mind that the 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 CPU features active fan cooling, while the Apple A12X Bionic includes a completely passive cooling subsystem.

Undoubtedly, Apple SoCs are becoming an attractive alternative, not only for ARM application processors from other vendors (e.g. Huawei/HiSilicon, MediaTek, Qualcomm, Samsung, etc.), but also for Intel x86-based products The same is true. And just as important is Apple’s ability to improve rapidly; as mentioned in the 9to5Mac website, “The 2017 iPad Pro [编注:采用A10X Fusion SoC]You can get a single core score of 3908 and a multi-core score of 9310. The new iPad Pro is also 30 percent faster than the single-core version of its predecessor, and effectively doubles multi-core performance. “

I don’t think Apple will make a big turnaround in a short period of time, fully transitioning from Intel’s processors to its own processors. But a more incremental consumer “pull” transition is definitely possible…and arguably already underway, starting with, for example, measuring battery life, smaller, lighter systems. If Intel can mass-produce its 10-nanometer (10nm) process (and 10nm-based products) as soon as possible, the resulting improvements in Transistor count, clock speed and energy efficiency may slow, but not stop the transition entirely . It’s worth noting that AMD’s x86-based processors are steadily gaining strength from a price/performance/power mix perspective. Do you agree? Please share your views.

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