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PC makers want cheaper Intel chips to compete with Apple's Air pricing - Page 3

post #81 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacksons View Post

Now you are just playing with words.

Not at all. You negotiate when you tell Intel I need this price or I may just go make my own CPUs. You whine when you say, Intel lower your price because I an make a small laptop for less then Apple's retail price.
post #82 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

For example the idea that case production is tied up by Apple. Some of the equipment could very well be owned by Apple but it doesn't matter, CNC factories can be set up in matter of weeks. That is if you need to setup a factory at all. There are plenty of job shops to take on that work.

In the end this appears to be an issue of people not wanting to own the infrastructure and the risk that goes with it. In effect they are looking for Intel to make the machines risk free.

And any economist will tell you how much profit you will make in the long run if you don't take any risks.
post #83 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Honest question:

As I understand it state of the art Intel chips cost around $100-$120 in quantity.

It depends upon the chips, some cost a lot more. In Apples case they often use expensive chips.
Quote:

State of the art ARM chips cost $20-$25 in quantity.

This gets sticky real fast. For example cell phone chips are System on Chips that are then assembled into multi chip modules. An Arm chip for a laptop would likely be configured differently. In the end I could easily see a wide range of prices, though I suspect you are at the low end.
Quote:

Aside, for now, the differences in architecture, 64-bit, etc... Is an intel chip worth 5-6 times an ARM chip?

Why?

it is the differences between the chips that drive value.
Quote:

Could a 4-ARM motherboard (8 cores, 8 GPUs) compete with a Intel i7 (8 cores and 1 GPU)?

Nope.
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Will the equation change dramatically when ARM goes 64-bit?

Possibly.
post #84 of 103


Nothing like giving Samsung a taste of their own medicine, I love The Galaxy desktop picture on the MBA. Samsung execs must be furious!

post #85 of 103
I have the new Macbook Air and I showed it to my brother who has a 2 year old windows laptop and he went out and bought the new MBA. The reason has nothing to do with cost. It has everything to do with instant on, lightweight, good battery life, and the new desktop swipe feature. These features make the new MBA incredibly useful, especially for people that travel. My brother wants to buy a PC, but is pissed off that he can't get something that works like his new MBA. (he even thought of a way to get gestures into a windows machine and wants me to draft a patent on it). He isn't interested in saving a few hundred dollars if it means sacrificing the features he wants.
PC manufacturers should be really worried about the new desktop switching feature in Lion and the fact that full screen creates a new desktop adjacent the original desktop (rather than covering up the desktop). I think the new desktop swiping feature is similar in importance to the scroll wheel on the original iPods. No one wanted an MP3 player that didn't have a scroll wheel.
The laptop world is in trouble. I've been on two international business trips in the past month and the new desktop swiping feature on my MBA is now absolutely crucial to my way of working with documents, browsers, and applications, on a laptop. I use a windows machine at work, which is fine because of all the screen space I have. However, if I can't live without my MBA when I travel, eventually I'll pressure my IT department to let me use a Mac at work to get better compatibility. It might take a few years, but once we have some decent enterprise software the Mac may make its way into businesses. (all because of a three finger swipe). The products speak for themselves.
post #86 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

[...] "...the Wintel alliance will need to do something or else all the related IT player may be gone together," the report said. [...]

The quick and dirty short-term solution: make Apple pay more for their Intel chips.

The long-term solution: none.

Why is there no long-term solution? Because sooner or later (probably sooner) Apple will transition their MacBook Air line to ARM-based CPUs. No, that won't hurt Intel much. Apple is just one of many Intel customers. But establishing a trend toward ARM among mobile device vendors will hurt Intel greatly. Even Microsoft is threatening to port Windows 8 Tablet (and Office) to ARM.

Apple designs their own ARM-based chips, which allows them to avoid the off-the-shelf pricing for Intel chips, and they're going to leverage that advantage. ARM-based chips give longer battery life and they cost Apple less. Those are huge advantages. Transitioning the MacBook Air to ARM will give the consumer a better experience (longer battery life, cooler operation) and allow Apple to maintain their profit margins for another decade. It's a no brainer. It *will* happen.

Let's pre-empt a few arguments against an ARM-based MacBook Air:

1. "ARM-based chips don't have enough power"

The A6 (or A7) will have quad cores, which will provide enough CPU power to run OS X just as well as Intel's power-hungry, hot-running CPUs. And sharing the processing workload with the GPU through OpenCL will help immensely, as it does now in OS X. There's no hurry. Apple can pick their spot. They can choose the most convenient time to transition to ARM-based chips.

2. "It would be too hard for Apple to port OS X from CISC to RISC"

Apple has already ported OS X from RISC (PowerPC) to CISC (Intel x86/x64). I wouldn't be surprised if Apple has maintained a RISC version of OS X since the Intel transition. And Apple has proven again and again that they can manage CPU and OS transitions brilliantly. Been there, done that. Oh, and if 3rd party developers (lookin' right atcha, Adobe) drag their feet, then Apple can and will develop their own apps to replace theirs.

3. "ARM would mean no Windows on MacBook Air"

Probably not, unless users are willing to put up with a horrendously slow hardware architecture emulator. Microsoft has done that in the past with Virtual PC, which ran Windows on PowerPC machines. But really, the vast majority of MacBook Air customers are consumers, and they don't care about running Windows native or emulated. The original MacBook Air fell into the "frequent flier and executive status symbol" category. Not the new one. The 11.6" MBA is Apple's entry-level laptop now.

4. "But what about Office and all those other Windows apps?"

How many of you consumers out there are actually running Office on your MacBook Air? Hold up your hands!

Yeah, didn't think so. Again, if Apple sees that users are waving flaming pitchforks and screaming for a particular 3rd party app that only runs on x86 (highly unlikely), then Apple could do their own version. For ARM. Or they could wait for a less-entrenched developer to do it for them and fill in the vacuum. Whatever.

It's not "if" but "when." Apple will ship ARM-based MacBook Airs. It's just a matter of fitting it into their schedule.

Oh, and there's one more thing. Let's say that the $300 million Intel lavished on their Ultrabook "initiative" actually works. Say it creates a huge market for Ultrabooks. Let's play along for a second and assume that a new "race to the bottom" will start at the high end of the Wintel laptop market. (And yes, I am the new King of Sweden!) Well, there will be the inevitable price wars between the Ultrabook makers. They'll cut corners everywhere, they'll try to nickel-and-dime each other off the low-margin cliff.

Let's imagine that in 2 years, all those Ultrabook competitors manage to bring the price down from $1000 to $800. They will have finally managed to undercut the MacBook Air price by 2013. Unfortunately for them, by that time Apple will have released an A7-based MacBook Air that allows them to maintain a 30% margin while selling the 11.6" model for $800 too. It'll be next-gen thin, next-gen light, next-gen cool, and the Wintel crowd will never be able to catch up. Not while they use Intel chips.

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post #87 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Second, aluminum machining capability is available in thousands, if not millions, of shops around the country. There's no way Apple has monopolized the aluminum milling market.

Bottom line is that Apple can do it with Intel's old prices - and still yield a nice margin. There's no intrinsic reason why Ultrabook makers can't do it, too. Even Apple's vaunted volume advantage is not that big a deal. Volume reduces costs dramatically on some things, but not on machined parts. There, the volume savings are much more modest. And most of the other components are industry standard (CPU, RAM, screen, power supply, etc).

1) I think the bottom line is that Apple has found a way to make it economical, simply having access to milling isn't enough.

2) I think you grossly underestimate Apple's economics of scale.
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post #88 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacRulez View Post

+1

Inept whingers. If I had access to the fabrication Dell has access to, I could solve this problem for them in a day.


The facilities that Dell has are "Assembly lines", not manufacturing plants. They generally don't make any parts, just put them together. Machining one piece aluminum or any other metal chassis is certainly not one of their fortes.
post #89 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacRulez View Post

I don't understand this kvetching. Just drop the optical drive and the legacy ports, make it slim, and ship it. Don't talk about it, do it.

A quick visit to NewEgg.com gets me all the components I need for relatively little money; the only things not available off the shelf are the enclosure and the motherboard to fit into it.

The problem is not the CPU. It's the form factor fabrication.

There's nothing stopping them from doing this right now except their own inability to execute.

Inept whingers. If I had access to the fabrication Dell has access to, I could solve this problem for them in a day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cameronj View Post

The amazing thing is that someone on a forum and Newegg can say this without blinking. Do you really think there aren't people at Dell who are as good at assembling a computer as you are? It's harder than you think, and I don't pretend to know why, but if your conclusion doesn't add up, check your premises.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

This is silly.

First, there are ways to build a computer other than using machined aluminum.

Second, aluminum machining capability is available in thousands, if not millions, of shops around the country. There's no way Apple has monopolized the aluminum milling market.

Bottom line is that Apple can do it with Intel's old prices - and still yield a nice margin. There's no intrinsic reason why Ultrabook makers can't do it, too. Even Apple's vaunted volume advantage is not that big a deal. Volume reduces costs dramatically on some things, but not on machined parts. There, the volume savings are much more modest. And most of the other components are industry standard (CPU, RAM, screen, power supply, etc).

It would be interesting to see why they're finding it so hard. My guess is that they don't get the entire Ultrabook concept and they're trying to jam it full of everything from serial ports to parallel ports to 10Base2 connectors along with Blu-Ray and 100 other things that the machine doesn't need.

Not that simple. The entire Wintel Industry has locked themselves into a design, engineering and production model which doesn't allow it to easily produce elegantly integrated packages of harmonized components - rather to keep adapting boxes with wasted space to compete in spec and price wars in junky enclosures. Notice how many SKU's makers who are far less profitable than Apple make, and how they constantly change - even from outlet to outlet (e.g., the HP you buy at WalMart has no exact analog to a model at BestBuy, which in turn differ from the configs on their website).

This Ars Technica article totally nails the corner they've all worked themselves into - and the massive difficulties they face in working themselves out: http://arstechnica.com/hardware/news...own-game.ars/2

Now, they will master building decent computing value into UB sized boxes in a year or three, but it's doubtful they'll be anywhere near where Apple should be then, if it sticks to its knitting....

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post #90 of 103
I don't think most volume PC makers aren't trying to recreate their clone of the MacBook Air. They couldn't care less about unibody or sexy... They'd happily sell cheap, crippled, disposable Netbooks if enough people wanted to buy them. No, this is coming from intel. Intel wants to sell a MacBook Air clone, and they seem to be foisting this on their hardware partners, most of whom are just systems integrators reselling notebooks designed and built by Taiwanese OEMs. Maybe not the low volume companies like Razer, but the HPs and Dells of the PC market.

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post #91 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

As for lowering the price...sure, it would allow Apple to also lower the price...but would they?

Actually, yeah... when the iPhone launched for $600, did you imagine that within three years there would have been a $50 iPhone?

I think Tim Cook knows how to play to win.
post #92 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

You're both wrong. I've been involved with a good bit of machining, including machining for aerospace parts for the last decade or so. I could find 50 shops within a 20 mile radius that can easily make cases like this. And the material is just aluminum plates - which are once again very readily available.

And there's no way that Apple has monopolized the production capacity for milled aluminum parts. Just do a search for 'milled aluminum' to get an idea of how many different products are made of milled aluminum. Apple's specs don't appear to be anything special compared to aerospace or automotive or hydraulic components.

AND, if they're not clever enough to find any of the thousands of places that can do this type of work, there's no reason they couldn't make them out of stamped metal, plastic, or walnut, if they wish.

I'm sure you could find 50 shops in a 20 mile radius, just as, per your previous post, there are probably many thousands of such globally.

But the question would be how many of those shops have anything like the capacity that Apple requires? Are you saying that there are 50 shops in a 20 mile radius capable of churning out millions and millions of milled aluminum chassis? That have access to the infrastructure to expedite the delivery of the raw materials and the shipping of finished product, in huge quantities? That can coordinate with the rest of Apple's supply and manufacturing chain?

Lots and lots of "shops" don't really have any bearing on the kind of facilities that Apple needs-- facilities that must have extremely large capacity while maintaining extremely tight tolerances within very tight schedules. I don't really think the aerospace industry is much of an analog, since no one needs millions of nozzles or combustion chambers.
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post #93 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigpics View Post

This Ars Technica article totally nails the corner they've all worked themselves into - and the massive difficulties they face in working themselves out: http://arstechnica.com/hardware/news...own-game.ars/2

Thanks for that link! I knew I had read something insightful on this topic recently but I couldn't for the life of me remember where.
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post #94 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

I'm sure you could find 50 shops in a 20 mile radius, just as, per your previous post, there are probably many thousands of such globally.

But the question would be how many of those shops have anything like the capacity that Apple requires? Are you saying that there are 50 shops in a 20 mile radius capable of churning out millions and millions of milled aluminum chassis? That have access to the infrastructure to expedite the delivery of the raw materials and the shipping of finished product, in huge quantities? That can coordinate with the rest of Apple's supply and manufacturing chain?

Lots and lots of "shops" don't really have any bearing on the kind of facilities that Apple needs-- facilities that must have extremely large capacity while maintaining extremely tight tolerances within very tight schedules. I don't really think the aerospace industry is much of an analog, since no one needs millions of nozzles or combustion chambers.

Great points here. It's not about just the availability of the milling shop, but a shop that has both the production AND logistical capacity to handle the necessary volume. What Apple achieves in it's supply line is no small feat by any measure.
post #95 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

1) I think the bottom line is that Apple has found a way to make it economical, simply having access to milling isn't enough.

I've done plenty of machining. There's no magic. CNC machining is very advanced today and the differences in cost between vendors are relatively small. There are CNC shops that can make an entire engine block out of a single forging without a person ever touching it. Apple's case is trivial compared to that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

2) I think you grossly underestimate Apple's economics of scale.

As I've stated (from experience), the economies of scale aren't that great in something like this. Once you get past a few thousand units, the savings level off pretty quickly.

Furthermore, there are 4 PC vendors who sell more computers than Apple. Plus, this is a reference design meant to be shared among all the vendors. What makes you think they couldn't approach Apple's volume?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

The quick and dirty short-term solution: make Apple pay more for their Intel chips.

The long-term solution: none.

Why is there no long-term solution? Because sooner or later (probably sooner) Apple will transition their MacBook Air line to ARM-based CPUs. No, that won't hurt Intel much. Apple is just one of many Intel customers. But establishing a trend toward ARM among mobile device vendors will hurt Intel greatly. Even Microsoft is threatening to port Windows 8 Tablet (and Office) to ARM.

Apple designs their own ARM-based chips, which allows them to avoid the off-the-shelf pricing for Intel chips, and they're going to leverage that advantage. ARM-based chips give longer battery life and they cost Apple less. Those are huge advantages. Transitioning the MacBook Air to ARM will give the consumer a better experience (longer battery life, cooler operation) and allow Apple to maintain their profit margins for another decade. It's a no brainer. It *will* happen.

Let's pre-empt a few arguments against an ARM-based MacBook Air:

1. "ARM-based chips don't have enough power"

The A6 (or A7) will have quad cores, which will provide enough CPU power to run OS X just as well as Intel's power-hungry, hot-running CPUs. And sharing the processing workload with the GPU through OpenCL will help immensely, as it does now in OS X. There's no hurry. Apple can pick their spot. They can choose the most convenient time to transition to ARM-based chips.

2. "It would be too hard for Apple to port OS X from CISC to RISC"

Apple has already ported OS X from RISC (PowerPC) to CISC (Intel x86/x64). I wouldn't be surprised if Apple has maintained a RISC version of OS X since the Intel transition. And Apple has proven again and again that they can manage CPU and OS transitions brilliantly. Been there, done that. Oh, and if 3rd party developers (lookin' right atcha, Adobe) drag their feet, then Apple can and will develop their own apps to replace theirs.

3. "ARM would mean no Windows on MacBook Air"

Probably not, unless users are willing to put up with a horrendously slow hardware architecture emulator. Microsoft has done that in the past with Virtual PC, which ran Windows on PowerPC machines. But really, the vast majority of MacBook Air customers are consumers, and they don't care about running Windows native or emulated. The original MacBook Air fell into the "frequent flier and executive status symbol" category. Not the new one. The 11.6" MBA is Apple's entry-level laptop now.

4. "But what about Office and all those other Windows apps?"

How many of you consumers out there are actually running Office on your MacBook Air? Hold up your hands!

Yeah, didn't think so. Again, if Apple sees that users are waving flaming pitchforks and screaming for a particular 3rd party app that only runs on x86 (highly unlikely), then Apple could do their own version. For ARM. Or they could wait for a less-entrenched developer to do it for them and fill in the vacuum. Whatever.

It's not "if" but "when." Apple will ship ARM-based MacBook Airs. It's just a matter of fitting it into their schedule.

Oh, and there's one more thing. Let's say that the $300 million Intel lavished on their Ultrabook "initiative" actually works. Say it creates a huge market for Ultrabooks. Let's play along for a second and assume that a new "race to the bottom" will start at the high end of the Wintel laptop market. (And yes, I am the new King of Sweden!) Well, there will be the inevitable price wars between the Ultrabook makers. They'll cut corners everywhere, they'll try to nickel-and-dime each other off the low-margin cliff.

Let's imagine that in 2 years, all those Ultrabook competitors manage to bring the price down from $1000 to $800. They will have finally managed to undercut the MacBook Air price by 2013. Unfortunately for them, by that time Apple will have released an A7-based MacBook Air that allows them to maintain a 30% margin while selling the 11.6" model for $800 too. It'll be next-gen thin, next-gen light, next-gen cool, and the Wintel crowd will never be able to catch up. Not while they use Intel chips.

Blah, blah, blah, blah. Lots of wild assumptions, but no facts to back them up.

Sorry, but even a quad core ARM chip isn't going to come close to an i7. More importantly, it's going to be even further behind whatever Intel is selling at by the time these magical ARM chips come out.

Office? Everyone I know uses Office on their Macs (and on their Windows PCs, too). A system without Office would be at a HUGE disadvantage.

Windows? It's no coincidence that Apple's market share growth started to occur when they switched to Intel - so running Windows was no longer a painful process. it's an important selling feature.

Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

I'm sure you could find 50 shops in a 20 mile radius, just as, per your previous post, there are probably many thousands of such globally.

But the question would be how many of those shops have anything like the capacity that Apple requires? Are you saying that there are 50 shops in a 20 mile radius capable of churning out millions and millions of milled aluminum chassis? That have access to the infrastructure to expedite the delivery of the raw materials and the shipping of finished product, in huge quantities? That can coordinate with the rest of Apple's supply and manufacturing chain?

Lots and lots of "shops" don't really have any bearing on the kind of facilities that Apple needs-- facilities that must have extremely large capacity while maintaining extremely tight tolerances within very tight schedules. I don't really think the aerospace industry is much of an analog, since no one needs millions of nozzles or combustion chambers.

Piece of cake. Once again, search for milling of aluminum parts online to see the wide range of components out there. Just a few examples of things that are made by the millions that use milling machines which could easily handle aluminum:
- Guns
- Automotive engine blocks
- Hydraulic parts
- Industrial valves
- Fishing reels
- flashlights
If you look around, you're surrounded by milled aluminum items which are mass produced. There's nothing the least bit difficult about it. Aluminum is one of the easiest materials to machine.

And, that even ignores the other side of the coin. There's no rule that says that companies must use milled aluminum. If they really can't figure out how to do it, they're free to used stamped parts or plastic parts or any other material they wish. Blaming their inability to compete with Apple on aluminum machining is absurd.
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post #96 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

I want to discuss your answers further -- you appear to have hardware expertise that I lack. I don't want to challenge your statements, rather to understand how they affect the computing world as I see it.

Sure, no problem

CPU architectures have always been one of my favorite tech topics by the way, I graduated university on reconfigurable VLIW processor architectures, and after that I've worked in the EDA industry (software for IC design and production), and now for the worlds largest supplier of optical lithography gear, so I think I can safely say I've been always been pretty close to the fire ;-)

Quote:
I realize that 64-bit has little or no effect on hardware performance. But it can have a significant effect on OS and app performance (paging memory, video rendering, parallel operation, etc.). Based on the work being done by the user, 64-bit and additional RAM can affect the perceived power and speed of the "hardware".

There really is only one way a 64-bit CPU would significantly affect performance (measurable or perceived), and that would be when the combined memory requirements of all the tasks you have running on the system exceeds 4 GB, and there is no way to stuff more RAM into the machine. I think you can safely say this only becomes an issue if you are a power user, but it's an issue anyway.

That said, there are ways to address over 4 GB of RAM on 32-bit CPU's, such as physical address extension (PAE) on x86. I'm pretty sure something similar could be included in future 32-bit ARM designs.

Some very specific tasks will benefit from 64-bit registers by the way, but I honestly don't think the lack of 64-bit ARM designs is holding back the platform. Sure enough when ARM goes 64-bit, it will make another big step up in performance, but it won't be because of the 64-bitness. Just progress as usual .

Quote:
I think I knew the answer to that, before I asked it.

However, Apple has done a lot of work to make their OS(es) and apps (including apps by 3rd-party developers):
-- largely independent/abstracted from the underlying hardware
-- to use OpenCL and GCD wherever possible
-- to exploit parallelism using any available CPU and GPU cores
-- for lack of a better phrase distributed processing

This definitely true. However, for now, Apples OpenCL and GCD efforts are not really paying off yet. There's not a whole lot of applications using OpenCL, and the ones that do are relatively specific (video coding, some forms of scientific computing, etc). GCD is mainly a tool to make it easier for developers to write code that would benefit from multi-core/multi-processor setups, but it doesn't allow anything that wasn't already possible otherwise. For example Intel itself has their Threading Building Blocks technology, which is more or less meant to solve the same problem.

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If Apple has done its job well, I believe that a power computing solution, for the near future, would be a series of "compute boxes" daisy chained on a thunderbolt cable along with RAID Storage, peripheral docks, wireless stations, and Displays.

These "compute boxes" would consist of:
-- enough SSD to run a minimal OS
-- RAM
-- CPUs and GPUs
-- an internal power supply
-- a fan if needed
-- small packaging like the Mac Mini or AppleTV 2

The theory is that as your compute needs grow -- just add another "compute box" to the daisy chain.

These "compute boxes" could contain whatever CPU and GPU architecture that provided the required price/performance.

Very interesting thought. I was about to write how I personally don't share the same vision, but now that I come to think of it, what you describe would definitely have some interesting applications, and we may actually see something similar in the future.

I don't think it would be something people would have at home though, it makes much more sense in the context of the typical distributed computing that big-iron compute clusters are used for now. The idea of clustering computers, adding and removing nodes to increase the total computational capabilities of the cluster are not new of course, but with a ridiculously fast port like optical Thunderbolt (100 GBps) you could imagine 'miniature' compute clusters that don't take racks of big computers and expensive network infrastructure, yet largely eliminate the difficulties that compute clusters have. In a traditional compute cluster nodes don't share the same memory, so every job has to be chopped up, distributed and the results have to be assembled afterwards, which means the network infrastructure between the nodes becomes a huge complication and bottleneck, to the extent that it rules out many interesting use cases because the communication overhead far outweighs the computational gains. Thunderbolt could greatly increase the set of viable distributed computing use cases, because it reduces communication overhead by a very large factor.

That said, stuff like this only makes sense for computing tasks that take a long time and can easily be chopped up smaller pieces, or if you have many tasks running concurrently. With 'running concurrently' in this case, I don't mean just having 20 applications sitting on your desktop, because usually only one or two will actually be using the CPU, with the rest sitting idle most of the time. I can't really imagine a whole lot of garden-variety use cases that require massive parallel CPU power, except if you like doing video editing at home and such.

For speeding up single, dual, quad or even 8-threaded applications, a CPU with multiple cores/multiple hardware threads will always be faster than a cluster of compute boxes, no matter how fast the interconnect is. Nothing beats on-die scheduling and execution of tasks, with a direct data path to shared system memory. Even if I really try my best to get my quad-core i7 iMac to its knees doing large multi-process Xcode compiles with a Linux VM running in the background while playing a video, the CPU is hardly the bottleneck. Ivy Bridge will provide a comparable performance level at a TDP around 40 Watts next year, even with the cheaper entry-level parts.

Of course nobody knows what kind of applications we might see in the future that would map favorably to a compute cluster, but right now, my impression is that we've already eliminated the requirement for faster CPU's for home/office use a few years ago. This is exactly why Intel should be worried about losing out on the 'low-end' and mobile side of computing, because soon, any ARM CPU will reach the same baseline level of performance, and Intel will have a really hard time convincing people they need faster CPU's.

Quote:
The only problem I have with your last paragraph -- is that for ARM chips to be used in low-end, cheap computers and laptops.

As I understand Windows 8, in order to run legacy x86 apps the device will require an x86 CPU. This would appear to eliminate the use of ARM in low-end, cheap computers and laptops.

Further, developers might be discouraged from rewriting their x86 apps for Metro/ARM because of the disincentive of paying MS 30% for the privilege.

I have no problem with the curated Metro store or the 30%...

But I think it is a chicken/egg thing -- without a lot of Metro apps there won't be any Metro tablets (and low-end, cheap computers and laptops) -- and without the Metro tablets et al, there won't be any incentive to port x86 apps to Metro/ARM.

Personally I think tablets and possibly Chromebook-like devices (the 'low-end') will replace laptops for many tasks, with 'real' laptops/desktops marginalized for all the other, 'serious' computer tasks (the 'mid-range/high-end'). This will almost inevitably mean ARM for 'low-end' computing, x86 for everything else. So I'm not sure if the lack of backwards compatibility with x86 desktop Windows is really going to be a big deal in the future.

If I were in charge at Microsoft I would restrict Windows 8 for ARM to Metro apps, and force all Metro apps to be universal binaries (i.e.: ARM + x86 compatible) by the way. I don't see why anyone would want to run x86 desktop apps on mobile hardware.

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Finally, I don't know this, but based on past performance, I suspect it is true:

Say there is a breakthrough and a new computer architecture suddenly arrives on the scene. Apple is in a good position to migrate their OSes and apps, natively, to exploit that new platform. And through something like rosetta, existing iOS, OS X and Windows apps could run at normal speed in emulation. Third-party iOS and OS X could run native with a simple recompile.

Apple has bet the farm (and won) on this kind of revolutionary migration -- no other OS or hardware mfgr has.

Yes, there's no denying that. Apple has proven they know how to switch architectures and are not afraid to actually do it. I would not be surprised if at some point, they would release a MacBook with an ARM CPU in it, just not one replacing the x86 CPU, but adding it alongside, allowing you to boot or even switch on the fly to ARM or x86 OS X, depending on your computing needs. Imagine a MacBook Air that would do 12 to 20 hours in 'ARM-mode', but still have the performance of a fast laptop in 'x86-mode', using universal binaries and/or ARM emulation for interoperability.

I'm not sure we'll see any big breakthroughs in computer architectures anytime soon though. You'd expect at least some hints pointing in this direction in the form of research papers and such, but apart from quantum computers, I'm not aware of any such thing. But who knows what could happen...
post #97 of 103
Put whatever hardware you want in it. That's just fine. Acer and company will still be stuck with a substandard OS and all the headache and costs that goes along with it.
post #98 of 103
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Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Furthermore, there are 4 PC vendors who sell more computers than Apple.

I don't know what that has to do with anything. They sell more by offering an excessive number of models. There is no economics of scale for the casings of a $400 Dell notebook and $1,200 Dell notebook trying to compete with Apple's offerings.
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post #99 of 103
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Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I don't know what that has to do with anything. They sell more by offering an excessive number of models. There is no economics of scale for the casings of a $400 Dell notebook and $1,200 Dell notebook trying to compete with Apple's offerings.

So you don't think that Dell or Acer sell any of their devices in large enough quantities to get economies of scale? If that's really what you think, you're kidding yourself.

But even if you dig very hard to find a grain of truth in your thought, it's irrelevant. Everyone is saying that Apple is untouchable because they have locked up aluminum part production (!) or some magical design stuff. What you're saying is that it's simply a matter of not proliferating your product. So any vendor who is willing to sell one or two versions of their Ultrabook instead of 1,000 versions would have the same advantage. Their model proliferation is self-inflicted and could easily be fixed with just a couple of corporate decisions.
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post #100 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

So you don't think that Dell or Acer sell any of their devices in large enough quantities to get economies of scale? If that's really what you think, you're kidding yourself.

But even if you dig very hard to find a grain of truth in your thought, it's irrelevant. Everyone is saying that Apple is untouchable because they have locked up aluminum part production (!) or some magical design stuff. What you're saying is that it's simply a matter of not proliferating your product. So any vendor who is willing to sell one or two versions of their Ultrabook instead of 1,000 versions would have the same advantage. Their model proliferation is self-inflicted and could easily be fixed with just a couple of corporate decisions.

There's more to it than "magic." It has to do with the way PC manufacturers are designed as businesses, not just reconfiguring a single model. To quote the Ars article previously linked:

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The problem is that the PC industry, particularly the large OEMs, just aren't set up to produce this kind of machine. The PC industry is built around an idea of almost infinite variation: different Wi-Fi adaptors, different Ethernet chipsets, different GPUs, different USB3 controllers. This variety is then reflected in the systems available from manufacturers—and more importantly, it's reflected in the way the systems are actually built.

Consider Lenovo. Lenovo offers a range of different Wi-Fi adaptors in many of its systems. Instead of designing several different motherboards, each with a different integrated adaptor, it puts the adaptors themselves onto daughtercards and plugs them into a socket on the motherboard. The upside is that Lenovo can offer a lot of diversity, and the daughter cards can be standard Mini-PCIe components that anyone can use. The downside is that Lenovo has boards that are less integrated—hence larger—with more components and more complex manufacturing.

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... For example, Apple's laptops use custom-sized lithium polymer batteries. These allow Apple to make the battery exactly fit the space available, maximizing battery life and minimizing space, but there's a downside of sorts: Apple can't use standard battery modules. Similarly, the MacBook Air uses a highly integrated motherboard, with almost all functionality built-in. This makes the board smaller and cheaper to produce, but it means Apple doesn't offer a wide range of processors, GPUs, WiFi adaptors, etc.....

So it's not that Acer or Dell don't sell any of their devices in large enough numbers to get economy of scale, it's that those devices are designed around the PC model of endless customizability-- which makes them completely unsuited for the kind of refinement that makes the Air possible. Even though they might sell a lot of the same model, they're actually a bunch of customized variations. As the Ars article notes:

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Sell a million identical laptops a quarter and you can afford to change the way you build the machines. You can afford to spend more on design or manufacturing infrastructure. Apple never had a huge range of different systems, so reducing the variation and streamlining its manufacturing was probably more palatable than it would be for others. The traditional PC OEMs insist on a kind of pointless diversity, which means that they sell relatively low numbers of lots of models. They have no option but to stick with less highly integrated, less efficient processes. And this impacts their entire supply chain; it's set up to produce commodity parts assembled in standard ways, not specialized custom components.
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post #101 of 103
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Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Given that they've just seen the U.S. government illegally stop companies from failing, they're pretty much justified in their mindset of "talk to a U.S. company to get free crap for doing absolutely nothing and whining about it long enough."

Don't forget as well that Intel itself has been shown to engage in anticompetitive behaviour in the past by "encouraging" various system builders to use Intel chips instead of AMD/ATI/Nvidia.

Intel may not want to risk this, but system builders are hoping for a handout like in the past.
post #102 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by d-range View Post

Sure, no problem

CPU architectures have always been one of my favorite tech topics by the way, I graduated university on reconfigurable VLIW processor architectures, and after that I've worked in the EDA industry (software for IC design and production), and now for the worlds largest supplier of optical lithography gear, so I think I can safely say I've been always been pretty close to the fire ;-)



There really is only one way a 64-bit CPU would significantly affect performance (measurable or perceived), and that would be when the combined memory requirements of all the tasks you have running on the system exceeds 4 GB, and there is no way to stuff more RAM into the machine. I think you can safely say this only becomes an issue if you are a power user, but it's an issue anyway.

That said, there are ways to address over 4 GB of RAM on 32-bit CPU's, such as physical address extension (PAE) on x86. I'm pretty sure something similar could be included in future 32-bit ARM designs.

Some very specific tasks will benefit from 64-bit registers by the way, but I honestly don't think the lack of 64-bit ARM designs is holding back the platform. Sure enough when ARM goes 64-bit, it will make another big step up in performance, but it won't be because of the 64-bitness. Just progress as usual .



This definitely true. However, for now, Apples OpenCL and GCD efforts are not really paying off yet. There's not a whole lot of applications using OpenCL, and the ones that do are relatively specific (video coding, some forms of scientific computing, etc). GCD is mainly a tool to make it easier for developers to write code that would benefit from multi-core/multi-processor setups, but it doesn't allow anything that wasn't already possible otherwise. For example Intel itself has their Threading Building Blocks technology, which is more or less meant to solve the same problem.



Very interesting thought. I was about to write how I personally don't share the same vision, but now that I come to think of it, what you describe would definitely have some interesting applications, and we may actually see something similar in the future.

I don't think it would be something people would have at home though, it makes much more sense in the context of the typical distributed computing that big-iron compute clusters are used for now. The idea of clustering computers, adding and removing nodes to increase the total computational capabilities of the cluster are not new of course, but with a ridiculously fast port like optical Thunderbolt (100 GBps) you could imagine 'miniature' compute clusters that don't take racks of big computers and expensive network infrastructure, yet largely eliminate the difficulties that compute clusters have. In a traditional compute cluster nodes don't share the same memory, so every job has to be chopped up, distributed and the results have to be assembled afterwards, which means the network infrastructure between the nodes becomes a huge complication and bottleneck, to the extent that it rules out many interesting use cases because the communication overhead far outweighs the computational gains. Thunderbolt could greatly increase the set of viable distributed computing use cases, because it reduces communication overhead by a very large factor.

That said, stuff like this only makes sense for computing tasks that take a long time and can easily be chopped up smaller pieces, or if you have many tasks running concurrently. With 'running concurrently' in this case, I don't mean just having 20 applications sitting on your desktop, because usually only one or two will actually be using the CPU, with the rest sitting idle most of the time. I can't really imagine a whole lot of garden-variety use cases that require massive parallel CPU power, except if you like doing video editing at home and such.

For speeding up single, dual, quad or even 8-threaded applications, a CPU with multiple cores/multiple hardware threads will always be faster than a cluster of compute boxes, no matter how fast the interconnect is. Nothing beats on-die scheduling and execution of tasks, with a direct data path to shared system memory. Even if I really try my best to get my quad-core i7 iMac to its knees doing large multi-process Xcode compiles with a Linux VM running in the background while playing a video, the CPU is hardly the bottleneck. Ivy Bridge will provide a comparable performance level at a TDP around 40 Watts next year, even with the cheaper entry-level parts.

Of course nobody knows what kind of applications we might see in the future that would map favorably to a compute cluster, but right now, my impression is that we've already eliminated the requirement for faster CPU's for home/office use a few years ago. This is exactly why Intel should be worried about losing out on the 'low-end' and mobile side of computing, because soon, any ARM CPU will reach the same baseline level of performance, and Intel will have a really hard time convincing people they need faster CPU's.



Personally I think tablets and possibly Chromebook-like devices (the 'low-end') will replace laptops for many tasks, with 'real' laptops/desktops marginalized for all the other, 'serious' computer tasks (the 'mid-range/high-end'). This will almost inevitably mean ARM for 'low-end' computing, x86 for everything else. So I'm not sure if the lack of backwards compatibility with x86 desktop Windows is really going to be a big deal in the future.

If I were in charge at Microsoft I would restrict Windows 8 for ARM to Metro apps, and force all Metro apps to be universal binaries (i.e.: ARM + x86 compatible) by the way. I don't see why anyone would want to run x86 desktop apps on mobile hardware.



Yes, there's no denying that. Apple has proven they know how to switch architectures and are not afraid to actually do it. I would not be surprised if at some point, they would release a MacBook with an ARM CPU in it, just not one replacing the x86 CPU, but adding it alongside, allowing you to boot or even switch on the fly to ARM or x86 OS X, depending on your computing needs. Imagine a MacBook Air that would do 12 to 20 hours in 'ARM-mode', but still have the performance of a fast laptop in 'x86-mode', using universal binaries and/or ARM emulation for interoperability.

I'm not sure we'll see any big breakthroughs in computer architectures anytime soon though. You'd expect at least some hints pointing in this direction in the form of research papers and such, but apart from quantum computers, I'm not aware of any such thing. But who knows what could happen...

Thanks for the considered answers... it really helps. That's one of the reasons I frequent sites like AI.

Sorry I didn't get back earlier to engage in a dialog and pick your brain a bit more...

But, I've been all over the FCPX upgrade today...


One thing I would have offered as a challenge is, to paraphrase an old N'awlins saying:

"Too much [compute power] is never enough".

You mentioned that the compute power isn't needed unless you are doing something like video editing.

Exactly!

The social consumer will take video with his iPhone or iPad, edit it then publish it to who knows where. Right now, they are using iMovie. A year from now, they will be using Final Cut Pro X on the iPad. The pieces are already in place to do that on the iPad -- the UI of FCPX needs to be reworked for touch. My 16-year-old granddaughter can do more, faster with FCPX than she ever could do with iMovie.

That does not mean that FCPX need be relegated to the prosumer -- Today, it is possible to capture live video from a very expensive camera on the iPad -- say of a soccer goal or a touchdown pass. Then, within seconds, literally, you can turn out a highlight video of the "event". You've seen Madden telestrate a few static screen shots of a play a few minutes after it happens. A Mac or the next iPad can do that faster and better within seconds. You will be able to highlight the video and run continuous or start-stop action anywhere during the action of the play.

All it takes is a little [more] compute power on the Mac or iPad.

Some other pithy paraphrases:

C. Nothcote Parkinson: "Work expands to fill the compute power available for its completion".

And one of my favorites from my days at IBM: "There's no substitute for cubic inches".
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post #103 of 103
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Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

The quick and dirty short-term solution: make Apple pay more for their Intel chips.

The long-term solution: none.

Why is there no long-term solution? Because sooner or later (probably sooner) Apple will transition their MacBook Air line to ARM-based CPUs.

I highly doubt this, x86 is far too important right now for anything called a Mac. Rather I see Apple coming out with a completely different set of machines to exploit ARM and an iOS variant.
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No, that won't hurt Intel much. Apple is just one of many Intel customers. But establishing a trend toward ARM among mobile device vendors will hurt Intel greatly. Even Microsoft is threatening to port Windows 8 Tablet (and Office) to ARM.

Beautiful to see Intel under pressure isn't it?
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Apple designs their own ARM-based chips, which allows them to avoid the off-the-shelf pricing for Intel chips, and they're going to leverage that advantage. ARM-based chips give longer battery life and they cost Apple less. Those are huge advantages.

That is all true but they also have significant disadvantages.
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Transitioning the MacBook Air to ARM will give the consumer a better experience (longer battery life, cooler operation) and allow Apple to maintain their profit margins for another decade. It's a no brainer. It *will* happen.

Not with Mac OS/X they won't. OS/X is now a high performance operating system that people regularly use to exploit the full potential of the current Intel hardware. ARM is a very noticeable step backwards in performance.
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Let's pre-empt a few arguments against an ARM-based MacBook Air:

1. "ARM-based chips don't have enough power"

The A6 (or A7) will have quad cores, which will provide enough CPU power to run OS X just as well as Intel's power-hungry, hot-running CPUs.

Even with Quad cores you would be luck to get a quarter of the performance of today's Intel chips.
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And sharing the processing workload with the GPU through OpenCL will help immensely, as it does now in OS X. There's no hurry. Apple can pick their spot. They can choose the most convenient time to transition to ARM-based chips.

I'm a big fan of OpenCL but I'm also disappointed when people look at it as a replacement for conventional cores running everyday apps. OpenCL is only of a benefit if the task assigned to the GPU is optimal for the GPUs structure.
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2. "It would be too hard for Apple to port OS X from CISC to RISC"

Apple has already ported OS X from RISC (PowerPC) to CISC (Intel x86/x64). I wouldn't be surprised if Apple has maintained a RISC version of OS X since the Intel transition. And Apple has proven again and again that they can manage CPU and OS transitions brilliantly. Been there, done that. Oh, and if 3rd party developers (lookin' right atcha, Adobe) drag their feet, then Apple can and will develop their own apps to replace theirs.

Actually we are in agreement here. IOS is basically Mac OS with a new GUI layer and some changes to process handling. However the ease of getting Mac OS to run on ARM has nothing to do with the bad idea it is. Basically you are moving back to 68040 or early power PC class performance. If that!

Now I'd be the first to agree that the extra cores, extra execution units and even the GPU will help some. In fact I can see very usable machines. These will not be machines that can address the current Intel users already looking to make an upgrade. if you or a perspective purchaser isn't happy with current laptop performance you won't be happy with ARM based machines.
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3. "ARM would mean no Windows on MacBook Air"

Probably not, unless users are willing to put up with a horrendously slow hardware architecture emulator. Microsoft has done that in the past with Virtual PC, which ran Windows on PowerPC machines. But really, the vast majority of MacBook Air customers are consumers, and they don't care about running Windows native or emulated. The original MacBook Air fell into the "frequent flier and executive status symbol" category. Not the new one. The 11.6" MBA is Apple's entry-level laptop now.

This is a huge factor, without i86 support Apples laptop sales would crash. This is one of the reasons I suspect that the coming ARM machines will represent a new family of devices at Apple. The market simply isn't ready for non I 86 Macs.
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4. "But what about Office and all those other Windows apps?"

How many of you consumers out there are actually running Office on your MacBook Air? Hold up your hands!

I think you mis one huge factor here, it is the pro user that drives Mac Book sales these days. VM technology is a wonderful thing.
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Yeah, didn't think so. Again, if Apple sees that users are waving flaming pitchforks and screaming for a particular 3rd party app that only runs on x86 (highly unlikely), then Apple could do their own version. For ARM. Or they could wait for a less-entrenched developer to do it for them and fill in the vacuum. Whatever.

You live in a dream land. Apple isn't going to write any of the specialized apps that are Windows only.
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It's not "if" but "when." Apple will ship ARM-based MacBook Airs. It's just a matter of fitting it into their schedule.

I'd be extremely surprised if they called them Mac Books. As to fitting them into a schedule the need better hardware than they have now. A5 won't do the trick, I'm not convinced the A6 will either.
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Oh, and there's one more thing. Let's say that the $300 million Intel lavished on their Ultrabook "initiative" actually works. Say it creates a huge market for Ultrabooks. Let's play along for a second and assume that a new "race to the bottom" will start at the high end of the Wintel laptop market. (And yes, I am the new King of Sweden!) Well, there will be the inevitable price wars between the Ultrabook makers. They'll cut corners everywhere, they'll try to nickel-and-dime each other off the low-margin cliff.

Let's imagine that in 2 years, all those Ultrabook competitors manage to bring the price down from $1000 to $800. They will have finally managed to undercut the MacBook Air price by 2013. Unfortunately for them, by that time Apple will have released an A7-based MacBook Air that allows them to maintain a 30% margin while selling the 11.6" model for $800 too. It'll be next-gen thin, next-gen light, next-gen cool, and the Wintel crowd will never be able to catch up. Not while they use Intel chips.

You are overly optimistic about ARM performance and the markets desire for intel is understated. I expect i86 hardware based Mac Books to be around for a very long time. Still I expect an ARM play from Apple. I just don't exspect a straight up move into Mac Book territory.
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