Apple Silicon chips expected to be refreshed on an 18 month cycle

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited December 2021
Apple reportedly intends to release updates to its Mac and iPad Pro Apple Silicon chips every 18 months, but it isn't clear why this isn't happening at the same speed as Apple's A-series processors.




Apple is in the middle of its two-year schedule to move its Mac lineup away from Intel processors to Apple Silicon. So far, it has brought out three chips under its M1 masthead, including the M1 Pro and M1 Max in its newest MacBook Pro updates, but more are certainly on the way.

In a report from Taiwan's Commercial Times, supply chain sources claim Apple is aiming for an update to its Apple Silicon range every 18 months. This is in stark contrast to the A-series chips, which get a generational jump each fall as part of annual changes to the iPhone.

The report says the "M2" lineup will start off In the first half of 2022, with a chip codenamed "Staten." The "M2 Pro" and "M2 Max" versions will apparently arrive as part of an M2X architecture codenamed "Rhodes" in the first half of 2023.

M2 will allegedly be produced using a 4-nanometer process, which is also allegedly rumored to be used in the "A16" in the 2022 "iPhone 14."

The following "M3" series would arrive 18 months after the M2, it is reckoned, and will apparently employ TSMC's 3-nanometer process.

A leaked roadmap from November detailed the next generation of Apple Silicon processors as having the codenames "Ibiza," "Lobos," and "Palma." Thought to be separate from Rhodes, the chips are said to each contain two dies, produced using a 5-nanometer process.

While "Ibiza" is anticipated to be the low-power version to be used in a MacBook Air and iPad, "Lobos" and "Palma" are expected to be used in the MacBook Pro and other Mac desktops.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    This is longer than the intel cycle, albeit the Apple silicon processors are better though.
    williamlondonwatto_cobraKTR
  • Reply 2 of 21
    Longer cycle, bigger performance jumps per cycle? That's what I would be expecting. 
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 21
    People are more likely to refresh their phone every year than an iPad or Mac - so this makes sense to me.
    CuJoYYCbaconstangStrangeDaysbluefire1watto_cobrablastdoor
  • Reply 4 of 21
    To over-use a saying; Comparing Apple's Silicon release cycles to Intel's Release schedule is an 'Apple vs Oranges' comparison....but you can still compare them - Dave Burd...Scanning through the wiki articles about Intel processors...Intel has had many years of 12 month cycles, and an 18 month cycle recently, but the new generation processors offered very incremental improvements in terms of specs. Intel has also been stuck at 14nm for 6 years! If Apple can launch one node improvement (thank you TSMC) and incremental feature or spec bump in 18 months it would be, in my opinion, an improvement over Intel....though I don't expect the CPU alone to drive upgrades for me, personally. In my opinion it took 3 to 4 intel cycles (3 to 5 years) before the node seemed to make an appreciable difference in performance that I would consider 'worth' upgrading to get the new CPU. 

    Farewell, 14nm: Intel Launches Alder Lake - ExtremeTech

    (edit: Grammar)
    edited December 2021 watto_cobraAlex_V
  • Reply 5 of 21
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 1,278member
    M3 will be expected to compete against 14th-gen Intel and Zen 4 (and maybe Nuvia).  It takes time to stand out from the competition, but I suspect the progress will be faster by then.

    For now, the M1 Pro/Max with 2-die will do, with M2 improving on power efficiency so you'll see less throttle.  I still want to see a 2-die configuration on the 16" MacBook Pro, seeing much cooling headroom suggesting it.
    edited December 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 21
    XedXed Posts: 2,533member
    This is longer than the intel cycle, albeit the Apple silicon processors are better though.
    A new Intel generation is every 3–5 years. If Apple wants to do a Tick-Tock method they could easily best Intel's 1–2 year release cycle.

    See the Overview section to compare codename and fabrication dates for desktop and mobile chips.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Core#Overview
    williamlondonwatto_cobraSoli
  • Reply 7 of 21
    Not buying this.

    it’ll be major update every 2 years (M1 to M2…) with the Pro/Max versions coming every other year. So new processor every year, new architecture every 2 years.

    18 months is odd as it puts architecture changes out of step with iPhone processors.
    InspiredCodewatto_cobraTRAG
  • Reply 8 of 21
    This might be accurate for one iteration of the cycle. It will just happen when Apple feels it’s time for a new chip. I doubt it will be very consistent. It will probably align somewhat with when other components are ready. Apple isn’t on a regular refresh cycle for Mac like they are for the iPhone. I think it will end up averaging a consumer variant one year followed by pro-variant the next year with a lot of inconsistency on when they actually deliver. Apple wants to replace their lineup with Apple silicon, so right now they may feel a bit rushed to get all their machines replaced with comparable Apple Silicon ones. I could see them wanting to get a M2 4-chiplet package out sooner rather then later for a high-end skew of the Mac Pro as soon as possible after the M2 launches.
    edited December 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 21
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,927member
    2-years made marketing sense for pro products but Apple is the new player in PC silicon so needs to respond and iterate quickly. M-series doesn’t need to be in lockstep with A-series, they could mix different generations of IP blocks to suit the device.

    All this is irrelevant as real world performance is dictated by software optimisation. Apple needs thousands of engineers forking open source projects for dedicated macOS framework optimised software to provide alternative libraries to x86. At the moment the closed politics of open source is working against them as Intel shuts down non-x86 projects (see Embree-ARM) ensuring the foundations for Cinebench & Blender underperform on ASi.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 21
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 1,020member
    This might be accurate for one iteration of the cycle. It will just happen when Apple feels it’s time for a new chip. I doubt it will be very consistent. It will probably align somewhat with when other components are ready. Apple isn’t on a regular refresh cycle for Mac like they are for the iPhone. I think it will end up averaging a consumer variant one year followed by pro-variant the next year with a lot of inconsistency on when they actually deliver. Apple wants to replace their lineup with Apple silicon, so right now they may feel a bit rushed to get all their machines replaced with comparable Apple Silicon ones. I could see them wanting to get a M2 4-chiplet package out sooner rather then later for a high-end skew of the Mac Pro as soon as possible after the M2 launches.
    You don't think Apple has a roadmap for when they want to release new processors? I highly doubt they just decide to drop a new chip when they "feel" like it as it takes an enormous amount of engineering to come up with one M series chip.

    I do feel like Apple is in a bit of a predicament at the moment as they have to design both new A series chips, but those chips are also going to be the basis for the M series chips. Chicken or the egg situation, tit for tat. 
    edited December 2021 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 21
    Considering the performance of M1 against its peers, I'd be surprised if Apple doesn't delay releases simply because the competition isn't challenging their product's performance. Let's be honest, Intel isn't even really in the game at this point.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 21
    Seems like it is a three-way equation. There is the science of hardware, the development of software, and the marketing of systems. Apple already has a well-oiled machine that runs on an annual cycle for all three elements. [A-series, iOS, iPhone]

    For Macs, 18 months is arguably a better timetable for all three elements. For Apple Silicon, it takes time to ramp up from the base M-series to Pro/Max to multiple dies. For macOS, the annual pressure seems like it has become too much — Monterey had important features announced that ended up delayed, and an 18-month macOS cycle would ease that. Finally, an 18-month refresh cycle works well for marketing. People would know what to expect. They could upgrade every 18 months, or after three years, after four and a half years, or after six years. They could get AppleCare for any of those intervals. 
    edited December 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 21
    XedXed Posts: 2,533member
    Seems like it is a three-way equation. There is the science of hardware, the development of software, and the marketing of systems. Apple already has a well-oiled machine that runs on an annual cycle for all three elements. [A-series, iOS, iPhone]

    For Macs, 18 months is arguably a better timetable for all three elements. For Apple Silicon, it takes time to ramp up from the base M-series to Pro/Max to multiple dies. For macOS, the annual pressure seems like it has become too much — Monterey had important features announced that ended up delayed, and an 18-month macOS cycle would ease that. Finally, an 18-month refresh cycle works well for marketing. People would know what to expect. They could upgrade every 18 months, or after three years, after four and a half years, or after six years. They could get AppleCare for any of those intervals. 
    Macs non-annual HW updates in the past to stay competitive with other PC vendors because that's when Intel had processors (at scale of the type Apple needed). Now that they control the shebang they don't have abide by those component supply laws, but the annual cycle for humans around the world is still the same.

    For those reasons they'll likely go with an annual or a biennial cycle (for their notebook categories), with macOS still occurring every year free of charge. macOS get annual updates that works across all their other OSes. This helps gets switches and retain users. It's synergetic and makes all their device categories better than their sum parts.
    watto_cobraSoli
  • Reply 14 of 21
    This is better than Moore' law.
    watto_cobratenthousandthingsAlex_V
  • Reply 15 of 21
    rmoormoo Posts: 30member
    This is longer than the intel cycle, albeit the Apple silicon processors are better though.
    This statement has two components. The first is true, the second is subjective at best.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 16 of 21
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    This is better than Moore' law.
    Moore's law is to do with number of transistors doubling.  Apple releasing a new generation is not the same thing.
  • Reply 17 of 21
    rmoormoo Posts: 30member
    Considering the performance of M1 against its peers, I'd be surprised if Apple doesn't delay releases simply because the competition isn't challenging their product's performance. Let's be honest, Intel isn't even really in the game at this point.
    Huh? Intel "isn't in the game" when it comes to power per watt. But 11th gen Intel Core i7 was within ballpark of the M1 and 11th gen Core i9 exceeded it. 12th Gen Intel Core i7 exceeds the M1 Pro and M1 Max. 12th gen is actually an outdated design because it needed to wait until Intel's 10nm process was ready. 13th gen launches in 4Q2022 with performance and efficiency enhancements and a mature 10nm node, meaning that 13th gen Core i5 will be competitive with the M1 Pro. 

    It is amazing how the discourse went from "we are pleasantly surprised that Apple's CPUs are competitive with Intel's!", which was actually true, and "Apple's CPUs are clearly better than Intel's!", which was never true, and to the degree it was, it was only due to Apple's decision to use unified memory instead of RAM and being on a 5nm process instead of a 14nm one. On the former, general purpose CPU makers using unified memory is very stupid because unified memory removes flexibility and upgradability. On the latter, once Intel's 7nm chips arrive in 2023, while the Apple power-per-watt advantage will remain, it will significantly decrease to the point where no one is going to talk about it anymore. For example, you are going to see 7 inch Nintendo Switch-type devices and 12 inch Windows 11 tablets running 14th gen Intel Core i5 CPUs that won't require discrete GPUs or fans that will have very good battery life. 

    Even Apple claimed that they were never going to be able to outdo Intel (or AMD) in single core or multicore performance and their big advantage was going to be power per watt. The problem is that unless you run a data center or are someone whose job requires them to be constantly "on-the-go" (and the people in the latter group switched to smartphones and tablets as their primary devices ages ago) then power per watt isn't going to be something that you care about that much. People aren't going to start valuing that metric overnight just because Apple says that they should, and the people who are going to all of a sudden after all these years start claiming that power per watt is the most important thing are going to be loyal Mac customers already. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 21
    rmoormoo Posts: 30member
    Xed said:
    Seems like it is a three-way equation. There is the science of hardware, the development of software, and the marketing of systems. Apple already has a well-oiled machine that runs on an annual cycle for all three elements. [A-series, iOS, iPhone]

    For Macs, 18 months is arguably a better timetable for all three elements. For Apple Silicon, it takes time to ramp up from the base M-series to Pro/Max to multiple dies. For macOS, the annual pressure seems like it has become too much — Monterey had important features announced that ended up delayed, and an 18-month macOS cycle would ease that. Finally, an 18-month refresh cycle works well for marketing. People would know what to expect. They could upgrade every 18 months, or after three years, after four and a half years, or after six years. They could get AppleCare for any of those intervals. 
    Macs non-annual HW updates in the past to stay competitive with other PC vendors because that's when Intel had processors (at scale of the type Apple needed). Now that they control the shebang they don't have abide by those component supply laws, but the annual cycle for humans around the world is still the same.

    For those reasons they'll likely go with an annual or a biennial cycle (for their notebook categories), with macOS still occurring every year free of charge. macOS get annual updates that works across all their other OSes. This helps gets switches and retain users. It's synergetic and makes all their device categories better than their sum parts.
    Huh? Intel updates their CPUs every year. It was Apple who only updated their Macs on a biannual schedule for their own reasons. I have never gotten the emphasis on macOS being free of charge and annual updates. Windows has been "free" also for ages, in the sense that everyone who purchases a Windows machine gets a perpetual Windows license tied to that machine. Microsoft used to charge for upgrades, but that ended with Windows 8 at the absolute latest. And annual updates is a feature when Windows emulated ChromeOS with regular rolling updates? Yeah, none of this will attract switchers, who buy devices primarily to run the apps they want - games, professional software and lots of other apps weren't even available on x86 Macs and even fewer will run natively on M1 Macs - and also consider price (a premium Wintel or WinAMD machine like a Dell XPS or HP Elitebook with 16 GB RAM, Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU and Nvidia or AMD dGPU costs less than an M1 MacBook Air with half the RAM and only 7 GPU cores). As for retaining users, the loyal Apple fans will remain so, especially if they don't need x86 software and don't need to still run Windows on virtual machines or bootcamp. But as for the "synergy" ... the vast majority of iPhone and iPad users are still running iTunes on Windows, and this is despite Apple doing their level best to make the iTunes on Windows experience as painful as possible to "encourage" people to switch (the same is true of iCloud and they flat out don't support Safari on Windows anymore). 

    Add it all up and no, Apple updating their Mac CPUs less frequently than Intel, AMD and Qualcomm updates their PC counterparts won't give Apple a competitive advantage. Impossible to spin that otherwise. It won't be a disadvantage either, mind you. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 19 of 21
    rmoo said:
    Considering the performance of M1 against its peers, I'd be surprised if Apple doesn't delay releases simply because the competition isn't challenging their product's performance. Let's be honest, Intel isn't even really in the game at this point.
    Huh? Intel "isn't in the game" when it comes to power per watt. But 11th gen Intel Core i7 was within ballpark of the M1 and 11th gen Core i9 exceeded it. 12th Gen Intel Core i7 exceeds the M1 Pro and M1 Max. 12th gen is actually an outdated design because it needed to wait until Intel's 10nm process was ready. 13th gen launches in 4Q2022 with performance and efficiency enhancements and a mature 10nm node, meaning that 13th gen Core i5 will be competitive with the M1 Pro. 

    It is amazing how the discourse went from "we are pleasantly surprised that Apple's CPUs are competitive with Intel's!", which was actually true, and "Apple's CPUs are clearly better than Intel's!", which was never true, and to the degree it was, it was only due to Apple's decision to use unified memory instead of RAM and being on a 5nm process instead of a 14nm one. On the former, general purpose CPU makers using unified memory is very stupid because unified memory removes flexibility and upgradability. On the latter, once Intel's 7nm chips arrive in 2023, while the Apple power-per-watt advantage will remain, it will significantly decrease to the point where no one is going to talk about it anymore. For example, you are going to see 7 inch Nintendo Switch-type devices and 12 inch Windows 11 tablets running 14th gen Intel Core i5 CPUs that won't require discrete GPUs or fans that will have very good battery life. 

    Even Apple claimed that they were never going to be able to outdo Intel (or AMD) in single core or multicore performance and their big advantage was going to be power per watt. The problem is that unless you run a data center or are someone whose job requires them to be constantly "on-the-go" (and the people in the latter group switched to smartphones and tablets as their primary devices ages ago) then power per watt isn't going to be something that you care about that much. People aren't going to start valuing that metric overnight just because Apple says that they should, and the people who are going to all of a sudden after all these years start claiming that power per watt is the most important thing are going to be loyal Mac customers already. 
    Think before you type.

    You don’t know what actual advantage the power consumption can bring.  If I can do the same thing with half of the power, what would happen if I target the same envelope?  Modern fabs will allow you to drop more than a dozen cores with ease, so whether you want to decimate your opponent is just an option.
    williamlondonXed
  • Reply 20 of 21
    XedXed Posts: 2,533member
    rmoo said:
    Xed said:
    Seems like it is a three-way equation. There is the science of hardware, the development of software, and the marketing of systems. Apple already has a well-oiled machine that runs on an annual cycle for all three elements. [A-series, iOS, iPhone]

    For Macs, 18 months is arguably a better timetable for all three elements. For Apple Silicon, it takes time to ramp up from the base M-series to Pro/Max to multiple dies. For macOS, the annual pressure seems like it has become too much — Monterey had important features announced that ended up delayed, and an 18-month macOS cycle would ease that. Finally, an 18-month refresh cycle works well for marketing. People would know what to expect. They could upgrade every 18 months, or after three years, after four and a half years, or after six years. They could get AppleCare for any of those intervals. 
    Macs non-annual HW updates in the past to stay competitive with other PC vendors because that's when Intel had processors (at scale of the type Apple needed). Now that they control the shebang they don't have abide by those component supply laws, but the annual cycle for humans around the world is still the same.

    For those reasons they'll likely go with an annual or a biennial cycle (for their notebook categories), with macOS still occurring every year free of charge. macOS get annual updates that works across all their other OSes. This helps gets switches and retain users. It's synergetic and makes all their device categories better than their sum parts.
    Huh? Intel updates their CPUs every year. It was Apple who only updated their Macs on a biannual schedule for their own reasons. I have never gotten the emphasis on macOS being free of charge and annual updates. Windows has been "free" also for ages, in the sense that everyone who purchases a Windows machine gets a perpetual Windows license tied to that machine. Microsoft used to charge for upgrades, but that ended with Windows 8 at the absolute latest. And annual updates is a feature when Windows emulated ChromeOS with regular rolling updates? Yeah, none of this will attract switchers, who buy devices primarily to run the apps they want - games, professional software and lots of other apps weren't even available on x86 Macs and even fewer will run natively on M1 Macs - and also consider price (a premium Wintel or WinAMD machine like a Dell XPS or HP Elitebook with 16 GB RAM, Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU and Nvidia or AMD dGPU costs less than an M1 MacBook Air with half the RAM and only 7 GPU cores). As for retaining users, the loyal Apple fans will remain so, especially if they don't need x86 software and don't need to still run Windows on virtual machines or bootcamp. But as for the "synergy" ... the vast majority of iPhone and iPad users are still running iTunes on Windows, and this is despite Apple doing their level best to make the iTunes on Windows experience as painful as possible to "encourage" people to switch (the same is true of iCloud and they flat out don't support Safari on Windows anymore). 

    Add it all up and no, Apple updating their Mac CPUs less frequently than Intel, AMD and Qualcomm updates their PC counterparts won't give Apple a competitive advantage. Impossible to spin that otherwise. It won't be a disadvantage either, mind you. 
    Intel sure has you fooled with their marketing. Rebranding a barely changed chip isn't exactly great for vendors and I'm glad Apple didn't jump on these technically *new* but clearly not good enough advancements. It's sad that even skipping a release intel's offerings for mobile chips weren't good enough to encourage most buyers to update. I've spent of my adult life buying a new computer every year because the performances gains made in worthwhile. In fact, I was losing money if I didn't buy a new computer. That ended many years ago when Intel dropped the ball. Now with Apple Silicon that finally looks like Apple will be getting my money with every release.
    williamlondonfastasleep
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