Stop panicking about Apple's rumored switch from Intel to its own chips in the Mac

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  • Reply 41 of 246
    MmmDeeMmmDee Posts: 1member
    Awaiting the first anti-trust/monopoly lawsuit that Apple has yet to experience. Once Apple owns all the hardware and all the software running on their products, continuing their closed "ecosystem", the legal woes and end-of-product nightmare will begin. What a bad idea... I'm definitely not going down this path of self-destruction, been there, done that. Pity some businesses don't learn from history and are therefore doomed to repeat mistakes. More temporary profit for Apple, less choices for consumers.
    edited April 4 xzu
  • Reply 42 of 246
    Soli said:
    The idea that old, Intel Macs would keep working, offered as a reason to not be concerned about a shift from Intel chips seems shortsighted to me. It only delays the day when Macs will no longer be viable for those of us with a need for Intel compatibility. 

    I *have to* run Linux and Windows VMs and *want to* use a Mac; it's not the other way around for me and the loss of the ability to do the former would mean my very reluctant move away from Macs. Being able to run Docker containers on my Mac has further underscored my need for Intel compatibility. This is an upsetting thought to me, as I love using macOS as my desktop OS. Nearly every network and software engineer that I know who is a Mac user is in the same boat as I am. 

    It may well be that this will come to pass, or it may be that it's just a rumour. Perhaps (and this is my hope) Apple will use its own CPUs for low-end systems and Intel CPUs in Pro machines. In any case, I think it's a mistake to underestimate the loss to the Apple community of what I think will be an enormous number of developers. Being dismissive of people's concerns is a little heartless. 
    We're at an early rumor stage of Apple including ARM-based Macs to their line up but some of you are already freaking out that Apple is killing of the Intel Macs. Slow your roll. You have no reason to believe that Apple is going to drop Intel from their Pro model Macs just because they offer ARM as an option for lower-end Macs. You also don't know what they can do with their custom silicon that could support x86_64, or how the market will change before any decision for you to stop buying Intel Macs will ever come to pass. My guess is that by the time Apple drops the hammer on their upper end (i.e.: MacBook Pro and Mac Pro) nearly every one of you "the sky is falling" commenters will be saying, "it's about damn time."
    I'm pretty sure I'm not in the "sky is falling" camp, but if we're gonna talk rumours then those of us on the "don't want it to happen" side can weigh in a bit too, eh? :) 
    roundaboutnowAlex1N
  • Reply 43 of 246
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,681member
    Wouldn’t Apple start this with the MacBook as a test bed/proof of concept? I can’t imagine the iMac Pro or MacPro or even the higher end MacBook Pro dumping Intel anytime soon.
    That or the MacBook Air. Since Air has been used with the iPads running Apple's fast and power efficient A-series SoCs, I could see the 12" MacBook staying how it is but with the MacBook Air branding being on a nearly identical machine, but with an Apple-design SoC. This could further be used in a Mac mini Air so that the demarcation for x86 v ARM is clear.

    While Apple is no stranger to switching architectures nothing about this transition is like anything we've seen in the past. I don't expect that Apple is going to do what they did with their PPC to Intel migration where they moved at a breakneck speed to update machines with their most powerful being first to migrate. This is a situation where Intel is still holding the high-end and where power efficient and inexpensive processors can help Apple achieve better price points and faster devices for customers that aren't self-defined as "power users."
    rogifan_newAlex1N
  • Reply 44 of 246
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 4,362member
    nunzy said:
    Will this be a step towards uniting iOS and OSX?
    In theory, but not soon, I don't think. 
    In theory there's nothing stopping them today, except for a deep understanding of different use cases and user experiences. They won't create a single OS for both desktops and phones. As Soli noted, they'll continue to share libraries and frameworks, but the OSes themselves are different. Same reason why you now have watchOS and tvOS. They're different use cases and platforms.
    SoliAlex1N
  • Reply 45 of 246
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,334administrator
    Wouldn’t Apple start this with the MacBook as a test bed/proof of concept? I can’t imagine the iMac Pro or MacPro or even the higher end MacBook Pro dumping Intel anytime soon.
    FTA: "The shift won't be immediate, and will likely start on Apple's low-end, like the MacBook and possibly a Mac mini migration."
    Alex1N
  • Reply 46 of 246
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,334administrator

    I bet it won't cause an enormous loss of developers, the same that the last two shifts didn't, nor any other move that promised to be the death of developers like Xcode was heralded to be. And, like I said, the mini and the MacBook are likely the first, as the A-series processor doesn't have any super-heavy lifters at present.


    I'm also pretty sure that you realize that you are not typical of the Mac using public. You are an outlier. That's not a bad thing, mind you, but also not a giant market segment for the company.
    Yeah, I'm an outlier and if Apple has to move away from a path that I can follow then I'll reluctantly go a different way. However, I'm also the reason that Macs are used in my department at work. I was the first to get one (back when they went Intel) and I created the conditions (and developed the software) that let them become viable options for others. People like me are outliers but we can also be halo users that bring others in.

    It may be that developers won't leave, but this shift is fundamentally different than the previous ones in that it is the first shift away from the mainstream. Going to Intel made Macs viable in places such as Google (and now Amazon) and brought huge numbers of developers into the ecosystem. Maybe they'll stay; maybe they won't. But! Interesting times ahead at least  :D
    But, here's the thing: ARM is mainstream. Every iPhone, every iPad, every Samsung, nearly every smartphone has an ARM chip in it. Xcode is already set up to be the transition tool that developers need, so the friction will be extremely low.
    Solispliff monkeyAlex1N
  • Reply 47 of 246
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 997member
    rcfa said:
    There’s no merit in having an Intel CPU per se.

    The issue is software: Audio plug-ins discontinued, Aperture, VirtualBox, Adobe Software predating the subscription jail, etc.

    If Apple had retained Rosetta indefinitely, we’d all be calm. But what we’re looking at, is yet another orphaning of critical software.

    It would be high time Apple would switch to something like LLVM intermediate code as compilation target, such that any software would retain essentially indefinite compatibility with any past, present, and future CPU for which LLVM or something corresponding exists.
    Intermediate code would be one architecture of a universal binary, the actual target architecture only being generated during install or first execution.
    Apple already does this: https://help.apple.com/xcode/mac/current/#/devbbdc5ce4f
    Alex1Nfastasleep
  • Reply 48 of 246
    rain22rain22 Posts: 17member
    jbdragon said:

    Maybe Apple is working on it, but they're not just going to move to it without a solid plan for everything. I think people are worrying a little too much. 
    The Rosetta solution for the intel switch was kinda brutal. 
    In a lot of cases, you had to repurchase all your software again and buy new peripherals for the drivers. 
    It took a few years for software to catch up - some never did.
    Like Keynote for example, version 9 had a lot of features that were lost in the re-write and never came back.
    I think it was what killed off Quark as well.

    It was a very disruptive workflow in general.
    The problem with keeping Pro macs on Intel is that they will get less and less resources and support- to the point where it just makes sense to switch to windows. Like a lot of printing and design houses did with the Intel switch. 

    The big question is the Adobe factor. 
    xzuAlex1NHabi_tweetavon b7
  • Reply 49 of 246
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,355member
    Lots of negative talk about the (potential) downsides, but talk about the (potential) upsides:
    - At least a somewhat lower priced entry machine.  Easily could have a 12" MB starting at $899 USD (with higher margins)
    - Higher performance (for native apps) with more/faster memory upgrade options
    - Custom silicon functions like secure enclave, ML engines, AI engines, FaceID
    - Improved video and image processing at lower power (re: 2017 iPad Pros)
    - Lower power / fan-less designs
    - Longer batter life
    - More secure
    ...
  • Reply 50 of 246


    But, here's the thing: ARM is mainstream. Every iPhone, every iPad, every Samsung, nearly every smartphone has an ARM chip in it. Xcode is already set up to be the transition tool that developers need, so the friction will be extremely low.
    ARM is extremely mainstream in content consumption devices and almost nonexistent in content creation (developer content - Nobody develops on ARM). 

    You may be right, of course. For what it's worth, I'd totally buy an ARM based 12" rMB for travel. I have the original now and it's the best travel computer I've ever used. 
    Alex1NHabi_tweet
  • Reply 51 of 246
    dswarddsward Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    No need to panic... but this is the first time Apple will be designing its own CPU for the Macintosh.

    I'm looking forward to it, because Steve Jobs was right the first time: the Intel x86 architecture is "brain-damaged".  It was originally a chip for calculators.

    And for the record, Jean-Louis Gassée was never the CEO of Apple.
    edited April 4 Alex1N
  • Reply 52 of 246
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 997member

    mario said:
    Soli said:
    Oztotl said:
    First concern is the ability to run virtual Linux and Windows OS's under the new hardware. This is key to having only a souped up Macbook Pro to support multiple platforms and clients
    Why is that a concern? If you're doing that now why can't you continue doing that in the future? A low-end Mac running ARM will not make your Intel Mac stop working.
    It's a concern because virtualization software as implemented today relies on Intel CPU's virtualization instructions to make virtualized code run near native speed. So if you say use Mac to run a virtual machine to emulate Linux, Intel CPU makes it possible to run Linux in the virtual environment nearly as fast as if you installed actual Linux on your Mac's hard drive.

    Switch to Arm would change this, since obviously ARM doesn't have Intel's CPU virtualization instructions, and for licensing reasons might never have them.
    Nonsense, Linux runs on ARM and doesn’t need special ‘virtualization instructions’. The ability to run near native speed has to do with the lack of instruction set translation (having effective context switches and virtual memory management is a plus, but that’s no problem on ARM).
    Alex1Nfastasleep
  • Reply 53 of 246
    dsddsd Posts: 172member
        New hire at Apple
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 54 of 246
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,681member
    Soli said:
    The idea that old, Intel Macs would keep working, offered as a reason to not be concerned about a shift from Intel chips seems shortsighted to me. It only delays the day when Macs will no longer be viable for those of us with a need for Intel compatibility. 

    I *have to* run Linux and Windows VMs and *want to* use a Mac; it's not the other way around for me and the loss of the ability to do the former would mean my very reluctant move away from Macs. Being able to run Docker containers on my Mac has further underscored my need for Intel compatibility. This is an upsetting thought to me, as I love using macOS as my desktop OS. Nearly every network and software engineer that I know who is a Mac user is in the same boat as I am. 

    It may well be that this will come to pass, or it may be that it's just a rumour. Perhaps (and this is my hope) Apple will use its own CPUs for low-end systems and Intel CPUs in Pro machines. In any case, I think it's a mistake to underestimate the loss to the Apple community of what I think will be an enormous number of developers. Being dismissive of people's concerns is a little heartless. 
    We're at an early rumor stage of Apple including ARM-based Macs to their line up but some of you are already freaking out that Apple is killing of the Intel Macs. Slow your roll. You have no reason to believe that Apple is going to drop Intel from their Pro model Macs just because they offer ARM as an option for lower-end Macs. You also don't know what they can do with their custom silicon that could support x86_64, or how the market will change before any decision for you to stop buying Intel Macs will ever come to pass. My guess is that by the time Apple drops the hammer on their upper end (i.e.: MacBook Pro and Mac Pro) nearly every one of you "the sky is falling" commenters will be saying, "it's about damn time."
    I'm pretty sure I'm not in the "sky is falling" camp, but if we're gonna talk rumours then those of us on the "don't want it to happen" side can weigh in a bit too, eh? :) 
    If you like your processor you can keep your processor.
  • Reply 55 of 246
    mariomario Posts: 339member
    knowitall said:

    mario said:
    Soli said:
    Oztotl said:
    First concern is the ability to run virtual Linux and Windows OS's under the new hardware. This is key to having only a souped up Macbook Pro to support multiple platforms and clients
    Why is that a concern? If you're doing that now why can't you continue doing that in the future? A low-end Mac running ARM will not make your Intel Mac stop working.
    It's a concern because virtualization software as implemented today relies on Intel CPU's virtualization instructions to make virtualized code run near native speed. So if you say use Mac to run a virtual machine to emulate Linux, Intel CPU makes it possible to run Linux in the virtual environment nearly as fast as if you installed actual Linux on your Mac's hard drive.

    Switch to Arm would change this, since obviously ARM doesn't have Intel's CPU virtualization instructions, and for licensing reasons might never have them.
    Nonsense, Linux runs on ARM and doesn’t need special ‘virtualization instructions’. The ability to run near native speed has to do with the lack of instruction set translation (having effective context switches and virtual memory management is a plus, but that’s no problem on ARM).
    Yes of course it does. But if you are deploying your stack to cloud (Amazon in particular), you deploy to Intel 64 bit Linux, not arm.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 56 of 246
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 997member
    Nice article Mike.
    No panic at all.
    It will be a very good move by Apple, someting to be proud of and exactly within Apples line of expertise.
    We will have devices that run for weeks (when battery powered) and cost $300 less.

  • Reply 57 of 246
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 997member
    mjtomlin said:

    rcfa said:
    There’s no merit in having an Intel CPU per se.

    The issue is software: Audio plug-ins discontinued, Aperture, VirtualBox, Adobe Software predating the subscription jail, etc.

    If Apple had retained Rosetta indefinitely, we’d all be calm. But what we’re looking at, is yet another orphaning of critical software.

    It would be high time Apple would switch to something like LLVM intermediate code as compilation target, such that any software would retain essentially indefinite compatibility with any past, present, and future CPU for which LLVM or something corresponding exists.
    Intermediate code would be one architecture of a universal binary, the actual target architecture only being generated during install or first execution.

    If you can convert LLVM to any other architecture, then it stands to reason the reverse is true as well. LLVM is just a "virtual architecture" as it only exists in software. Code can be translated on the fly with very little overhead on modern processors and Apple could even create a TPU, Translation Processing Unit, for transitioning systems, if they thought it was necessary.

    Furthermore, this is already done with apps submitted to the App Store; they are compiled as bit code and then recompiled and optimized for the target device/architecture. This also applies to resources in the app bundle, only the appropriate resources are included when downloaded to a particular device.
    On the fly translation is always costly (otherwise Java would run at native speed) but it is perfectly possible to convert Intel binary to ARM ahead of time (making an ARM version of the App) and run it with native speed.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 58 of 246
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 100member
    That is assuming that this EVER ACTUALLY HAPPENS.
    So far we have a couple of rumours, each feeding off of the other. While I don't doubt that Apple may be experimenting with A-Series chips for Mac, there has been no concrete evidence that it will ever come to pass. There is in fact more actual evidence that Apple is working on a self driving car, than there is for an A-Series Mac. I won't panic until Apple announces it. Even if they do, I won't panic until it becomes clear that Apple totally abandoned Intel compatibility, (which I do not see happening). 
    Much ado about nothing.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 59 of 246
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,400member
    MmmDee said:
    Awaiting the first anti-trust/monopoly lawsuit that Apple has yet to experience. Once Apple owns all the hardware and all the software running on their products, continuing their closed "ecosystem", the legal woes and end-of-product nightmare will begin. What a bad idea... I'm definitely not going down this path of self-destruction, been there, done that. Pity some businesses don't learn from history and are therefore doomed to repeat mistakes. More temporary profit for Apple, less choices for consumers.

    Pity you didn’t do any background reading before you made your first post. 

    To begin with, there is no law against having a monopoly. 

    Secondly, running their products on a closed ecosystem does not constitute a monopoly because there are other similar ecosystems with bigger market shares. 

    You are probably hoping that Apple will face the same problems that Microsoft did. Unfortunately, it’s a completely different case. Microsoft was stifling competition by charging OEMs for Windows, whether they were installing Windows or not. Since Apple makes  the complete widget (Microsoft doesn’t make the PCs, so they were forcing consumers to pay for a license they didn’t necessarily want), so the same laws don’t apply.  

    The more closed the Apple ecosystem becomes then the less likely the rules apply. As long as there are alternatives then they’re fine. 
    edited April 4 DAalsethtmayStrangeDaysAlex1Nfastasleep
  • Reply 60 of 246
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,370member

    But, here's the thing: ARM is mainstream. Every iPhone, every iPad, every Samsung, nearly every smartphone has an ARM chip in it. Xcode is already set up to be the transition tool that developers need, so the friction will be extremely low.
    Mmm...  Does Xcode run on any current ARM devices?  Could it? Should it?
    Alex1N
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