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View Full Version : Apple + Intel - where will they go?


wrldwzrd89
Nov 26, 2005, 03:14 PM
Yeah, I know this is another Apple and Intel topic. I just wanted to share my opinions on the whole situation.

I think Apple will use x86 processors at first, just like everyone else. However, I also think Apple will be the key that finally breaks the "x86 lock" at Intel - meaning Apple will be the impetus to get Intel working on something better than x86. When this happens (I am certain it will eventually), everyone will benefit. How so?


Proper code/data separation (like PowerPC), eliminating a whole host of security issues
The death of outdated technologies like PS/2 and the current PC BIOS
The end of ACPI, a power management system so unreliable it needs to be replaced
No more x86 compatibility hardware, freeing up vital space for things like cache
Will be able to increase performance at far lower heat cost

There are downsides, though:


All x86 operating systems (including Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux) will need to be recompiled for the new processor
Any application that depends on x86 assembly code will no longer work

portent
Nov 26, 2005, 08:24 PM
A lot of this can be done without a new instruction set. There's nothing about x86 that demands PS/2, a traditional BIOS, or ACPI. I'm pretty sure that MacIntels will be legacy-free, and may use either Open Firmware or EFI. (The transition kits do use a BIOS.)

Thus far, every attempt to replace the godawful x86 instruction set has failed. x86 just has too much money behind it. Too many people want compatibility with legacy software too badly. With that much demand, companies are going to build newer and better x86 chips. History has proven that as long as x86 is "good enough" and compatible, it will dominate the market. A dozen superior architectures have come and gone, but x86 is still strong. Even Intel would like to replace it, but failed. (Itanium, anyone?)

Morn
Nov 27, 2005, 06:17 AM
Actually the reason for the failures to replace x86 is microsoft, they have not gone behind any alternative technology, as much as Intel would like to junk x86 for something based on the itanium architecture. Microsoft values legecy, they know their customers are less likely to upgrade if their old software won't work. If microsoft wanted they could attempt to push the industry into a different architecture, they have the market force to do so, but they don't see any advantage to themselves for such an effort.
>The death of outdated technologies like PS/2 and the current PC BIOS

PC bios gives you an *easy to use* (compared to a crappy CLI like openfirmware has) way to configure all sorts of hardware settings, like ram timings for example.

>The end of ACPI, a power management system so unreliable it needs to be replaced

True!

>No more x86 compatibility hardware, freeing up vital space for things like cache

Nah, I don't think that is a good idea, I have old programs on windows that I stilll use... so do many people.


>Will be able to increase performance at far lower heat cost

Actually as time goes on, the relative transistor cost of x86 legecy support is going to become more and more insigificant, it already is compared to 5 years ago. To replace x86 you're going to need a CPU that supports 2 ISA's without speed loss or excessive transistor count... hard engineering.

Azurael
Nov 27, 2005, 06:27 AM
Actually, ACPI works quite well in my experience. Early dodgy ACPI implementtions were a pain in the neck, but it's certainly better to give the OS control over IRQ routing, power management, etc set it in the BIOS. I've never had those hideous device conflicts I remember having with APM and even pre-APM machines since I've had an ACPI machine... And while the X86 platform's 15 IRQs are fairly limited compared to PowerPC's 255(? not sure), with an APIC, that goes to 23 and with IRQ sharing, who needs more? I'm more worried about Apple getting rid of the BIOS. It sucks. Go EFI! And the rest of the legacy junk (serial ports, PS/2, etc)

Morn
Nov 27, 2005, 06:44 AM
Ohh yeah? Try using ACPI on deep sleep mode, also known as S3. It rarely works on PC's, mac's use little power while sleeping, PC's do support something similar, but it rarely works.

wrldwzrd89
Nov 27, 2005, 08:06 AM
PC bios gives you an *easy to use* (compared to a crappy CLI like openfirmware has) way to configure all sorts of hardware settings, like ram timings for example.
Yes, that's true, but both Open Firmware and the standard PC BIOS are outdated when compared to things like EFI (http://www.intel.com/technology/efi/). Hopefully EFI will put an end to both the command line interface of Open Firmware and the text-mode graphics of a typical PC BIOS, replacing them with a truly easy to use graphical interface for managing hardware settings.

59031
Nov 27, 2005, 05:58 PM
>No more x86 compatibility hardware, freeing up vital space for things like cache

Nah, I don't think that is a good idea, I have old programs on windows that I stilll use... so do many people.

I think that's a personal problem and you need to drop those applictions. Of course, using Windows IS a personal problem to begin with.

generik
Nov 27, 2005, 06:46 PM
One thing that I have always been wondering about is.. when Apple goes CISC, will it be more efficient memory wise?

Right now (due to RISC and yadda yadda) Macs really eat memory like there is no tomorrow. 2GB on my PB now makes it a really happy machine, but I've seen XP boxes do way better than my PB ever could on 512. If code gets more compact I am really keen to see the improvements we can get from the "more spacious" memory.

Morn
Nov 27, 2005, 07:07 PM
>I think that's a personal problem and you need to drop those applictions. Of course, using Windows IS a personal problem to begin with.

No, windows users often use old programs, and legecy requirements is major enough on that platform to doom any x86 replacement. There are many things that won't be updated, like old custom apps for companies, or old games.
And microsoft is not going to make any push for a x86 replacement, they aren't going to make anything like rosetta, they would see no advantage to themselves.

>>>Right now (due to RISC and yadda yadda) Macs really eat memory like there is no tomorrow. 2GB on my PB now makes it a really happy machine, but I've seen XP boxes do way better than my PB ever could on 512. If code gets more compact I am really keen to see the improvements we can get from the "more spacious" memory.

I doubt that that is going to make a major difference. All the eye candy on OSX, advanced features like quartz, it needs more ram than XP for these.

Azurael
Dec 12, 2005, 06:46 PM
Ohh yeah? Try using ACPI on deep sleep mode, also known as S3. It rarely works on PC's, mac's use little power while sleeping, PC's do support something similar, but it rarely works.

OK. If I close the lid on the notebook I'm typing this on now, running XP Pro SP2 (or my Gentoo install, but that took work...), it goes to sleep. The little LED starts blinking. Assuming I have a relatively full battery and I open the machine a week later, it will come back to life exactly where is was (minus some of the remaining battery power). I don't call that dysfunctional. And no, I'ts not hibernating. My recent desktop builds have all supported S3 just fine too, unfortunatley my current X2 rig doesn't but that's overclocking for you :P

OK, my mini is overclocked and still resumes from sleep. That's obviously one up for Apple's power management vs. ACPI. I don't like BIOSses. I don't like the idea of a clunky 20 year old architecture that has constantly had new features badly bolted on to it over the years. That said, ACPI is one feature to hit the mainline x86 (do we still call it 'IBM Compatible?!') architecture that has actualy made my life easier. I have to fix far fewer machines with device conflicts and resource allocation headaches now than I did 8 years ago. APICs on uniprocessor systems have made life even easier, finally giving x86 boxes enough IRQs for all their devices! (though it's nothing compared to PowerPC's... 255?)

zap2
Dec 12, 2005, 07:01 PM
What are the chance that Mac OSX is "ready" for other chips

and do you think Apple will keep making a PPC Mac OSX(not for sale but alot like they did Pre-intel switch or is apple going intel and never look back to PPC)

wrldwzrd89
Dec 12, 2005, 08:35 PM
What are the chance that Mac OSX is "ready" for other chips

and do you think Apple will keep making a PPC Mac OSX(not for sale but alot like they did Pre-intel switch or is apple going intel and never look back to PPC)
The chance that Apple will continue making Mac OS X for PPC Macs is 100% for the near future after the Intel switch is complete, which I'll assume will take us at least into 2008, if not 2009. After that, who knows. Apple would be wise to keep their options open, since as we all know, things can suddenly change in the processor business.

Morn
Dec 13, 2005, 05:53 AM
OK. If I close the lid on the notebook I'm typing this on now, running XP Pro SP2 (or my Gentoo install, but that took work...), it goes to sleep. The little LED starts blinking. Assuming I have a relatively full battery and I open the machine a week later, it will come back to life exactly where is was (minus some of the remaining battery power). I don't call that dysfunctional. And no, I'ts not hibernating. My recent desktop builds have all supported S3 just fine too, unfortunatley my current X2 rig doesn't but that's overclocking for you :P

Ok but that is not at all what I'm talking about macs, PC's can go into sleep easily, but usually have major problems going into as deep as sleep as a mac. There are different grades of sleep, depending on how much hardware is shut off in the computer. Macs can easily go into such a low level of sleep that they use barely any power, PC's often have problems doing that.


OK, my mini is overclocked and still resumes from sleep. That's obviously one up for Apple's power management vs. ACPI. I don't like BIOSses. I don't like the idea of a clunky 20 year old architecture that has constantly had new features badly bolted on to it over the years. That said, ACPI is one feature to hit the mainline x86 (do we still call it 'IBM Compatible?!') architecture that has actualy made my life easier. I have to fix far fewer machines with device conflicts and resource allocation headaches now than I did 8 years ago. APICs on uniprocessor systems have made life even easier, finally giving x86 boxes enough IRQs for all their devices! (though it's nothing compared to PowerPC's... 255?)

I don't mind old architectures if they do the job, hell x86 today is beating powerpc in performance. Old is merely a matter of engineering, you can make old architectures work well with good engineers.


The chance that Apple will continue making Mac OS X for PPC Macs is 100% for the near future after the Intel switch is complete, which I'll assume will take us at least into 2008, if not 2009. After that, who knows. Apple would be wise to keep their options open, since as we all know, things can suddenly change in the processor business.


It would not be sensible for apple to change architectures every 3 years... no we're stuck with x86 for a long time...

wrldwzrd89
Dec 13, 2005, 07:59 AM
Ok but that is not at all what I'm talking about macs, PC's can go into sleep easily, but usually have major problems going into as deep as sleep as a mac. There are different grades of sleep, depending on how much hardware is shut off in the computer. Macs can easily go into such a low level of sleep that they use barely any power, PC's often have problems doing that.




I don't mind old architectures if they do the job, hell x86 today is beating powerpc in performance. Old is merely a matter of engineering, you can make old architectures work well with good engineers.




It would not be sensible for apple to change architectures every 3 years... no we're stuck with x86 for a long time...
All these points I agree with. I doubt Apple will switch from x86 unless Intel does. I am almost certain Apple won't switch from x86 for a long time, like you said. However, even Intel can't predict the future. x86 may encounter unexpected problems or encounter competition so fierce it drives x86 out of the mainstream. The second scenario is especially unlikely, but who knows...