Apple execs discuss how M2 Apple Silicon pushes tech to the limit

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2023
Apple's platform architecture VP Tim Millet and product marketing VP Bob Borchers weigh in on the benefits of bringing chip design in-house.

Apple's M2 chipset
Apple's M2 chipset


In an interview with TechCrunch, Apple executives sat down to discuss Apple's shift to silicon and what it means for consumers, and where they hope to take the technology.

Millet notes how important a role the iPad Pro played in Apple's choice to switch its Mac lineup to M1.

"Once we started getting to the iPad Pro space, we realized that 'you know what, there is something there.' We never, in building the chips for iOS devices, left anything on the table," Millet says. "But we realized that these chips inside these other enclosures could actually make a meaningful difference from a performance perspective."

When it came time to release its next line of chips, the company wanted to push the boundaries of what was possible. Apple wanted to go bigger and better rather than offer meager performance gains with each new chip.

"The M2 family was really now about maintaining that leadership position by pushing, again, to the limits of technology. We don't leave things on the table," says Millet. "We don't take a 20% bump and figure out how to spread it over three years... figure out how to eke out incremental gains. We take it all in one year; we just hit it really hard. That's not what happens in the rest of the industry or historically."

Millet also touches on Apple's relationship with Intel and how the companies helped each other create better products.

"Intel was a great partner through the years where we shipped the Intel machines. They were very responsive; they really actually were inspired by the direction that Apple pushed them," says Millet. "And I think our products benefited from that interaction. Of course, our competitors' products benefited from that interaction as well sometimes."

Ultimately, though, the design teams at Apple realized there were significant benefits to bringing chip design in-house.

The 2023 Mac mini M2
The 2023 Mac mini M2


The pair also discussed gaming on Mac, which they admit has been somewhat limited. Still, Borchers believes that strides are being made with each new iteration of the M-series chips.

He cites Capcom's Resident Evil as proof that AAA developers are willing to bring their titles to Mac.

Millet says that Apple hasn't forgotten about gamers, either. The company has been mindful of the market since before the shift to silicon.

"The story starts many years ago, when we were imagining this transition. Gamers are a serious bunch. And I don't think we're going to fool anybody by saying that overnight we're going to make Mac a great gaming platform. We're going to take a long view on this."

The interview closes out with how Apple views getting its systems to as many consumers as it can. This is especially true of its entry-level offerings like the M2 Mac mini, which is priced $100 less than the M1 Mac mini -- and $200 cheaper for students.

"We're product people at the end of the day, and we want to put our systems in as many hands as possible," says Borchers. "We feel like the Mac mini form factor is such a great way to unleash creativity and, frankly, goodness in the world that we wanted to be able to put it in as many people's hands as possible."

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    It's starting to become more of a viable gaming platform in terms of some of the hardware. Now they need to work on the software part, like a Vulkan layer or anything else that makes porting a game way easier. Or maybe they hope Epic will improve Unreal Engine for the Mac. Else we're stuck with the iOS games. So this will probably take another decade.
    If they cite Resident Evil then I dunno, that was a not the best port I've seen on the mac.

    WoW performance is great, but it's not a very taxing game, and Apple wrote most of the Metal code. They can't do that for every game.
    xyzzy01elijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 11
    It is true that the software compatibility is an issue for developers. However ultimately, developers will invest for the hardware the gamers are using. I am a hard core gamer. I use a PC for gaming and a Mac for everything else. Raw GPU performance is still inferior on Mac. Mac are very efficient, PC are not. NVidia is overclocking like hell their GPUs: laptops would drain their battery in minutes if not plugged-in and on the desktop side, they are talking of using two 120V 15A circuits (3,600W potentially) to feed your computer and a big part of the high end is water cooled at least for those that mind the noise generated by all the fans trying to cool everything down. From the benchmarks I have seen, MacBooks seems to sip up to 50W in power mode and desktops about 100W, so the efficiency crown goes to Apple hands down.

    Mac are slim, cool and noiseless. PC are bulky, hot and noisy. But gamers do not care about that, they just want raw power, the more the better. And Mac still don't support ray tracing in hardware, honestly not many games support raw tracing, but you know the fear of missing out is strong for many gamers. Furthermore, because of the overclocking, an inexpensive gaming PC GPU will usually outperform a Mac GPU, Mac are still perceived to cost too much for what you get.

    So the alignment between Apple philosophy and the gamers is not great. Gaming will always be marginal on Mac, and limited to the people already owning a Mac. The only segment, Apple hardware will put them ahead is mobile gaming. iPhone and iPad fill the needs for casual gamers in this segment, but their is no dedicated game devices for serious gamers like the Steamdeck, and I don't think Apple wish to enter this market either.
    xyzzy01williamlondonFileMakerFellerh2pwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 11
    sbdudesbdude Posts: 261member
    The hubris here is amazing. It's that arrogance that caught apple with its pants down in the 90s before Jobs' return. Even apple has its limitations; if they were pushing and innovating as much as they think they are, they might actually have a graphics chip capable of rudimentary ray tracing, rather than relying on inefficient software. A little humble pie or yankee crow once in a while never hurts.
    edited February 2023 avon b7elijahgwilliamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 11
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,296member
    Interesting interview. It's nice to hear a commitment to gaming and a realization that they have an opportunity here. I view that very positively -- it gives me real hope that Apple will achieve the gaming potential of the Mac. 

    Having said that.... the statement about the GPU having access to 96GB of RAM is weird. Right now you have to spend at least $3900 to get a Mac with Apple Silicon and 96GB of RAM. The number of people doing that is far smaller than needed for developers to design a game that takes advantage of that in any meaningful way. If we focus on Macs that nontrivial numbers of people actually buy, then we're looking at about 16 GB of RAM shared between CPU and GPU. That's really no more RAM available to the GPU than in a gaming PC. So this seems like a hyperbolic marketing comment disconnected from reality. 

    Unless, of course, he's talking about the future rather than the present. Will the Apple VR goggles have 96GB of RAM and some kind of crazy killer game that somehow takes advantage of that? Seems unlikely, but for this comment to make any kind of sense, it has to be indicative of their vision of the future, not the present. 

    One other thought -- a 20% increase in performance is not as rare in the x86 CPU world has he implies. Look at Ryzen 7950x vs 5950x (which despite model number is a one generation improvement). On multithread, the improvement in geek bench is 23091/ 16441 = 1.40. Actually, his comment only applies to Intel, and only during that awful period when Intel just kept re-spinning Skylake with minor tweaks of their 14nm process. That awful period was indeed awful but it's also over. 
    avon b7williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamh2pwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 11
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,869member
    sbdude said:
    The hubris here is amazing. It's that arrogance that caught apple with its pants down in the 90s before Jobs' return. Even apple has its limitations; if they were pushing and innovating as much as they think they are, they might actually have a graphics chip capable of rudimentary ray tracing, rather than relying on inefficient software. A little humble pie or yankee crow once in a while never hurts.

    Hubris? Apple is on the right path because they are not a monopoly despite what some people say. Apple has had to build from the ground up to get the products that they want, help from some outside independent third party agency has not advanced anything that they’ve been doing in the last 25 years, acquisitions to support a existing in-house project don’t count ie… PA Semi, Intrinsity, Anobit, the best $750 million dollars, Apple has spent next to picking up Next computer and Steve Jobs for $400 million dollars.

    Again going back to the fact that there’s a much larger market a that market does not care about what Apple does until after the fact, The problem with the GPU is the same as everything else in the last 25 years, in the end Apple will need to build from the ground up.

    Apple’s path speed and performance with energy efficiency will pay off in the end, however, that path needs the foundations laid first, AMD Nvidia, and Intel can’t help with that foundation and neither can the so-called gaming companies. Apple is building an ecosystem, from the ground up (“World Building” outside third parties can’t help you with that).

    Hubris is Microsoft thinking they can spend $67 billion dollars on Activision or that guy named Elon, who thinks buying Twitter for $44 billion dollars and think that overnight that will end all their trouble or that they can fix it overnight.

    Apple has chosen a more humble path one that involves playing the long game.
    edited February 2023 StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 11
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,326moderator
    Palandrel said:
    Mac are slim, cool and noiseless. PC are bulky, hot and noisy. But gamers do not care about that, they just want raw power, the more the better.
    There are over 200 million gamers worldwide and many of them stuck with consoles even when they were underpowered. It's far more about the available games than how they run. There's a recent video here comparing M2 Max with a 4090 laptop and while the 4090 is a little faster, the noise level is very high at 6:50:



    I'd much rather have the quiet computer that is 30% slower. Apple is mainly missing the game library and cheaper M1 Pro laptops like 15" Air. Ideally Apple would at least get the big franchises like Call of Duty ported. Those are 10-30 million units per game.

    https://gamerant.com/highest-selling-call-of-duty-games-ranked-by-amount-sold-world-at-war-modern-warfare-black-ops/#call-of-duty-modern-warfare-3-30-71-million
    https://store.steampowered.com/charts/mostplayed

    Some of the most played games listed at the above link are ported already but all it takes is one missing title for someone to switch platform.

    What would help a lot is something like Valve's Proton software that the Steam Deck uses. That would quickly produce a huge library of games.

    The Mac laptops have nice displays. Here someone is using their XDR MBP as a display for their Steam Deck:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/macgaming/comments/10udnbs/using_my_macbook_pro_14_as_a_monitor_for_my_steam/

    If Proton was available for Mac, the Steam Deck wouldn't be needed.
    FileMakerFellerStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 11
    I've heard whispers about an effort to translate code written for Vulkan into Metal-compatible code. Probably a lot of skunkworks projects in-house at the larger development shops doing this as they experiment to see how cost-effectively they can deliver a Mac port of their most popular titles, but it won't take long for an industry-wide joint effort to get some legs.

    Marvin said:
    What would help a lot is something like Valve's Proton software that the Steam Deck uses. That would quickly produce a huge library of games.
    That's not The Apple Way™. Apple doesn't care about a back catalogue (just look at Apple TV+) because that represents the past and Apple is looking to the future. At Apple they understand that it will take time to build up from essentially nothing but if they focus on high quality then within ten years they will have an enviable collection of content that will draw customers. They've been doing it with Apple Arcade, they'll do it with whatever they name their premium gaming subscription.


    The "moar powah!" crowd that seems to be a majority of the hard-core gamer community is starting to complain about hardware instability. The top-end graphics cards don't just have a high power draw rating, they can also spike to three or four times the stated requirements for a few milliseconds as they try to maximise output. The power supplies built into the PCs haven't been designed to manage these spikes in demand and in most cases the machine shuts down. It's worse if the GPU has been overclocked. None of the component manufacturers will accept responsibility for the situation and the current advice is to build your gaming PC with a power supply that can handle more than 4x the standard power draw of the components used to build the rig. Extra upfront expense, higher power bills, etc.

    Apple's approach of prioritising power efficiency is likely to avoid this mess. I can see that appealing to a large number of people; similar to those who like to drive fast cars but who don't want to build and maintain a hot-rod.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 11
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,879member
    sbdude said:
    The hubris here is amazing. It's that arrogance that caught apple with its pants down in the 90s before Jobs' return. Even apple has its limitations; if they were pushing and innovating as much as they think they are, they might actually have a graphics chip capable of rudimentary ray tracing, rather than relying on inefficient software. A little humble pie or yankee crow once in a while never hurts.
    Man pass me what you’re smoking. If you don’t think the Apple silicon and the M-series is innovating, I don’t know what to tell yeah. Compute power per watt is a helluva thing and surpasses Intel, who got by on inefficient chips by throwing more watts/heat into the mix. 
    edited February 2023 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 11
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,693member
    sbdude said:
    The hubris here is amazing. It's that arrogance that caught apple with its pants down in the 90s before Jobs' return. Even apple has its limitations; if they were pushing and innovating as much as they think they are, they might actually have a graphics chip capable of rudimentary ray tracing, rather than relying on inefficient software. A little humble pie or yankee crow once in a while never hurts.
    Man pass me what you’re smoking. If you don’t think the Apple silicon and the M-series is innovating, I don’t know what to tell yeah. Compute power per watt is a helluva thing and surpasses Intel, who got by on inefficient chips by throwing more watts/heat into the mix. 
    Re-read what he wrote. 

    Perhaps he has a point on the graphics side of things. 

    In chip design, most companies innovate and some go far beyond what Apple aspires to. 

    Apple set itself a roadmap and is following it pretty much successfully so far. 

    Intel has dominated various industries for decades now. That dominance, it can be argued, has limited what they can do. After all, critical industries seek stability and commitment (something Apple is famous for not providing).

    On the other hand, that enables Apple to dump technologies at the drop of a hat because only those in the CE world are affected.

    It's swings and roundabouts. 

    In this particular case you've got a VP of marketing in the conversation so from the outset you can expect some 'selling'.

    Yes, he's doing his job so it's not his fault that some people will inevitably call bull on some things even if there is an engineer in the conversation too.

    Apple Silicon design is pushing tech to the limit but so are literally hundreds of other companies.

    In fact, in pure technology terms, without those other companies at every stage of the manufacturing process and their pushing technologies to the limit, there would be no Apple Silicon.

    Then there is display technology and manufacture. Radio/Antenna design and manufacture. Camera sensor design and manufacture. Battery design and charging... 

    Qualcomm is also pushing technology to the limit. 

    Huawei is also pushing technology to the limit. 

    Nvidia is also pushing technology to the limit. 

    That is what the OP was getting at. 

    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 10 of 11
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 2,322member
    Palandrel said:
    It is true that the software compatibility is an issue for developers. However ultimately, developers will invest for the hardware the gamers are using. I am a hard core gamer. I use a PC for gaming and a Mac for everything else. Raw GPU performance is still inferior on Mac. Mac are very efficient, PC are not. NVidia is overclocking like hell their GPUs: laptops would drain their battery in minutes if not plugged-in and on the desktop side, they are talking of using two 120V 15A circuits (3,600W potentially) to feed your computer and a big part of the high end is water cooled at least for those that mind the noise generated by all the fans trying to cool everything down. From the benchmarks I have seen, MacBooks seems to sip up to 50W in power mode and desktops about 100W, so the efficiency crown goes to Apple hands down.

    Mac are slim, cool and noiseless. PC are bulky, hot and noisy. But gamers do not care about that, they just want raw power, the more the better. And Mac still don't support ray tracing in hardware, honestly not many games support raw tracing, but you know the fear of missing out is strong for many gamers. Furthermore, because of the overclocking, an inexpensive gaming PC GPU will usually outperform a Mac GPU, Mac are still perceived to cost too much for what you get.

    So the alignment between Apple philosophy and the gamers is not great. Gaming will always be marginal on Mac, and limited to the people already owning a Mac. The only segment, Apple hardware will put them ahead is mobile gaming. iPhone and iPad fill the needs for casual gamers in this segment, but their is no dedicated game devices for serious gamers like the Steamdeck, and I don't think Apple wish to enter this market either.
    Surely a studio only building for the hard core gamer is going to struggle to make money. Without even touching on some of the anti social aspects scaring off potential customers the high end GPU and chip shortages at just the wrong time would tank years of work. 

    Not saying they need to support the Mac but if they aren’t providing a low friction entry path using machines people have for other reasons they are going to struggle to get broad customer bases. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 11
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,728member
    I wonder if a Rosetta-type emulation could be created for x86 code so as to make it run as well as Apple's Intel code does on Apple Silicon or would that hit licensing issues?
    watto_cobra
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