Johny Srouji says the Apple Silicon strategy challenged Apple

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited April 2022
Apple's transition away from Intel to Apple Silicon was a difficult gamble to undertake, with a profile of Johny Srouji revealing challenges including an internal debate over designing components, as well as the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic.




Apple's resurgence of the Mac and MacBook lineup is largely down to its creation and implementation of the M1 chip lineup, with its Apple Silicon components able to outpace its rivals. In a profile of Johny Srouji, Apple's SVP of Hardware Technologies, more light is shed on the design thinking behind the creation of Apple Silicon.

Apple had built a team up to include thousands of engineers working on the company's silicon for iPhone and iPad. Limited by the constraints of working from a battery, the team's designs also enabled deep integration with the hardware, to complete tasks that designers wanted its ranges to do.

However, a flashpoint occurred in 2017 when tech bloggers talked to executives, reports the Wall Street Journal, with Apple apologizing for shortcomings in its professional Macs. After continued complaints about low performance through using Intel chips, Apple stepped up its efforts to shift away from the chip maker.

The change prompted debate within Apple, Srouji confirmed, since computer producers don't tend to design such important components in-house. The move was considered risky, in part because the team had to design a chip architecture that would work from the cheapest Mac mini to the most expensive Mac Pro.

"First and foremost, if we do this, can we deliver better products?" said Srouji about the debate. "That's the No.1 question. It's not about the chip. Apple is not a chip company."

The team then had to work out whether it could deliver the chip, at the same time as increasing its numbers to deal with other projects and technological changes. "I don't do it once and call it a day, "Srouji adds. "It is year after year after year. That's a huge effort."

The process prompted Apple to expand its chip strategy to Macs, complete with a scalable architecture. A former engineer told the report Srouji's team had suddenly become a central point of product development, increasing Srouji's influence over time.

COVID-19 became a potential issue for Apple Silicon's development, with remote-work mandates impacting chip validation before production commenced. Rather than the usual process of having engineers view chips through microscopes in a facility, Srouji helped implement a process where cameras were used to perform the inspection remotely.

The rapid deployment was necessary to avoid any delay in production, but was quick due to the size and spread of Srouji's team. Spread around the world, the group was very familiar with working via video calls across time zones.

"What I learned in life: You think through all of the things you can control and then you have to be flexible and adaptive and strong enough to navigate when things don't go to plan," said Srouji in an interview. "COVID was one for example."

Apple is currently preparing to hold its WWDC event in June, one that could see the company introduce the next generation of its Apple Silicon strategy. Rumors have proposed Apple is working on introducing M2 chips in an updated MacBook Air and MacBook Pro later in 2022, which Apple may tease at the developer conference.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    Out of all the desktop/laptop OEMs out there Apple was the only one with the balls to strike out on its own. As the article points, with tremendous risk and challenges. The rest remain locked down to whatever Intel or AMD does or does not have to offer. But since the debut of the M1 suddenly other OEMs are investigating producing their own SOCs.

    One thing is certain for those of us who keep riding the Apple log flume, it’s a thrilling ride and you never know what’s around the corner, just like an Indiana Jones movie.
    edited April 2022 sandorrob53williamlondonMisterKitDAalsethJWSCscstrrfFileMakerFellerbadmonkwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 55
    sandorsandor Posts: 659member
    lkrupp said:
    Out of all the desktop/laptop OEMs out there Apple was the only one with the balls to strike out on its own. As the article points, with tremendous risk and challenges. The rest remain locked down to whatever Intel or AMD does or does not have to offer. But since the debut of the M1 suddenly other OEMs are investigating producing their own SOCs.

    One thing is certain for those of us who keep riding the Apple log flume, it’s a thrilling ride and you never know what’s around the corner, just like an Indiana Jones movie.
    I think having your own operating system is a part of this equation.

    Apple languished for decades under the "control" of Motorola, IBM, Intel & others. 
    Jobs coming back with NeXT & helping push the end of the "Classic" Macintosh operating system is not to be underestimated.
    In the same way having a decade or so to see the 68k to PowerPC switch as well as the PowerPC to Intel switch means that Apple as a company had a handle on the intricacies of large platform switches & maintaining support for older software along the way.
    danoxelijahgMisterKitravnorodomtdknoxscstrrfFileMakerFellerwatto_cobrajony0Alex1N
  • Reply 3 of 55
    lkrupp said:
    Out of all the desktop/laptop OEMs out there Apple was the only one with the balls to strike out on its own. As the article points, with tremendous risk and challenges. The rest remain locked down to whatever Intel or AMD does or does not have to offer. But since the debut of the M1 suddenly other OEMs are investigating producing their own SOCs.

    One thing is certain for those of us who keep riding the Apple log flume, it’s a thrilling ride and you never know what’s around the corner, just like an Indiana Jones movie.
    Apple is unique in that its the only laptop vendor that has its own operating system. And that is the singular reason why Apple could ditch x86 and continue to be relevant. I’m sure Asus, HP and others would probably want to use another chip architecture besides x86 to diversify their portfolios.  But there’s not a merchant ARM vendor out there with high performance CPUs in terms of rivaling AMD and Intel for the client market. 

    The quintessential question is if they adopted ARM or another chip architecture, what OS would they run? What productivity apps would they run? What gaming apps would they run?

    A large part of the reason why Intel and AMD continue to remain dominant is because of Microsoft’s dominance, especially in enterprise. Even when NVidia and Qualcomm unleash ARM chips into the ecosystem, those chips will have to run windows (on arm) to be of any relevance. If they don’t run windows and key windows apps well, no one will want to buy them. 

    So Apple definitely has to be respected for its engineering prowess in designing and brining Apple silicon to market. But apple is unique in that it controls an OS and has the power to enable apple silicon to run the apps that people need. So it’s more than just balls to move on, it’s also controlling the software stack as well, something the competition cannot do very easily. 
    elijahgMisterKitJWSCtdknoxscstrrfFileMakerFellerbadmonkwatto_cobrajony0Alex1N
  • Reply 4 of 55
    every time some shift like this happens, I go back and reread stories about NeXT and Jobs' wilderness years away from Apple.  It's astonishing that he and the NeXT team followed the technology and seemingly lost every battle until he (and they) ultimately won the war.  Learning to port NeXTSTEP OS to other chip architectures in the early 90s is still paying dividends today on a scale they couldn't have possibly imagined when they were just trying to survive.  shocking success story, really.
    edited April 2022 thtwilliamlondontenthousandthingsJWSCscstrrfbloggerblogFileMakerFellerbadmonkwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 55
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 1,146member
    And it is still stupid.

    Apple should have added AMD models, not used souped-up phone chips in computers. 
    williamlondon9secondkox2lkrupp
  • Reply 6 of 55
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,950member
    darkvader said:
    And it is still stupid.

    Apple should have added AMD models, not used souped-up phone chips in computers. 
    Ha Ha Ha…….
    sandorwilliamlondonnarwhalstompysocalbrianredgeminipaqwerty52daventmaytdknox
  • Reply 7 of 55
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,257member
    darkvader said:
    And it is still stupid.

    Apple should have added AMD models, not used souped-up phone chips in computers. 
    Why? Apple's souped up chips are doing great and don’t heat up the room. 
    williamlondonnarwhalsocalbrianredgeminipatmayJWSCtdknoxscstrrfFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 55
    sandorsandor Posts: 659member
    darkvader said:
    And it is still stupid.

    Apple should have added AMD models, not used souped-up phone chips in computers. 

    Apple's history of frustration with chip suppliers says otherwise.

    Go ahead & roll your own https://amd-osx.com


    •dirty 32 bit (Mode32)
    •promise of G3 PowerPC processors developing into the joy of the G4
    •the devastating frustration of the dead end of the G5 
    •wholesale Intel switch

    i am more than happy that Apple has been able to build a successful internal team to create what they want. No more disappointments because their patterns did not want to/could not provide them with what Apple wanted.
    flyingdpnarwhalsocalbriandanoxlkruppredgeminipatmayJWSCtdknoxscstrrf
  • Reply 9 of 55
    darkvader said:
    And it is still stupid.

    Apple should have added AMD models, not used souped-up phone chips in computers. 
    How so? Apple has had desktop class architecture since the A7's 64-bit SOC.
    Why should Apple rely on ANOTHER CPU manufacture when they've been burned multiple times over the decades?
    williamlondonflyingdpnarwhalsocalbriandanoxredgeminipatmayJWSCtdknoxscstrrf
  • Reply 10 of 55
    thttht Posts: 5,494member
    However, a flashpoint occurred in 2017 when tech bloggers talked to executivesreports the Wall Street Journal, with Apple apologizing for shortcomings in its professional Macs. After continued complaints about low performance through using Intel chips, Apple stepped up its efforts to shift away from the chip maker.
    Wish they made the switch in 2018, not 2020. This would have added an Apple Silicon Mac product cycle to the tsunami that was TSMC's fab advancement from 2016 to 2022. They went from 14nm, 10 nm, 7nm, and 5nm on a 2 year cycle, like clockwork, from being behind Intel to lapping them in 6 years. When your products have continuous performance improvements, year on year, it builds brand momentum, where everyone perceives the company as winning, which makes selling product much easier.

    Neil Cybart from Above Avalon is theorizing that Apple changed its product development strategy from a pull model - the iPhone pulled all products in its wake and got the biggest attention - to a push everything model, where all product lines are advanced simultaneously, starting sometime in 2017. From the outside it really looks like they did, like the product announcements in late 2018 with the MBA, Mac mini and iPad Pro, and they have been rolling ever since.

    But the chips are still very much a pull. All the core logic units: CPU, GPU, ML all start from the iPhone. Those units than fan out to all the other products.
    FileMakerFellerwatto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 11 of 55
    Personally I’m more impressed with the silicon quantum chips IBM and Intel are developing.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 55
    tewhatewha Posts: 13member

    A large part of the reason why Intel and AMD continue to remain dominant is because of Microsoft’s dominance, especially in enterprise.
    I think this is simplifying a bit too much. If Microsoft was truly dominant, they would have successfully moved to ARM years ago. Instead, the dominance is the combination of Windows + x86, and while Microsoft might be influencing it they're not really controlling it. Maybe in the future, once the Qualcomm deal ends, if Microsoft puts more might into ARM.
    FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 55
    hucom2000hucom2000 Posts: 149member
    Personally I’m more impressed with the silicon quantum chips IBM and Intel are developing.
    There are tons of real physical challenges to quantum computing. One of them is the extremely short-lived and unstable lifetime of operation. There yet has to be found a solution for error correction for the mess that comes out of it. We’re years away from a commercial product - maybe decades.
    williamlondonwelshdogredgeminipadaventdknoxwatto_cobrajony0Alex1N
  • Reply 14 of 55
    XedXed Posts: 2,620member
    lkrupp said:
    Out of all the desktop/laptop OEMs out there Apple was the only one with the balls to strike out on its own. As the article points, with tremendous risk and challenges. The rest remain locked down to whatever Intel or AMD does or does not have to offer. But since the debut of the M1 suddenly other OEMs are investigating producing their own SOCs.

    One thing is certain for those of us who keep riding the Apple log flume, it’s a thrilling ride and you never know what’s around the corner, just like an Indiana Jones movie.
    As others have pointed out, they'd have to be fully independence from Microsoft's crushing thumb for that to be on the table. Intel and MS are similar in many ways as they created an early dominance while they held onto for a very long time, but when moving to the mobile space they simply were too bloated and slow to compete. Even though both had excessive funds to throw at the market (which has worked well for them in the past), both eventually had to back out because their efforts were still far too anemic to carve out a meaningful niche.
    edited April 2022 watto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 15 of 55
    AniMillAniMill Posts: 163member
    A comment about the comments: really superb reinforcements of the overall story, great additional information. Thanks all. I’m hoping there’ll be a documentary about this whole transition, along with the history building up to it.
    XedscstrrfFileMakerFellerwatto_cobrajony0Alex1N
  • Reply 16 of 55
    darkvader said:
    And it is still stupid.

    Apple should have added AMD models, not used souped-up phone chips in computers. 
    That would have worked well for the Mac Pro.  And maybe for the iMac (particularly if they wanted to make another iMac Pro).  But it wouldn't have worked for anything else.
    scstrrfwatto_cobrajony0Alex1N
  • Reply 17 of 55
    XedXed Posts: 2,620member
    darkvader said:
    And it is still stupid.

    Apple should have added AMD models, not used souped-up phone chips in computers. 
    That would have worked well for the Mac Pro.  And maybe for the iMac (particularly if they wanted to make another iMac Pro).  But it wouldn't have worked for anything else.
    He's just trolling. If they had gone with AMD Apple would be worse off and he'd be making some other claim about what they should've done to be a more successful company. He knows full well that he's posting stupid comments.
    h4y3sfreeassociate2williamlondonlkruppredgeminipamike1michelb76tdknoxwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 18 of 55
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,950member
    lkrupp said:
    Out of all the desktop/laptop OEMs out there Apple was the only one with the balls to strike out on its own. As the article points, with tremendous risk and challenges. The rest remain locked down to whatever Intel or AMD does or does not have to offer. But since the debut of the M1 suddenly other OEMs are investigating producing their own SOCs.

    One thing is certain for those of us who keep riding the Apple log flume, it’s a thrilling ride and you never know what’s around the corner, just like an Indiana Jones movie.

    Steve realized in his second coming at Apple you didn’t need to be biggest in tech you just needed to be profitable in what you could make and sell (be/stay in the fight for another day) most of the others gave up (SGI, Sun, Digital, Amiga, Web OS, IBM, Be OS) didn’t learn that, there still is a market and always will be for another company or companies with a really good in house OS and great in house hardware to go with it, and that someone will not come from the present group of big companies but that group of someone’s will do it again. (key-word profitable selling to the marketplace).
    edited April 2022 FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 55
    boboliciousbobolicious Posts: 1,148member
    ...is it still very early days and presumably can only Apple best understand the potential of what lies ahead...?

    From a practical standpoint at this point from this seat the GPU base line for software I use is Vega 56 or Nvidia 3060, and as far as I can tell the only seeming option that betters that so far is a Studio Ultra (or a pro) - how will the Ultra fair in a year or two?  Offering baseline in a portable is compelling as of today, but to add to the challenge the vertical apps I use are not yet compatible with Monterey, and no upgrade or eGPU seems available...

    Do the alternatives remain Intel macs, with perhaps a 6900XT eGPU (other than a pro) or a PC with Nvidia...?

    As I understand it Apple offered multiple GPU threading in its own apps such as FCP as far back as the 2013 Pro, arguably with D700 being a Vega equivalent long before the iMac Pro for the broader macOS ?  Could that have been offered in macOS from 2013 on ?  Was support (v56) for the 2010/12 mac pro potentially more effective than the 2013 ?

    So I guess we will have to wait and see to quote Lkrupt "you never know what’s around the corner, just like an Indiana Jones movie"...

    ... where should the balance (or roadmap) be for economic or business reliance ...?

    ...what is the world mac users want...?
    edited April 2022 watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 55
    AF_HittAF_Hitt Posts: 143member
    Personally I’m more impressed with the silicon quantum chips IBM and Intel are developing.
    And yet Apple is CURRENTLY FIELDING their chips, and aggressively iterating and improving upon them. By the time their mythical quantum computing chips actually function, I'd imagine Apple will have surpassed them, too.
    redgeminipaqwerty52williamlondonscstrrfwatto_cobrajony0
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