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Apple's next-gen Macs to have something special under the hood

post #1 of 204
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A new generation of personal computers on the way from Apple Inc. may sport some of the most significant architectural changes since the Mac maker made the jump from PowerPC processors to those manufactured by Intel Corp., AppleInsider has learned.

As part of its move to Intel chips in early 2006, the Cupertino-based company largely abandoned its practice of using custom motherboard chipsets to support the primary CPU in its Macs. Instead, it began to rely on slightly tweaked versions of industry-standard chipsets offered by Intel to the broad range of PC manufacturers that develop Intel-powered systems.

For instance, while Apple's existing line of MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks are unique in that they run the Mac OS X operating system, they're architecturally based on the same run-of-the-mill processors and chipsets from Intel's Santa Rosa mobile platform also employed by Windows-supporting rivals, such as Dell and HP.

However, with Apple striving to maintain Mac sales growth of more than two times the industry average, it's again looking to differentiate the architecture of its personal computer systems through alternative technology that will afford it an advantage beyond the reach of its competition.

As such, people familiar with these plans say an upcoming generation of Macs, lead by a trio of redesigned notebooks, won't adopt the Montevina chipset announced as part of Intel's Centrino 2 mobile platform earlier this month. What's more, those same people suggest the chipset employed by the new wave of Macs may have little or nothing to do with Intel at all. (This should not be confused with the primary CPU, which will continue to come from Intel.)

Exactly what alternative Apple has chosen remains unclear. However it's believed that Intel, which declined to comment for this story, would need to have established a licensing agreement with the firm responsible for manufacturing an Intel-compatible chipset, be it Apple or one of the company's third party suppliers.

Assuming the chipsets in the new Macs are not based on Intel technology, that would leave Apple with only a handful of viable options. The company could return to a practice common during the years of PowerPC-based Macs in which it developed proprietary chipsets to support the primary processors in its systems.

Another option is that Apple could forge a relationship with one of the other established third party chipset manufacturers, such as NVidia, AMD or Via, in a move that would allow the company to build its next-generation systems using technology cherry-picked from the best of both worlds.



A move by Apple away from Intel chipsets may also be tied to concerns over the power-hungry nature of the chipmaker's more recent mobile chipsets. The Mac maker has been working to reduce the size and weight of its notebook offerings while simultaneously extending battery life and introducing new features not accessible to its rivals.

During a recent quarterly conference call, Apple chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer uncharacteristically made references to ongoing investments in new product technologies that would pressure the company's profit margins but leave competitors scrambling by the side of the road.

"We have some investments in front of us that I cant discuss with you today where were going to be delivering state of the art new products that our competitors just arent going to be able to match," he said, "and as a result, I would see gross margins being about 30 percent and thats thats all I can tell you at this point."

Since Apple's new Mac notebooks aren't necessarily following the same rollout schedule as competitive offerings based purely on standard Centrino 2 components, people familiar with the next-generation systems say it will be at least another 6 to 8 weeks before the company makes an official announcement.

An authentic photo of Apple's next-gen MacBook Pro casing.



Apple recently de-committed on notebook inventories for a two-week period to retail partners such as Best Buy, which spurred speculation of imminent upgrades. The move, however, is believed to be a result of orders related to the ongoing educational buying season, which typically puts a strain on Mac supply for a period of several weeks each year beginning in mid July.
post #2 of 204
I'll believe it when I see it.
post #3 of 204
And what would altered chipsets mean for Parallels, VMWare, and other programs that run Windows?
post #4 of 204
sounds interesting!
but another 6 to 8 weeks \
well, that's still in Q3, as mentioned by Oppenheimer.
post #5 of 204
doesn't make sense.

they already have to write code in universal binary to be used on intel and powerpc chips... are they going to now need to write code in universal tertiary?

I'm sure the changes will just be upgraded motherboards of some sort, but after juse getting intel processor on board in the last few years, it makes absolutely zero sense to abandon them this quickly for a new type processor.
post #6 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdcat View Post

And what would altered chipsets mean for Parallels, VMWare, and other programs that run Windows?

nothing, because there windows runs from within the mac OS, nothing to do with chipsets..
the story might be different for bootcamp though, I don't know. but as apple is advertizing bootcamp themselves they would make sure that it stays compatible..
oh, and I already ran parallels on my PPC 12" powerbook..
post #7 of 204
Good reporting. Hope its as amazing as it sounds!
post #8 of 204
intel chipsets sucks next to nvidia and ati / amd. Amd on board video kicks intel ass.

Apple can move to amd very easy they just need to make drivers for the chipset.
post #9 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

What's more, those same people suggest the chipset employed by the new wave of Macs may have little or nothing to do with Intel at all.

I don't see that happening at all. Not one mention of P.A. Semi in all that BS talk of IBM, AMD and Via.

Quote:
A move by Apple away from Intel chipsets may also be tied to concerns over the power-hungry nature of the chipmaker's more recent mobile chipsets.

WTH! The new Centrinos are the most power efficient processors for notebooks at that speed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by J8D4roon View Post

sounds interesting!
but another 6 to 8 weeks \
well, that's still in Q3, as mentioned by Oppenheimer.

The average refresh rate for MB and MBPs is still 6 weeks away. If they are switching designs they will most likely milk the old design a little longer.
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post #10 of 204
Is anyone else rolling their eyes and saying "here we go again?" Apple tried going their own way for years, and mostly what they got out of it was being slower than the competition and having serious supply constraints. If this article is true, I wouldn't want to be long on Apple.
post #11 of 204
My predictions. Most components still Intel and etc. However... the PA Semi stuff that will blow away the competition is probably 3G in all the Mac laptops.

The Mac Touch/ smaller MacBook Air though... ah that is a tricky one because if it is not Intel... then what CPU? It has to have some level of Intel compatibility no?

Unless the Mac Touch/ smaller MacBook Air is no Intel at all, all PA Semi etc.

Ah I don't know my crystal ball is full of muck right now can't see sh*t...
post #12 of 204
all we need is a bottle opener built in and its all cool, man.
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post #13 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandau View Post

all we need is a bottle opener built in and its all cool, man.

A tea maker would be nice.
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post #14 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by Booga View Post

Is anyone else rolling their eyes and saying "here we go again?" Apple tried going their own way for years, and mostly what they got out of it was being slower than the competition and having serious supply constraints. If this article is true, I wouldn't want to be long on Apple.

Are you the official naysayer, or just filling in?
post #15 of 204

Apple going Proprietary again?
AMD knows better than Intel (about intel CPUs)?
PA Semi knows better than Intel & AMD combined?


Is any one can do large delivery of silicon for Apple other than Intel?

what the heck going on?

stock going to be taken down again, sigh

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post #16 of 204
If they're saying its something that their competitors won't be able to come up with, it would have to be something to do with their purchase of P.A. Semi, yeah?
post #17 of 204
Honestly, it would be a bad move on Apple's part to move from Intel to someone else, especially if they were not Intel compatible. Only two years on one architecture? That would be insane for programmers, and a headache for us end-users.

What I think would happen: some internal hardware that is geared for media (possibly built in super H.264 encoder or the next generation of such) that will make mac hardware finally "distinguishable" from regular PC parts (come on folks, you have to admit, the only things Apple has in their machines that are different from all other Winblows boxes are EFI the TPM chip, and really looking nice thin cases). PA semi conductor purchase will make the chip, being in Apple's control. With this, Apple will finally be able to knock back out the Psystar and Open Machine peoples since those machines will never be able to have the Apple made hardware chip. And the Winblows side of the mac won't be able to take advantage of this new media encoder chip. Just an idea... Elgato may blow a circuit though... haha.

Unless of course Apple is saying "Lets all convert again! In fact, we've had a THIRD OS X in testing, even in more secret than the x86 version of all OS X all this time. Programmers, go have fun!" Yeah right.

Please let it be some sort of media HW accelerator to make our machines ready for Broadcast!
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post #18 of 204
If they move significantly away from the Intel platform such that OSes like Windows/Linux/et al run slower (or not at all) they can pretty much kiss their marketshare gains goodbye. The sole reason I and other IT folks are recommending Macs to family and friends now is because they have a failsafe: if necessary, they can boot up Windows and run at native speed. If Apple decides to go their own way, a lot of people will shuffle back to the Dells and HPs of the world. I like Mac OS, but I still want to have the option of using the same hardware everything else uses (which lowers component prices and encourages developers to optimize for x86-platforms on the whole).
post #19 of 204
I think people are confusing processors with chipsets.

The article doesn't suggest a move away from Intel PROCESSORS (though Apple might certainly add other compatible processor brands to the mix one day).

The article is about the chips that ACCOMPANY and support the main processor. That's what "chipset" refers to.

And the idea that Apple might add custom chips around the Intel processor sounds good to me. No need for Apple to limit themselves just because Wintel clones can't do that.

And this would seem to fit nicely with Snow Leopard's plans too. (At least assuming performance benefits, and not just power-efficiency.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by silentcrs View Post

If they move significantly away from the Intel platform such that OSes like Windows/Linux/et al run slower (or not at all) they can pretty much kiss their marketshare gains goodbye. The sole reason I and other IT folks are recommending Macs to family and friends now is because they have a failsafe: if necessary, they can boot up Windows and run at native speed.

I wouldn't worry about that theory too much. The processors are still from Intel. And if there's any overhead from dealing with the other, less-standard chips that accompany the processor, I have little fear that computers will be fast enough to still provide a productive Windows or Linux experience.

The only reason to worry about Windows performance is if somehow the new custom chipsets would be SO much slower than the old ones that this actually offsets the ongoing performance increases of each generation of Intel processors. And offsets those increases to SUCH a large extent that Windows performance is no longer "good enough." Then the failsafe you mention would be threatened. But it doesn't seem likely. Especially since Apple actively SUPPORTS that failsafe via Boot Camp.

Again, this doesn't sound like whole new incompatible processor architectures--that would make little sense. This is about chips alongside the main processor, boosting performance for certain things. Maybe Windows and Linux won't take advantage of those benefits the way OS X will, but those other OS's will still have a nice fast Intel CPU to run on.

Anyway, it's all rumor, but I find it plausible.
post #20 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by pooped View Post

nothing, because there windows runs from within the mac OS, nothing to do with chipsets..

it is entirely to do with chipsets. Paralells/VMware Fusion do not emulate the x86 instruction set, they simply provide an environment for an x86 OS to run. They pass the instructions directly to the processor. If Apple switched to a processor that wasn't x86 based, Parallels and VMware Fusion wouldn't work, as the processor wouldn't understand the x86 instructions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pooped View Post

oh, and I already ran parallels on my PPC 12" powerbook..

No you didn't. You may have used Virtual PC, but Parallels does not emulate the x86 architecture on a PPC machine. Emulating a different processor architecture is very processor intensive, which is why x86 software was slow on a PPC computer.
post #21 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by camroidv27 View Post

Honestly, it would be a bad move on Apple's part to move from Intel to someone else, especially if they were not Intel compatible. Only two years on one architecture? That would be insane for programmers, and a headache for us end-users.

What I think would happen: some internal hardware that is geared for media (possibly built in super H.264 encoder or the next generation of such) that will make mac hardware finally "distinguishable" from regular PC parts (come on folks, you have to admit, the only things Apple has in their machines that are different from all other Winblows boxes are EFI the TPM chip, and really looking nice thin cases). PA semi conductor purchase will make the chip, being in Apple's control. With this, Apple will finally be able to knock back out the Psystar and Open Machine peoples since those machines will never be able to have the Apple made hardware chip. And the Winblows side of the mac won't be able to take advantage of this new media encoder chip. Just an idea... Elgato may blow a circuit though... haha.

Unless of course Apple is saying "Lets all convert again! In fact, we've had a THIRD OS X in testing, even in more secret than the x86 version of all OS X all this time. Programmers, go have fun!" Yeah right.

Please let it be some sort of media HW accelerator to make our machines ready for Broadcast!

Same x86 processors, perhaps even Intel's, but not necessarily Intel's PLATFORM. Let's not get too ahead of ourselves here.
post #22 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by gloss View Post

Same x86 processors, perhaps even Intel's, but not necessarily Intel's PLATFORM. Let's not get too ahead of ourselves here.

I don't think Apple would move from x86, but also, I don't think they will move from intel either. I just think they'll have some other chip under the hood that does other stuff to relieve the load of the proc, that way they don't have to rely on the tweaked procs that Intel gives them. I could be wrong though. Usually am... but if I were running Apple... haha, it'd have sunk into the ground already!
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post #23 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by mebbert View Post

If they're saying its something that their competitors won't be able to come up with, it would have to be something to do with their purchase of P.A. Semi, yeah?

That seems reasonable, but I didn't think tech from working with P.A. Semi would have occurred this quickly. Of course, I have no idea what they are doing or when they started, I just assumed we wouldn't see any fruits of that labour until 2009.
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post #24 of 204
Okay, you have a very fine point. I'd love to see an Apple chipset instead of the current Intel set they have! (Right, intel makes the chipset for their boards? Last time I checked they did. And yes, I know the difference between chipset and processor... I didn't really spend too much time looking at the wording... my bad :P )

Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

I think people are confusing processors with chipsets.

The article doesn't suggest a move away from Intel PROCESSORS (though Apple might certainly add other compatible processor brands to the mix one day).

The article is about the chips that ACCOMPANY and support the main processor. That's what "chipset" refers to.

And the idea that Apple might add custom chips around the Intel processor sounds good to me. No need for Apple to limit themselves just because Wintel clones can't do that.

And this would seem to fit nicely with Snow Leopard's plans too.



I wouldn't worry about that theory too much. The processors are still from Intel. And if there's any overhead from dealing with the other, less-standard chips that accompany the processor, I have little fear that computers will be fast enough to still provide a productive Windows or Linux experience.

The only reason to worry about Windows performance is if somehow the new custom chipsets would be SO much slower than the old ones that this actually offsets the ongoing performance increases of each generation of Intel processors. And offsets those increases to SUCH a large extent that Windows performance is no longer "good enough." Then the failsafe you mention would be threatened. But it doesn't seem likely. Especially since Apple actively SUPPORTS that failsafe via Boot Camp.

Again, this doesn't sound like whole new incompatible processor architectures--that would make little sense. This about chips alongside the main processor, boosting performance for certain things. Maybe Windows and Linux won't take advantage of those benefits the way OS X will, but those other OS's will still have a nice fast Intel CPU to run on.

Anyway, it's all rumor, but I find it plausible.
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post #25 of 204
First of all, Apple can't use chipsets from AMD. None of them are compatible or licensed to use Intel chips, even Puma. Apple would not at this time (if ever) adopt AMD CPUs.

Second of all, Apple would drop dead before it used Via especially since Intel has sued the pants of Via for chipset licensing. Apple would never incur the wrath of their favorite new partner Intel. Also, VIA chipsets suck.

Third of all, Appleinsider leaves out the most probable third-party chipset provider...Nvidia. Nvidia has a license for Intel chips and allows SLI for multiple graphics cards and hybrid technology that allows switching between integrated/discrete GPUs. But I don't see how using Nvidia has any advantage over Intel chipsets.

Last of all, Apple is not developing anything. I'm pretty sure with all the talk lately about system-on-a-chip (SoC) from Intel and the press, that Apple is using a new chip from Intel that is a SoC. That means the CPU, GPU, southbridge, northbridge are all on one chip. This makes sense for laptop redesigns since you only need one main chip for the motherboard, therefore changing size and thermal considerations and simplifying the overall layout. This chip is probably very customizable to fit new notebook designs and only available for Apple from Intel.

An SoC from Intel makes the most sense to me.
post #26 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elijahg View Post

it is entirely to do with chipsets. Paralells/VMware Fusion do not emulate the x86 instruction set, they simply provide an environment for an x86 OS to run. They pass the instructions directly to the processor. If Apple switched to a processor that wasn't x86 based, Parallels and VMware Fusion wouldn't work, as the processor wouldn't understand the x86 instructions.

They also use the windows device drivers. Apple would have to create their own drivers if they use something custom for The virtualization software or even boot camp to work correctly.

In theory, this move could help as the chipsets themselves actually low-power versions of desktop chipsets. A portable or something like the iMac isn't going to use 10 USB ports or 6 additional PCI-E x1 lanes as you'd have to have a desktop enclose to take advantage of that. You could wind up with a much smaller and more efficient south bridge.
post #27 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by pooped View Post

oh, and I already ran parallels on my PPC 12" powerbook..

Wow, please tell us how you did this. Parallels and VMWare always stated they're for Intel Macs only.
post #28 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by Booga View Post

Is anyone else rolling their eyes and saying "here we go again?" Apple tried going their own way for years, and mostly what they got out of it was being slower than the competition and having serious supply constraints. If this article is true, I wouldn't want to be long on Apple.

Chip sets are not CPUs. This is a minor issue. Could be to leverage more Apple only features. This is good news not bad.
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post #29 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by silentcrs View Post

If they move significantly away from the Intel platform such that OSes like Windows/Linux/et al run slower (or not at all) they can pretty much kiss their marketshare gains goodbye. The sole reason I and other IT folks are recommending Macs to family and friends now is because they have a failsafe: if necessary, they can boot up Windows and run at native speed. If Apple decides to go their own way, a lot of people will shuffle back to the Dells and HPs of the world. I like Mac OS, but I still want to have the option of using the same hardware everything else uses (which lowers component prices and encourages developers to optimize for x86-platforms on the whole).

This is not about the CPU.
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post #30 of 204
I take this with the whole salt mine.
post #31 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

And the idea that Apple might add custom chips around the Intel processor sounds good to me. No need for Apple to limit themselves just because Wintel clones can't do that.

Don't other vendors use chipsets from AMD, Nvidia, Via ect? How does that distinguish Apple from the rest of the pc vendors.

The AMD chipsets are supposed to be really nice but will it make *that* big of a difference? When you boil it all down performance is mostly tied to the cpu.
post #32 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Chip sets are not CPUs. This is a minor issue. Could be to leverage more Apple only features. This is good news not bad.

I know the difference between a CPU and a chipset. My point was that the more custom chips you have, the more risk you're at for manufacturing and supply delays, bugs, etc., that affect only you.

This could be good, but it's also a very high-risk move if true.
post #33 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

I think people are confusing processors with chipsets.

The article doesn't suggest a move away from Intel PROCESSORS (though Apple might certainly add other compatible processor brands to the mix one day).

The article is about the chips that ACCOMPANY and support the main processor. That's what "chipset" refers to.

And the idea that Apple might add custom chips around the Intel processor sounds good to me. No need for Apple to limit themselves just because Wintel clones can't do that.

And this would seem to fit nicely with Snow Leopard's plans too.



I wouldn't worry about that theory too much. The processors are still from Intel. And if there's any overhead from dealing with the other, less-standard chips that accompany the processor, I have little fear that computers will be fast enough to still provide a productive Windows or Linux experience.

The only reason to worry about Windows performance is if somehow the new custom chipsets would be SO much slower than the old ones that this actually offsets the ongoing performance increases of each generation of Intel processors. And offsets those increases to SUCH a large extent that Windows performance is no longer "good enough." Then the failsafe you mention would be threatened. But it doesn't seem likely. Especially since Apple actively SUPPORTS that failsafe via Boot Camp.

Again, this doesn't sound like whole new incompatible processor architectures--that would make little sense. This about chips alongside the main processor, boosting performance for certain things. Maybe Windows and Linux won't take advantage of those benefits the way OS X will, but those other OS's will still have a nice fast Intel CPU to run on.

Anyway, it's all rumor, but I find it plausible.

Exactly. I'd love to see PA work in the area of h.264 encode/decode chipsets ala the old days of the Motorola 56k DSP that was designed to do a lot of tasks and free up the cores to do work and then allow this all to work together with GrandCentral and OpenCL.

GPU work in OpenCL/GrandCentral seems likely targeted for dedicated GPUs and not integrated chipsets that are running the current MacBooks or Mac-mini.

Now with regards to PA Semi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P.A._Semi

I just cannot see it's founder, Dan Dobberpuhl, the lead designer of the DECAlpha Processor and StrongARM just sitting around and not adding something to Macs, across-the-board, giving Apple an even more compelling reason for consumers to buy Apple products.
post #34 of 204

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post #35 of 204
In other news Pigs are finally flying! More things certain to happen are:
1) Cars running off happiness, sunshine and rainbows
2) Airplanes travelling at 10 Mach yet not consuming anything else than the CO2 created by the passengers breathing
and last but not least
3) Apple buys MS and ends the entire failed project known as "Windows" (after all, Windows are meant to break

But seriously, no way Apple abandons Intel after all the working together they have done and how happy both of them are with the arrangement...
post #36 of 204
NVidia2008 had it right....

This new chipset is going to be for mobile 3G notebooks. Look at the Macbook Air. This is the direction where Apple is heading. No need to worry about wi-fi spots (though wifi support is not going anywhere). All notebooks will be able to jump on ATT's network (which makes ATT) happy, and surf the web at iPhone speeds.

This also will lead to App store on the Mac as dicussed here: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/0...ref=technology.

By the way, I'm new to the Forum. I'm looking forward to chatting with you all!
post #37 of 204
I don't think we have anything to worry about Intel going away.

Steve has publically stated many times that he is more than pleased with their relationship with Intel. That is not going away.

Second, if they were going to change PROCESSORS they would have to let their most important asset aware, their developers. WWDC made no mention of changing PROCESSORS.

Trust me, Apple is not leaving Intel. Intel do amazing things for Apple and they need each other.
post #38 of 204
Quote:
Originally Posted by backtomac View Post

I'll believe it when I see it.

Even after you see it, you won't believe it.
post #39 of 204
This isn't nearly as big an issue as people are making it. And I blame the AI article, which wasn't very clear and is just taking bad guesses that rile up the confused people all the more.

"What's more, those same people suggest the chipset employed by the new wave of Macs may have little or nothing to do with Intel at all."

That's just a bad, unclear sentence. The notebooks will of course use Intel chips. All it means is that the *changes* have nothing to do with Intel specifically (because it was presupposed that Montevina was the cause of some delay.) That doesn't mean they're not using Intel chips.
post #40 of 204
I'm still picturing some kind of specialized high-performance SSD controller where the SSD contains key components of the OS and other software. But, I'm not overly aware of what chipsets are currently available for that type of application to speculate further. I could easily envision some kind of near instant-on and loading of apps scenario.
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