As rumors of custom Apple MacBook CPUs persist, Microsoft teases ARM Windows laptops with ...

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in Future Apple Hardware edited October 2017
Microsoft's ARM-powered laptop initiative could offer users exceptional battery life that could last for multiple days on a single charge, possibly paving the way for Apple to do the same with its more powerful A11 Bionic processor -- should it so choose.




Pete Bernard, Principal Group Program Manager for Connectivity Partners at Microsoft, confirmed to Trusted Reviews during the Qualcomm 5G Summit in Hong Kong that the ARM notebooks can be expected to have a long battery life. Though final numbers haven't been released, Bernard advised the battery life is "beyond our expectations."

"We set a high bar for [our developers], and we're now beyond that. It's the kind of battery life where I use it on a daily basis. I don't take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It's that kind of battery life," claims Bernard. "I would consider it a game-changer in terms of the way people have experienced PCs in the past."

Microsoft initially announced the ARM-based notebook program in December 2016, with the aim of providing a full Windows 10 experience on the Snapdragon 835 chipset, as used in Google's Pixel 2 and the Samsung Galaxy S8 in the United States. In theory, the scheme could lead to the creation of thinner and lightweight notebooks with longer battery lives, while still retaining the processing performance.

Only three manufacturing partners will be involved in the scheme at first: HP, Asus, and Lenovo. Microsoft and Qualcomm hinted during the event that more vendors will join in at a later date, with Bernard confirming "We've had some conversations with other OEMs too, for future devices, that are very exciting about bringing their own spin."

Qualcomm VP of Global Product Marketing Don McGuire revealed the use of Snapdragon 835 is only the start, advising the rollout of future chipsets will be made with "mobile PC" in mind. "You'll see an evolved roadmap with mobile PCs in it more definitively than in the past. You'll see an evolution of different tiers of devices," said McGuire.

Microsoft is already testing "hundreds" of the ARM-based notebooks at its headquarters, Bernard confirmed. "We have hundreds of these devices being used on a daily basis in Redmond."

Currently, Qualcomm and Microsoft expect to formally announce the notebooks before the end of this year, keeping to a one-year timeline set in December last year. "You'll be heading more from us over the next coming weeks regarding that," said McGuire.

Not the first time Microsoft has tried this

When the Surface tablet launched, there were two versions -- the Windows RT version, and the full x86 Surface Pro line.

There's no reason to discuss the history behind Windows RT. Consumers didn't care for the lack of compatibility, and weren't interested in a Windows offshoot -- in much the same way that they more recently weren't interested in a Windows Phone, and for many of the same reasons.

Early rumors about the ARM-powered laptop line suggested that Intel was going to include a X86 32-bit emulator when the units shipped. If the emulator works well, then that exterminates some the major issue with Windows RT -- the ability to run software that users actually want to run. However, initial reports suggest that the emulator will only work with 32-bit software, and not 64-bit.

Microsoft hasn't had the need to do this with hardware architecture yet like Apple has -- but have dealt with Windows compatibility issues between versions many times throughout the last three decades.

Apple and ARM

When Apple shifted to Intel for its hardware in 2006, CEO Steve Jobs said that they had been developing versions of OS X for Intel hardware in parallel with PowerPC for a long time. While there has been no code leaks definitively pointing to this with Apple's A-series ARM processors right now, it stands to reason that there is a similar effort under wraps in Cupertino.

But, iOS and macOS share a common code base in many respects. Apple's Metal is implemented on both operating systems, as is APFS. All that would remain would be backwards-compatibility measures similar to "Rosetta" allowing for PowerPC code to run on Intel processors, or a "fat binary" implementation that long-time Mac users are familiar with from the migration from 680x0 to PowerPC.

From a benchmark perspective, Apple's A11 Bionic processor is remarkably similar to the 13-inch MacBook Pro. It is also more power-efficient -- and under Apple's control from a development standpoint from hardware, to firmware, all the way through the coding environment.

The new A11 Bionic processor has six cores, with the addition of two high-efficiency cores to the four in the A10 Fusion. For the first time, the A-series processor is also capable of asymmetric multi-processing, meaning that all six cores can be running simultaneously on one task -- making it more suitable for a desktop or laptop environment.

Should Intel fall down, and fail to deliver compelling processors for computers especially on the low end, Apple could likely make the shift to the A-series ARM processor in very little time.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 56
    xzuxzu Posts: 139member
    Is there such thing as "Cooks Law"? It would state that Mac Hardware is always at least 2 years behind PC hardware in processing power and 4 years in graphics.
    78BanditkestralksecNameo_williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 56
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,979member
    xzu said:
    Is there such thing as "Cooks Law"? It would state that Mac Hardware is always at least 2 years behind PC hardware in processing power and 4 years in graphics.
    Uhhh what?
    jbdragonStrangeDaysnetmageedredlkruppericthehalfbeejurassicNameo_pscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 56
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,132moderator
    MSFT seems to be going all in on the PC form factor.  

    The world has changed around MSFT and its finding that there are more and more out there who get by entirely on tablets, and I’d imagine the great majority of such users, at least those who once used a Laptop, are getting by entirely on a tablet called iPad.  

    That’s my story; I was in the software game for 26 years, designing software and building software companies. These days, and for the last two years, I drag my aging MacBook Air out of the closet only to run TurboTax Premier one day each year.  The other 364 days I manage my 7-figure self-directed stock and options portfolio entirely from my iPad and iPhone.  Most of my friends don’t even realize I own a laptop computer.  

    So MSFT builds hybrids, which are more Laptop than tablet, and now laptops with longer battery life and perhaps a few ounces lighter.  Okay, sure... there’s still a market for such out there, and I’m sure they’ll hold back the tides for a few more years with this strategy.  While Apple consolidates iOS as the standard platform for a new more mobile world.  (see GE and Apple Form Deep Partnership).
    edited October 2017 watto_cobrapatchythepirateracerhomie
  • Reply 4 of 56
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,086member
    xzu said:
    Is there such thing as "Cooks Law"? It would state that Mac Hardware is always at least 2 years behind PC hardware in processing power and 4 years in graphics.
    Grow up. You do realize Apple has access to the same "PC" hardware Windows- and Linux-based computer manufacturers have don't you? Apple just selects the hardware that makes sense for its products instead of dumping every single iteration of CPU released and seeing if anyone buys it, which is what "PC" vendors do all the time. Apple also doesn't overclock hardware simply to make it appear faster while driving that hardware into the garbage can from early burnout. 

    If on the other hand, you're trying to say Microsoft teasing another attempt at ARM-based desktop/laptop computing systems is ahead of something Apple would do then you're equally uneducated in Microsoft's history, which is what this article discusses. Microsoft can tease all they want because they know nothing will happen as long as they need to continue to support all those enterprise and government installations who have trillions of dollars invested in Windows software that wouldn't run on an ARM chip with or without an emulator. 
    macxpressGG1pscooter63watto_cobrawilliamlondonracerhomiejony0Tuubor
  • Reply 5 of 56
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 299member
    "All that would remain would be backwards-compatibility measures similar to "Rosetta" allowing for PowerPC code to run on Intel processors" - there's an important difference here: Rosetta worked because the x86 processor was a lot faster than the PowerPC users were used to, so they didn't perceive much of a slowdown.  But as you mentioned yourself, the A11 is "only" about on par with a low-end x86 i7 from a pure performance perspective - so with emulation, a user would definitely notice a degradation.  Mitigating things (a lot?) are that most apps probably spend the majority of their CPU cycles inside Apple's APIs - and when they make a call into Apple's code, that can run at native speeds/non-emulated.
  • Reply 6 of 56
    Apple quietly added in the ability for it to generate the application code to any processor when it included 'bitcode' as part of the App Store submission process.  For apps on the Mac App Store that added this, those apps can be re-generated for the ARM from the x86 code.  All of this is based on the LLVM work that Apple funded years ago. 

    The cutover from X86 to ARM has been well-planned by Apple for years and, when it happens, I suspect that the transition will be the smoothest ever.  I lived through Rosetta and it was as good as it could be made.  The approach Apple is planning will make that look like the stone age.  


    tjwolfSolinetroxGG1macpluspluspscooter63iqatedowatto_cobrapatchythepirateracerhomie
  • Reply 7 of 56
    IanSIanS Posts: 32member
    "Rosetta" Stone age. Ha Ha Ha
    lorin schultz
  • Reply 8 of 56
    IanSIanS Posts: 32member
    So if Microsoft makes Windows and Office run on ARM without using some custom hardware for emulation. Apple should be able to run that code twice as fast on one of their own ARM chips.
    jkichlinewatto_cobraracerhomiejony0
  • Reply 9 of 56
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,540member
    Are MS native applications, and some of there key partners, updating for ARM native?  If so, then that would make such a move for Apple better.

    Is this only for Windows 10s?

    If MS can provide an x86 to ARM emulator (perhaps 32 bit only), then I would give Apple better than even odds they could do so better.  They might be able to provide support in silicon to aid this (pure speculation here).  Apple's custom ARM chips are also much faster.  Apple could also use two Axx chips which still costs less than a single Intel.

    S/W compatibility is the biggest challenge here, so having MS go "first" is likely a good move.  They can claim some glory, but if Apple decides to also do this, then I give them the benefit of the doubt to be "best".  

    For Apple it is really about how they want to approach the computing.  Do they want to invest in the Mac line in this fashion?  I personally think they have to, and hope that they have been waiting until they could get their custom silicon "fast enough" to make the transition seamless.
  • Reply 10 of 56
    All that would remain would be backwards-compatibility measures similar to "Rosetta" allowing for PowerPC code to run on Intel processors, or a "fat binary" implementation that long-time Mac users are familiar with from the migration from 680x0 to PowerPC.

    Actually they don't need either.  They have the technology already to do final compilation into machine code at install time based on the device the app is being installed on. Apps can be optimized for processors that didn't even exist when they were created.  They already do this in the iOS App Store.  And they already do the reverse, the iOS simulators that developers use all of the time run x86 code, not ARM code.

    Both OSes are designed to be processor independent.
    edited October 2017 macplusplusRayz2016
  • Reply 11 of 56
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,979member
    xzu said:
    Is there such thing as "Cooks Law"? It would state that Mac Hardware is always at least 2 years behind PC hardware in processing power and 4 years in graphics.
    And yet millions and millions of people around the world still buy Macs each and every quarter...I guess Apple doesn't have a clue as to what it's doing. 

    There are Pros out there today, including some on this site that use 5-6yr old Macs to do their work and its still working for them. Apple, for the past 8 or so years has never focused on strictly on specs. Apple never focuses strictly on specs, but the experience which is far more important than the specs in the end. This is something that some PC people just don't get. All they seem to care about is this pissing contest of who has faster hardware. 99% of people buying a computer today don't give a rats ass what generation of hardware is inside a Mac or PC, nor do they understand it anyways so in the grand scheme of things, what difference does it make? Yes, there is a niche group that do care and thats fine...Apple doesn't cater to this group and they shouldn't have to. Apple isn't for everyone and Apple knows this...you aren't going to make everyone happy no matter what you do. 
    edited October 2017 macpluspluswilliamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 56
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,271member
    tjwolf said:
    "All that would remain would be backwards-compatibility measures similar to "Rosetta" allowing for PowerPC code to run on Intel processors" - there's an important difference here: Rosetta worked because the x86 processor was a lot faster than the PowerPC users were used to, so they didn't perceive much of a slowdown.  But as you mentioned yourself, the A11 is "only" about on par with a low-end x86 i7 from a pure performance perspective - so with emulation, a user would definitely notice a degradation.  Mitigating things (a lot?) are that most apps probably spend the majority of their CPU cycles inside Apple's APIs - and when they make a call into Apple's code, that can run at native speeds/non-emulated.
    Besides the advances in features and compiling for Xcode that will make transitioning Mac apps much easier today than it was for transitioning PPC to x86 or Motorola to PPC, it's also not as important when we talk about today's landscape starting with low-end Macs that have fast internet connections and a Mac App Store. They simply don't need to have MS and Adobe rewrite their apps or run in emulation in order to compete with something like the Chromebooks in schools.
  • Reply 13 of 56
    macxpress said:
    xzu said:
    Is there such thing as "Cooks Law"? It would state that Mac Hardware is always at least 2 years behind PC hardware in processing power and 4 years in graphics.
    And yet millions and millions of people around the world still buy Macs each and every quarter...I guess Apple doesn't have a clue as to what it's doing. 

    There are Pros out there today, including some on this site that use 5-6yr old Macs to do their work and its still working for them. Apple, for the past 8 or so years has never focused on strictly on specs. Apple never focuses strictly on specs, but the experience which is far more important than the specs in the end. This is something that some PC people just don't get. All they seem to care about is this pissing contest of who has faster hardware. 99% of people buying a computer today don't give a rats ass what generation of hardware is inside a Mac or PC, nor do they understand it anyways so in the grand scheme of things, what difference does it make? Yes, there is a niche group that do care and thats fine...Apple doesn't cater to this group and they shouldn't have to. Apple isn't for everyone and Apple knows this...you aren't going to make everyone happy no matter what you do. 
    Unfortunately, many people look solely at surface specs of a processor -- a new flashy chip must always be better -- but in many cases are just not a fit (talking about laptops here).  Apple uses power-efficient onboard Intel graphics -- and these are never the first chips that Intel manufactures for when introducing a new generation.  Intel tends to start with the smaller die sized chips with lesser graphics first.  In the Wintel laptop makers -- they tend to jump on the new processors immediately - often settling with processors which have lesser integrated graphics and/or other compromises because the vast majority of people just equate new generation with must use.  
    Now the Mac Mini and Mac Pro configurations have been left in the dust recently -- but that is mostly - if not wholly because of a serious misstep in product development where they cornered them.  I get the feeling the Mac Mini is waiting on the complete rethink in "modular" Macs.
  • Reply 14 of 56
    I don't think that apple will go down the traditional desktop OS model for an ARM CPU.

    In my severely limited opinion, I think they are more likely to add a windows manager on top of current iOS devices, and migrate their Pro models to USB-C or use a lightning dongle for breakout. I think they could do it with lightning, but I think they are more likely to use it as a reason to standardise on USB-C across their product line.

    It may be that the device switches between mobile and desktop modes, or they sell a dedicated desktop device locked to windows manager.

    I think the features needed on top of current iOS are:

    1) True windows manager and API support for applications
    2) Peripheral support - keyboard, mouse, 
    3) Video out - connection to an external screen

    Trying to sound like Ive - "the design language between iOS and MacOS is converging"

    They essentially have all of this in the current package, (split screen, keyboard, screen sharing). It's just a question of opening it up a bit more. Apple will have the luxury of having a developer base who can transition mobile apps to a more desktop experience, and then drive on top of them. I think they want a transition of mobile apps to Desktop iOS, rather than a transfer of MacOS apps to Desktop iOS.

    I think they will eliminate MacOS in the next 10 years. 

    entropys
  • Reply 15 of 56
    I think a lot of folks are missing what the Apples SoCs are 'really' capable of when considering Laptops/Desktops.  We have seen benchmarks of a chip that is designed to be in a phone perform or outperform MacBook Pro LVM processors.  Thats a chip designed not for a laptop but a phone with a very tight thermal envelope and no active cooling.

    Apple would very likely design a new chip specifically for use in Laptops based on their current A-series chips, but like everything they do, it would be tailored for that purpose much like the A--X series processors are tailored to iPads.  Re-vistiting the A11 as a laptop processor with large thermal envelope and active cooling would translate into some absolutely major performance over what we see from the phone benchmarks.

    Apple, and its manufacturing partners, are also lightyears ahead of Intel when it comes to packaging/manufacturing as well.  The A11 being at 10nm and TSMC/Apple already working on 7nm for next year.  They're getting so good at this that I wouldn't be surprised at all if they develop their own dedicated core just for managing x86 emulation needs.
    edited October 2017 Solihmurchisontjwolf
  • Reply 16 of 56
    tjwolf said:
    "All that would remain would be backwards-compatibility measures similar to "Rosetta" allowing for PowerPC code to run on Intel processors" - there's an important difference here: Rosetta worked because the x86 processor was a lot faster than the PowerPC users were used to, so they didn't perceive much of a slowdown.  But as you mentioned yourself, the A11 is "only" about on par with a low-end x86 i7 from a pure performance perspective - so with emulation, a user would definitely notice a degradation.  Mitigating things (a lot?) are that most apps probably spend the majority of their CPU cycles inside Apple's APIs - and when they make a call into Apple's code, that can run at native speeds/non-emulated.
    The "small-battery" powered A11 is on par with a low-end x86 i7. We don't know what it could do running on a system that doesn't always run on battery power, and can be optimized for performance and/or battery life.
    tjwolf
  • Reply 17 of 56
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,979member
    bkkcanuck said:
    macxpress said:
    xzu said:
    Is there such thing as "Cooks Law"? It would state that Mac Hardware is always at least 2 years behind PC hardware in processing power and 4 years in graphics.
    And yet millions and millions of people around the world still buy Macs each and every quarter...I guess Apple doesn't have a clue as to what it's doing. 

    There are Pros out there today, including some on this site that use 5-6yr old Macs to do their work and its still working for them. Apple, for the past 8 or so years has never focused on strictly on specs. Apple never focuses strictly on specs, but the experience which is far more important than the specs in the end. This is something that some PC people just don't get. All they seem to care about is this pissing contest of who has faster hardware. 99% of people buying a computer today don't give a rats ass what generation of hardware is inside a Mac or PC, nor do they understand it anyways so in the grand scheme of things, what difference does it make? Yes, there is a niche group that do care and thats fine...Apple doesn't cater to this group and they shouldn't have to. Apple isn't for everyone and Apple knows this...you aren't going to make everyone happy no matter what you do. 
    Unfortunately, many people look solely at surface specs of a processor -- a new flashy chip must always be better -- but in many cases are just not a fit (talking about laptops here).  Apple uses power-efficient onboard Intel graphics -- and these are never the first chips that Intel manufactures for when introducing a new generation.  Intel tends to start with the smaller die sized chips with lesser graphics first.  In the Wintel laptop makers -- they tend to jump on the new processors immediately - often settling with processors which have lesser integrated graphics and/or other compromises because the vast majority of people just equate new generation with must use.  
    Now the Mac Mini and Mac Pro configurations have been left in the dust recently -- but that is mostly - if not wholly because of a serious misstep in product development where they cornered them.  I get the feeling the Mac Mini is waiting on the complete rethink in "modular" Macs.
    If all people do is look at how many GHz the CPU is then thats fine....sometimes the older chips run at higher clock rates. They don't necessarily know the difference between a Pentium, Celeron, or any of the Core i series of processors. My point is that most customers of any manufacturer (Mac or PC) don't know what they're buying in the first place, nor do they care. 

    I think Apple is simply working on creating an A-Series based Mac mini running macOS on their own chips. Like I've said, its the perfect Mac to test this on. Its cheap, developers can get one very cheaply and users who want to tap into this platform can cheaply get into it as well. I don't see it having any interchangeable parts, just like you can't change anything on an iOS device's logic board. I would also expect it to be mini...like possibly AppleTV mini. 
  • Reply 18 of 56
    netroxnetrox Posts: 789member
    Macs will provide backward compatibility just like it has with Motorola 68000 to PowerPC and PowerPC to Intel. Intel needs to get out. x86/x64 are losing its edge. ARM is the only way given its extreme efficiency. It's no surprise that even MS wants to go ARM. MS has tried and failed to appeal to the consumer. Apple will make it work and stick with it.
  • Reply 19 of 56
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,271member
    macxpress said:
    I think Apple is simply working on creating an A-Series based Mac mini running macOS on their own chips.
    Why assume it'll be an A-series chip when we've seen Apple using their ARM-based designs to make all sorts of chip categories? I'd lean toward Apple creating an entirely new chip designation that would offer a lot more RAM, better GPUs, and other features needed for a desktop OS.
    hmurchisonGG1
  • Reply 20 of 56
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,271member
    netrox said:
    Macs will provide backward compatibility just like it has with Motorola 68000 to PowerPC and PowerPC to Intel. Intel needs to get out. x86/x64 are losing its edge. ARM is the only way given its extreme efficiency. It's no surprise that even MS wants to go ARM. MS has tried and failed to appeal to the consumer. Apple will make it work and stick with it.
    Not necessarily. They could emulate, they could go with native support on the chip the way MS has done with ARM (which Intel has threatened them over), or just use all their modern development option in Xcode (like bitcode) so that Mac App Store apps can be compiled for the new architecture with little effort on the part of the developer. Since we're talking about low-end machines, complex dinosaurs (like Adobe and MS apps) aren't really a concern for Apple.
    edited October 2017
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