Macs may go even longer between revamps as Intel kills tick-tock

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Already burdened with improvement cycles measured in years, Mac owners could soon find more room for despair, as Apple supplier and chipmaker extraordinaire Intel has announced that they will no longer follow their famous tick-tock development strategy.




Intel will retire tick-tock -- which saw process improvements (tick) followed the next year by architecture overhauls (tock) -- in favor of a new three-step approach. Going forward, the company will back new architectures with an optimization period rather than immediately moving toward a process shrink.

"We expect to lengthen the amount of time we will utilize our 14nm and our next generation 10nm process technologies, further optimizing our products and process technologies while meeting the yearly market cadence for product introductions," Intel revealed in its most recent 10-K filing.

Intel explained that it now believes there is more to be had from baking new capabilities into its chips and expanding their possible use cases than from fighting against the laws of physics in an attempt to extend the life of Moore's Law.

"We have continued expanding on the advances anticipated by Moore's Law by bringing new capabilities into silicon and producing new products optimized for a wider variety of applications," the company wrote. "We expect these advances will result in a significant reduction in transistor leakage, lower active power, and an increase in transistor density to enable more smaller form factors, such as powerful, feature-rich phones and tablets with a longer battery life."




Since switching to Intel processors, Apple has roughly followed Intel's cadence by updating the Mac line on every tock. That means that unlike iOS devices, Macs often go two to three years between major updates -- the company has yet to offer computers with Intel's latest Skylake processors, for example, more than six months after the new chips were announced.

The latest scuttlebutt has suggested Apple is planning to refresh its MacBook lineup in the second quarter of 2016. Both its MacBook Pro and 12-inch MacBook are due for updates, and it remains to be seen what the company plans to do with the MacBook Air lineup.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 105
    I assume this would affect the entire PC industry and it still doesn't stop Apple from releasing incremental updates to their hardware with more memory, storage or faster GPUs.
    edited March 2016 ai46sockrolidradarthekatdysamoriacornchipbaconstang
  • Reply 2 of 105
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,107member
    Or Apple just waits for Zen to arrive with Polaris and offers BTO options for either Intel or AMD. Since AMD's AM4 boards now come with USB 3.1-C and Thunderbolt 2.0 nothing will keep Apple tethered to Intel exclusively.
  • Reply 3 of 105
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,368member
    Heh! Haven't I been saying that these process cycles are getting longer? Well, Intel has finally owned up to it. We're already in this three year cycle.
    ration alHerbivore2hmm
  • Reply 4 of 105
    brs165brs165 Posts: 1member
    I think this all the more reason that Apple will at some point move away from intel x86 to Apple ARM Ax chips.
    levitallest skilbdkennedy1002netroxsockrolidSolipmzcalicornchip
  • Reply 5 of 105
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 314member
    Now would be the perfect time for Apple to leverage their custom ARM processor expertise to build a completely new line of computers.
    stevenozbdkennedy1002netroxcornchip
  • Reply 6 of 105
    Part of the reason Apple hasn't jumped to Skylake is due to Intel still experiencing yield issues at 14nm, and in some cases they haven't released the higher end chips with Iris Pro yet. That being said, OS X Server now has a reference to an Early 2016 MacBook, so I would expect that to drop soon. 
    ration al
  • Reply 7 of 105
    AI2xxxAI2xxx Posts: 38member
    Part of the reason Apple hasn't jumped to Skylake is due to Intel still experiencing yield issues at 14nm, and in some cases they haven't released the higher end chips with Iris Pro yet. That being said, OS X Server now has a reference to an Early 2016 MacBook, so I would expect that to drop soon. 
    An equivalent to what I would expect to see for a 13" MacBook Pro launched in the US from VAIO a few weeks back.

    The VAIO Z uses an i5-6267U or an i7-6567U, both use Iris 550.



    Intel's "Skull Canyon" mini PC has an i7-6770HQ with Iris Pro 580 and will be shipping in May.


  • Reply 8 of 105
    levilevi Posts: 343member
    brs165 said:
    I think this all the more reason that Apple will at some point move away from intel x86 to Apple ARM Ax chips.
    Exactly 
    ksec
  • Reply 9 of 105
    schlackschlack Posts: 672member
    this makes so much sense...they're probably leaving a lot of room on the table for improvement with each tic-tock cycle. plus it buys them some time to fight physics...as they start to hit walls that need breaking down.
    ration albrakkenabedoss
  • Reply 10 of 105
    scartartscartart Posts: 163member
    schlack said:
    this makes so much sense...they're probably leaving a lot of room on the table for improvement with each tic-tock cycle. plus it buys them some time to fight physics...as they start to hit walls that need breaking down.
    and AMD are no threat so they can afford to ease up.
    jackansirezwits
  • Reply 11 of 105
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,128member
    Since Steve’s return, Apple has only twice updated products without a processor bump. Interestingly, neither was an Intel/IBM product.

    I guess that’s going away now. Prepare for trolls.
  • Reply 12 of 105
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,603member
    My macs usually last around 5-6 years anyway.
    tallest skilstevenozration aldysamoria
  • Reply 13 of 105
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,603member
    brs165 said:
    I think this all the more reason that Apple will at some point move away from intel x86 to Apple ARM Ax chips.
    Fine with me as long as it runs Adobe CC just as fast or faster than Intel chips.
  • Reply 14 of 105
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,011member
    I know of a series of Application processors that has no such problems.
    I think Apple knows too.
  • Reply 15 of 105
    jonyojonyo Posts: 113member
    I need significant CPU power for audio DSP. I get that fine these days with whatever the top end is for MacBook Pros, and haven't needed to go up to Mac Pro or higher GHz iMac. However, the current state of apple's A-series ARM CPUs don't come close to the power I need. For a super thin Macbook Air and the performance you expect from those, sure, they could probably do it right now with an A9x, but it'll be quite some time before they ever could power higher end pro machines with ARM CPUs.
    ration aldysamoria
  • Reply 16 of 105
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,011member
    volcan said:
    brs165 said:
    I think this all the more reason that Apple will at some point move away from intel x86 to Apple ARM Ax chips.
    Fine with me as long as it runs Adobe CC just as fast or faster than Intel chips.
    As long as the Abobe apps are native for Mac OS X it's just a recompile for Arm away.

    Edit: Apple is on the brink of a real breakthrough here, they could release an extremely cheap clustered (passive cooled) A processors with super powerful GPUs to make a really fast (Adobe, or NSA decrypting) platform. Other companies already have such boards (Nvidia for example).
    Intel is heading the way of the dinosaur...
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 17 of 105
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,368member
    brs165 said:
    I think this all the more reason that Apple will at some point move away from intel x86 to Apple ARM Ax chips.

    Ah, that's a who,e different matter. Apple's ARM chips would need to become several times faster.
  • Reply 18 of 105
    ceek74 said:
    Now would be the perfect time for Apple to leverage their custom ARM processor expertise to build a completely new line of computers.
    Considering Apple underclocks all of their Ax chips, I'm willing to bet if Apple threw a couple of normal clocked A10X chips in a MacBook they would be good to go.
  • Reply 19 of 105
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,368member
    bdkennedy said:
    ceek74 said:
    Now would be the perfect time for Apple to leverage their custom ARM processor expertise to build a completely new line of computers.
    Considering Apple underclocks all of their Ax chips, I'm willing to bet if Apple threw a couple of normal clocked A10X chips in a MacBook they would be good to go.
    Why does everybody oversimplify this?
    linkmanThe_Martini_Catfastasleephmm
  • Reply 20 of 105
    kkerstkkerst Posts: 330member
    jonyo said:
    I need significant CPU power for audio DSP. I get that fine these days with whatever the top end is for MacBook Pros, and haven't needed to go up to Mac Pro or higher GHz iMac. However, the current state of apple's A-series ARM CPUs don't come close to the power I need. For a super thin Macbook Air and the performance you expect from those, sure, they could probably do it right now with an A9x, but it'll be quite some time before they ever could power higher end pro machines with ARM CPUs.
    If the future is with ARM and to achieve the type of processing power needed, the solution will probably be distributed processing with numerous customer Apple ARMs used in one design. I can see a platform existing where an A10 is used with an Apple GPU (ARM based). If a DSP is needed, then I can see a custom sound DSP processor used either off chip or within the A10 (Ax or whatever). The only problem with all this is not the hardware, it's what it does to the install base. Essentially, backward compatibility would be a problem for software. That's never stopped Apple before.
    sockrolid
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