Apple Silicon will force industry to reconsider use of Intel chips, says ex-Apple exec

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited July 2020
The creation of Apple Silicon will force Microsoft into making its Windows variant for ARM better and to make better ARM-based hardware, former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassee has suggested, as Apple's shift will prompt the rest of the PC industry to reconsider its usage of Intel chips.

Apple CEO Tim Cook at WWDC 2020, in front of an Apple Silicon wafer.
Apple CEO Tim Cook at WWDC 2020, in front of an Apple Silicon wafer.


Apple's transition away from Intel-based Macs to versions using its self-designed Apple Silicon will take place over two years, as it announced during WWDC 2020. While the move will prompt a major change in macOS and how developers treat app development, Gassee also suggests the major shift could also heavily impact Apple's main software rival at Microsoft.

While Apple isn't going to cause issues with Intel's chip sales in a sizable way, which Gassee reasons is because of its 7% PC market ownership as well as Apple's demands and complaints affecting the relationship, Gassee suggests "The impact on Intel - and the entire industry - will be felt beyond Apple's small share of the PC market."

Apple is seeing the billions of dollars of investment into Apple Silicon as a way to make the Mac better, Gassee believes. Power dissipation improvements are anticipated, with the A12Z's performance and cool running highlighted against an Intel Core i7 processor with a TDP of 28 watts.

Throughput is also a concern, with Gassee unable to imagine "tomorrow's Apple Silicon Macs providing less than a 25% throughput advantage against corresponding x86 PCs." While admitting they're "broad strokes" of assumption, Gassee suggests to the reader "think faster, svelter laptops actually lasting 10 hours on a battery charge. If not, once again, why bother burning the billions?"

In how it will affect the industry, the former Apple executive refers to Microsoft's 2012 move to ARM with an early Surface launch, which "didn't work too well." Generations later, the continuation in the Surface Pro X was an improvement that has still seemingly failed, which was largely put down to how Microsoft's core applications didn't run in a native mode.

Gassee also points out that the disparity was "even more embarrassing" for Microsoft, as Office was shown to be working on Apple Silicon during WWDC without issue.

"This leaves Microsoft with a choice: either forget Windows on ARM and cede modern PCs to Apple, or forge ahead, fix app compatibility problems and offer an ARM-based alternative to Apple's new Macs," writes Gassee, before admitting it's a false dilemma, as Microsoft "will forge ahead, with repercussions for the rest of the Windows PC industry."

Other computer vendors will have to follow suit if Microsoft goes down the same route as Apple, he proposes.

For Intel, it is suggested that the company was unable to take part in the "Smartphone 2.0 revolution" due to its reliance on high-margin x86 chips, and the Intel/Windows duopoly. By Microsoft moving towards ARM, "that advantage is about to disappear," which could force Intel into an "if you can't beat them, join them" situation of acquiring an ARM license.

"Margins will inevitably suffer as the ARM-based SoC field is filled with sharp competitors such as Qualcomm and Nvidia, sure to be joined by arch-enemy AMD and others, all ushering in a new era of PCs," warns Gassee in closing.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 110
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 1,796member
    Agree with this. Don't think Intel is going anywhere soon, but if you have stock I think now is a good time to sell. Intel is vulnerable right now.

    There's a lot of laziness and content out there right now. Apple Silicon is going to wake a few business units up at MS and Intel, at least it better for their sake.
    ronnjony0rundhvidargonautlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 110
    Apple's potential for success with this transition seems possible only because of all the custom narrow-function silicon and software stacks built on top of the base ARM architecture that they've constantly refined with each new iPhone and iPad SOC over the years. While not impossible, I would be shocked to see anyone be able to compete in performance using ARM anytime soon.

    Best case scenario, Microsoft has had a skunk works project going for many years developing a similar custom SOC based on ARM that we don't know about yet, but no amount of money can substitute for the experience of having production hardware and software in people's hands for the better part of a decade.
    edited July 2020 JWSCspliff monkeyrundhvidMacProargonautlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 110
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,733member
    razorpit said:
    Agree with this. Don't think Intel is going anywhere soon, but if you have stock I think now is a good time to sell. Intel is vulnerable right now.

    There's a lot of laziness and content out there right now. Apple Silicon is going to wake a few business units up at MS and Intel, at least it better for their sake.
    I am not sure sure about a halo-effect. Exactly because of all this laziness. So far, the x86 camp doesn’t appear to have impressed with innovation, and simply accepted whatever intel fed to them. And it seems to most customers that seems enough as well. 

    Obviously, as soon as Apple Silicon starts running circles around x86 everybody will claim that they planned for ARM already long time, just coincidentally Apple was faster on the market.
    ronnjwdawsocornchipGG1cat52jony0JWSCargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 110
    It isn’t a matter of forcing Microsoft, it’s clear MS wants to make the move given they have taken two stabs at it in the last eight years. The business model of software/processors/systems all being made by different entities with competing interest is the challenge. Given that MS has been working with Qualcomm to develop processors for Windows on ARM there might be some traction on at least part of the move. Maybe Apple Silicone with light a fire under Qualcomm and the various PC manufactures. 
  • Reply 5 of 110
    hattighattig Posts: 860member
    This is likely to create a downward pressure on Intel's margins in the long term, as they find themselves having to compete not only against AMD who do price competitively and who finally have a compelling product, but against large OEMs coming out with their own ARM SoC designs for their Windows devices, using recently announced ARM Cortex X1 (and future enhancements). They might not compete with Apple Silicon but they could let the OEMs drop pricing significantly.

    OTOH Qualcomm are institutionally unable to price their SoCs cheaply, nor get the best performance out of them, so maybe less pressure from updated 8cx chips.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 110
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Maybe Apple should consider taking over the CPU business and sell to PC manufacturers...
    jwdawsoargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 110
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,746member
    razorpit said:
    There's a lot of laziness and content out there right now. Apple Silicon is going to wake a few business units up at MS and Intel, at least it better for their sake.
    On a quiet night, you can hear the copiers (silicon x-ray machines) firing up.
    cornchipargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 110
    razorpit said:
    Agree with this. Don't think Intel is going anywhere soon, but if you have stock I think now is a good time to sell. Intel is vulnerable right now.

    There's a lot of laziness and content out there right now. Apple Silicon is going to wake a few business units up at MS and Intel, at least it better for their sake.
    This isn't true at all. It doesn't solve the main reason why PC users don't buy Macs.

    1. Macs cost twice as much as Windows PCs with comparable specs. This means that ChromeOS - whose devices are cheaper than Windows ones - is a bigger threat, and ChromeOS already runs on both ARM and x86-64, even the Linux and Android apps.

    2. Macs can't run a ton of software that Windows can, including a lot of specialty and enterprise software, with gaming being a particular example. When Macs switch to ARM, this is going to get worse, not better.

    A lot of people seem to think that Apple's clout in mobile translates to PC. It doesn't. No one is going to run out and buy a MacBook that costs twice as much as a Dell and can't run the software that he needs for work or the video games that he wants to play just because it has the same processor in it that is in the iPhone and iPad (which most likely he may not own anyway because Android has an 65% market share in tablets and 80% market share overall). The people who believe this are Apple fans who own and use Apple products anyway and only deal with Windows and Android devices for review purposes. (Yes, this includes most "tech" writers, who regularly get basic stuff about non-Apple products wrong.)

    And it isn't laziness. Real tech problems that Apple doesn't have to deal with because Apple only has to support one platform isn't laziness. Apple doesn't have to worry about backwards compatibility because Apple doesn't have an enterprise software unit. Microsoft does have an enterprise software unit, it is a massive part of its business, and Microsoft can't tell those customers that they aren't going to support business applications that their customers wrote in 1997 that will never be meaningfully updated because it will cost them tons of money without generating them a bit of revenue.

    As for Intel, they make a wide range of processors - i3, i5, i7, i9, Xeon - that allows their OEMs to make devices at all price points that they need to update at the same time. It is a completely different challenge from Apple's only needing to work on a single Ax processor a year. That is the same with Qualcomm: they have multiple 2x, 4x, 6x and 7x processors a year as well as their flagship 8x. 

    The hardware and software companies that support a range of devices, platforms and price points all have a harder job than Apple. They can't do what Apple does, but based on the issues that Apple has at times, Apple can't do what they do either.
    flyingdprain22muthuk_vanalingamelijahggatorguydysamoriaargonaut
  • Reply 9 of 110
    Maybe Apple should consider taking over the CPU business and sell to PC manufacturers...
    I really hope that you are being facetious. The reason is that most Windows won't run on the Ax and neither will most Windows applications.

    Second, PC manufacturers need a range of CPUs with different specs and prices so they can make devices at all price points, from $200-$15,000. Is Apple going to come out with a $5 CPU to compete with the dual core Celerons that goes in the very low end Windows PCs and Chromebooks? Are they even going to come out with a $50 CPU to compete with the i3 that goes into $400-$500 Windows and ChromeOS laptops?

    No. They aren't. And even if they did - again - those Windows laptops wouldn't be able to run 75% of the software that they can now, including even cheap Steam video games. 

    But again,  you were kidding. Because obviously you know more about technology and economics than that.
    muthuk_vanalingamelijahgargonaut
  • Reply 10 of 110
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,954member
    auxio said:
    razorpit said:
    There's a lot of laziness and content out there right now. Apple Silicon is going to wake a few business units up at MS and Intel, at least it better for their sake.
    On a quiet night, you can hear the copiers (silicon x-ray machines) firing up.

    Great reference!

    this is going to be 10x bigger than when Apple took A series 64bit.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 110
    How many PC laptops were sold last year? 170 - 190 million or so? 
    And Apple maybe 15 million? 
    But Apple also sold about 50 million iPads.
    So Apple really has about 1/3 of the portable computing market share, and that is big enough to indicate that there is a truly MASS market for their products and services. It’s not a niche. There may always be a good sized market for certain niches but improving the battery life and speed of its portable products and its ability to refresh its products more frequently can only make them more attractive and sell even better IMO. 
    JWSCFileMakerFellerrundhvidargonautlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 110
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Maybe Apple should consider taking over the CPU business and sell to PC manufacturers...
    I really hope that you are being facetious. The reason is that most Windows won't run on the Ax and neither will most Windows applications.

    Second, PC manufacturers need a range of CPUs with different specs and prices so they can make devices at all price points, from $200-$15,000. Is Apple going to come out with a $5 CPU to compete with the dual core Celerons that goes in the very low end Windows PCs and Chromebooks? Are they even going to come out with a $50 CPU to compete with the i3 that goes into $400-$500 Windows and ChromeOS laptops?

    No. They aren't. And even if they did - again - those Windows laptops wouldn't be able to run 75% of the software that they can now, including even cheap Steam video games. 

    But again,  you were kidding. Because obviously you know more about technology and economics than that.
    You don’t think Apple can enter mature markets and still destroy their competitors? Where have you been for the last 20 years?
    cat52jony0tmayJWSCthtFileMakerFellerrundhviduraharaargonautlolliver
  • Reply 13 of 110
    johnbearjohnbear Posts: 160member
    Microsoft gave up making smartphones and mobile software early on. Apple will give up the cpu business in couple of years when they realize intel and amd are light years ahead in terms of performance. Apple are attempting to control everything byt with the cpu this will be a failure similar to PowerPC.

    on another note, I’m still waiting for the 720p webcam to be replace in the MacBook Pro, and the missing ports. shame on them for crippling the Mac 
    edited July 2020
  • Reply 14 of 110
    How many PC laptops were sold last year? 170 - 190 million or so? 
    And Apple maybe 15 million? 
    But Apple also sold about 50 million iPads.
    So Apple really has about 1/3 of the portable computing market share, and that is big enough to indicate that there is a truly MASS market for their products and services. It’s not a niche. There may always be a good sized market for certain niches but improving the battery life and speed of its portable products and its ability to refresh its products more frequently can only make them more attractive and sell even better IMO. 
    Those 50 million iPads can't run the software that the 170-190 million PC laptops run. Until they can, there will never be a MASS market for their products. Look guys, Apple and its fan community have been claiming "the iPad can replace most PCs because most PCs are trash and most PC users are semi-literate yokels who only use their PCs to surf the web for NASCAR results anyway" since 2010. It is not true. 

    iPads don't have the PERSONAL COMPUTING functionality that most PERSONAL COMPUTER users need. That is why NO ONE claims that an iPad can replace a MacBook Air, which until recently had a dual core processor that barely ran at 1Ghz. They only claim that it can replace Windows PCs because they dislike and do not respect Windows users.

    Even if they had the PERSONAL COMPUTING functionality, they can't run PERSONAL COMPUTING software. Indeed, even MacBook Pros can't run much of the software that Windows computers run. 

    ARM-based Macs are going to have the same basic problems that Intel-based Macs did.
    1. Cost (twice as much as Wintel PCs that have the same CPU/RAM/storage configuration)
    2. Software compatibility. It was a huge problem for power/professional users back when Wintel and Macs were on the same hardware stack and it is going to become a much bigger problem now that Mac architecture is going to resemble the iPad and Apple TV more than it resembles Wintel/WinAMD.

    Guys, you are going to need to take off the Apple-colored goggles for a second and ask yourselves: "Why do so many people buy Windows PCs instead of Macs and how will Apple adopting ARM change this?" instead of just presuming that 90% of Windows users are cheaper than dirt and not much smarter.
    muthuk_vanalingamgatorguydysamoria
  • Reply 15 of 110
    Maybe Apple should consider taking over the CPU business and sell to PC manufacturers...
    I really hope that you are being facetious. The reason is that most Windows won't run on the Ax and neither will most Windows applications.

    Second, PC manufacturers need a range of CPUs with different specs and prices so they can make devices at all price points, from $200-$15,000. Is Apple going to come out with a $5 CPU to compete with the dual core Celerons that goes in the very low end Windows PCs and Chromebooks? Are they even going to come out with a $50 CPU to compete with the i3 that goes into $400-$500 Windows and ChromeOS laptops?

    No. They aren't. And even if they did - again - those Windows laptops wouldn't be able to run 75% of the software that they can now, including even cheap Steam video games. 

    But again,  you were kidding. Because obviously you know more about technology and economics than that.
    You don’t think Apple can enter mature markets and still destroy their competitors? Where have you been for the last 20 years?
    For goodnes sakes what on earth are you talking about? What competitor has Apple destroyed exactly?
    Sony? No.
    Microsoft? No.
    Google? No.
    Dell? No.
    HP? No.

    And note: you didn't answer my question. I asked you if Apple was going to make a range of CPUs that meet a range of price, performance and application needs. That is what Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, Samsung and MediaTEK all do and have been doing for DECADES. That is what Apple has never done at any time and there isn't a bit of evidence that they are capable of it.  
    dysamoria
  • Reply 16 of 110
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,549member
    I believe that Intel's fate will be entirely determined by how Intel itself executes over the next 6-24 months rather than the threat that Apple Silicon poses. AMD probably poses a far greater threat to Intel in the near term than does Apple Silicon. AMD can demonstrate application space and problem domain solutions today where it beats Intel whereas the Apple Silicon threat is still speculative and will be until we see actual products and their associated benchmarks and performance against real workloads. 

    Whenever new technology arrives on the scene, and prior to it actually shipping, whether it's hardware, software, or even new programming languages, it often gets somewhat of "free pass" of assumed greatness because it hasn't yet been fully scrutinized or subjected to any sort of boundary value testing to determine where it falls off the speculation curve in actual real world use. This is a very common pattern rooted in unbridled optimism. There's nothing wrong with optimism and recognizing that something has great potential, but until it actually delivers to customer hands and gets put under the harsh light of scrutiny, everyone should try throttle their expectations and at least try to have guarded optimism. 

    The other repeating pattern that frequently emerges with unbridled optimism is that change will occur as a step function. There is always some inertia and momentum involved, so even something that is groundbreaking will encounter hysteresis, i.e., a time lag between when the change is initiated and when the change is fully established. The duration of the hysteresis curve, the time constant that defines the lag, is determined by underlying factors. In the case of Intel x86 chip losing its dominating position there are many factors including, the legacy dependence on x86 code being very deep in business and industry, AMD providing a safe haven for x86 code during the transition period, and Intel's efforts to thwart the loss. We don't know what cards Intel still has up its sleeve to counter the threat.

    My guess is that even if Apple Silicon truly delivers on its promise the combination of AMD and Intel's mitigation strategy will keep the hysteresis curve quite long and everything will settle at a new level where x86 in some form still has a pretty good chunk of the market. Apple's entry into this market segment will only be the opening salvo in what will be a long and drawn out battle. I don't believe we even know at this time who all of the combatants will be. I'm very excited to see it all play out. Any notion that Apple has already won the battle by default, which is where the story behind this article is heading, is pure crazy talk. We're not even started.
    muthuk_vanalingamJWSCFileMakerFellerdysamoriaargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 110
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,432member
    One way for Apple to take more business from Intel would be to put Apple Silicon in Apple datacenter and offer an "iCloud Pro" that is a more user-friendly analog to AWS (honestly, it would not be hard AT ALL to be more user-friendly than AWS). 


    SpamSandwichargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 110
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,920member
    Not true. Apple's ability to produce silicon for it's purpose doesn't mean every one can do it. Intel just needs to go back to it's DNA(paranoid survives).
    JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 110
    dewme said:
    I believe that Intel's fate will be entirely determined by how Intel itself executes over the next 6-24 months rather than the threat that Apple Silicon poses. 
    Apple Silicon is no threat to Intel at all. None. Again:

    1. Apple Silicon will only be used in Apple devices. Dell, HP, Lenovo etc. won't be able to buy Apple Silicon to run Windows on it.
    2. Apple devices cost twice as much as (roughly) equivalent Windows devices. That won't change. In fact, Apple Silicon may even make low end Macs more expensive because the Ax costs more than the i3 (by a lot) and the i5.
    3. Intel Macs don't run A LOT of the software that Windows users need and want. With Apple Silicon Macs, this problem will be worse, not better. And despite Apple's claims, writing apps for both Windows (which will still happen because 93% market share) and Apple will be harder, not easier. 
    4. Intel's high end chips - the i7, i9 and Xeon - already outperform the A14. Why people believe otherwise amazes me. Especially since Apple essentially acknowledges this by not even trying to build an ARM equivalent to the Mac Pro or anything else that used the i9 or Xeon.
    5. Intel finally got to 10nm and based on the work that Jim Keller did for them will get down to 7nm within the next 2 years. Their performance is about to get A LOT BETTER, and as stated above, their best chips already outperform the A14.
    6. Apple's ability to increase performance is limited. They are already at 5nm. Next is 3nm, and the first 3nm chips won't come until 2022 (Samsung currently has the only foundry capable of making them). Intel - whose 10 nm chips already outperform Apple's 5nm ones - will be down to 5nm before Apple can get to 3nm. And everything below 3nm is merely theory right now.
    7. Intel's low power/low heat chips are basically in their infancy stage. Within 2 years, Intel's low power chips will easily match the Qualcomm chips that are currently being used by ARM-based Windows computers.

    Honestly, Apple ARM computers are only going to be competing with Apple Intel computers. All other competition - including benchmarks - is only going to exist in the minds of Apple fans. The reason is that Apple and Wintel are two entirely different software ecosystems. When the switch to ARM happens, they will be two entirely different hardware ecosystems too.
    muthuk_vanalingamdysamoria
  • Reply 20 of 110
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,432member

    ARM-based Macs are going to have the same basic problems that Intel-based Macs did.
    1. Cost (twice as much as Wintel PCs that have the same CPU/RAM/storage configuration)
    2. Software compatibility. It was a huge problem for power/professional users back when Wintel and Macs were on the same hardware stack and it is going to become a much bigger problem now that Mac architecture is going to resemble the iPad and Apple TV more than it resembles Wintel/WinAMD.

    Guys, you are going to need to take off the Apple-colored goggles for a second and ask yourselves: "Why do so many people buy Windows PCs instead of Macs and how will Apple adopting ARM change this?" instead of just presuming that 90% of Windows users are cheaper than dirt and not much smarter.

    The cost comparison is hyperbolic for most products (it sounds about right for a Mac Pro, though). 

    Regarding software -- I think there are two main issues:

    1. games -- the Mac is at a HUGE disadvantage here
    2. niche professional apps --- while any one of these might be small, collectively they are large. Many professions have important niche3 apps that they need, and if they aren't available on Macs, that's a barrier. 

    These are big issues and they are not addressed simply by replacing Intel chips with Apple Silicon (in fact, they can actually be made worse by that replacement in the short term). So I do agree with you on this point. 

    Nevertheless -- I'm optimistic. I see Apple Silicon for Macs as a MAJOR commitment to the Mac as a platform. Apple absolutely has the financial and technical capability to address these software issues on the Mac. In the past, they just haven't tried that hard. My hope is that Apple Silicon represents a shift at Apple from not trying very hard towards trying VERY hard. 

    Apple Silicon plus macOS, Swift, Metal, and the rest of the stack now provides the most solid and technically advanced (relative to the rest of the industry) foundation in the history of the Mac. The last time the Mac, as an integrated hardware-software platform, was this advanced relative to the rest of the industry might have been when the Mac IIci was introduced. 

    I can't believe that Apple would have spent so much time and money investing in this strong foundation to just punt on the software that runs on this platform. I anticipate that we are going to see a commitment to building out the app ecosystem on the Mac in a way that we haven't seen in decades. I'm very excited by what Apple Silicon means for the Mac!


    muthuk_vanalingamJWSCFileMakerFellerroundaboutnowMacProargonautlolliverwatto_cobra
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