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Old Feb 21, 2013, 12:20 PM   #1
Jynto
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Prediction: Atom processors for Air

Okay, two factors have led me to this conclusion, so hear me out here.

1) Apple will not consolidate their two MacBook lines. Laptops are the main part of their Mac business, so it would make no sense to only sell one product in that category. The recent redesign of the Pro is here to stay for about 4-5 years, during which it can not be everything people want from an Air. The Air still holds its niche as an ultraportable.

2) That said, the new Pro is very Air-like. If Apple gave the fabled retina display to the Air, it would make them even more similar. In terms of weight they are less than a pound apart, and a retina display would only make the Air heavier. The Air needs to move into its own space, away from the Pro.

With those things considered, I believe the headline feature will be, wait for it, no cooling fan.

How will this be done? Apple will give it a low-voltage processor, like the Intel Atom, which has come a long way from crappy netbooks. I doubt they will switch to the ARM platform, not in the short term anyway. If they do, they will do it with all their Macs at once.

An Air with a low-power processor and a low resolution display removes the one remaining roadblock to reducing its weight - the battery. The battery will get smaller, but battery life will remain the same, in exchange for shorter charging times and even more portability.

This could happen this year. If it does, expect the Air to be accompanied by a corresponding update of the Pro to appease the "we want Haswell" crowd. Those who need that power will flock to the 13-inch Pro. Those who care about the price point will stick with the Air. Those who wanted an 11-inch laptop with Haswell are out of luck, but every Apple update is bound to disappoint somebody.

Retina Airs and touchscreens for Macs are probably half a decade down the line. At that point they may consolidate the MacBook line, but they'll also introduce a new product to further bridge the gap between the MacBook and the iPad
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 12:28 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Jynto View Post
Okay, two factors have led me to this conclusion, so hear me out here.

1) Apple will not consolidate their two MacBook lines. Laptops are the main part of their Mac business, so it would make no sense to only sell one product in that category. The recent redesign of the Pro is here to stay for about 4-5 years, during which it can not be everything people want from an Air. The Air still holds its niche as an ultraportable.

2) That said, the new Pro is very Air-like. If Apple gave the fabled retina display to the Air, it would make them even more similar. In terms of weight they are less than a pound apart, and a retina display would only make the Air heavier. The Air needs to move into its own space, away from the Pro.

With those things considered, I believe the headline feature will be, wait for it, no cooling fan.

How will this be done? Apple will give it a low-voltage processor, like the Intel Atom, which has come a long way from crappy netbooks. I doubt they will switch to the ARM platform, not in the short term anyway. If they do, they will do it with all their Macs at once.

An Air with a low-power processor and a low resolution display removes the one remaining roadblock to reducing its weight - the battery. The battery will get smaller, but battery life will remain the same, in exchange for shorter charging times and even more portability.

This could happen this year. If it does, expect the Air to be accompanied by a corresponding update of the Pro to appease the "we want Haswell" crowd. Those who need that power will flock to the 13-inch Pro. Those who care about the price point will stick with the Air. Those who wanted an 11-inch laptop with Haswell are out of luck, but every Apple update is bound to disappoint somebody.

Retina Airs and touchscreens for Macs are probably half a decade down the line. At that point they may consolidate the MacBook line, but they'll also introduce a new product to further bridge the gap between the MacBook and the iPad
Atom is or was barely usable from a user perspective.

What made the Air so popular, was that it was thin and light like an Atom based netbook. But had decent horsepower and worked responsively.

Going to a **** CPU like Atom would be a big step back toward the netbook market that has flopped.

Also, Intel requires Haswell/Ultrabooks to have touchscreens and their Wireless Display. There is no sign Apple is interested in incorporated PCAP into MacBooks. Apple already pushes AirPlay and AppleTV, they don't need or want Intel's stuff.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 12:30 PM   #3
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I am willing to bet good money this prediction wont come true.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 01:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jynto View Post
Okay, two factors have led me to this conclusion, so hear me out here.

1) Apple will not consolidate their two MacBook lines. Laptops are the main part of their Mac business, so it would make no sense to only sell one product in that category. The recent redesign of the Pro is here to stay for about 4-5 years, during which it can not be everything people want from an Air. The Air still holds its niche as an ultraportable.

2) That said, the new Pro is very Air-like. If Apple gave the fabled retina display to the Air, it would make them even more similar. In terms of weight they are less than a pound apart, and a retina display would only make the Air heavier. The Air needs to move into its own space, away from the Pro.

With those things considered, I believe the headline feature will be, wait for it, no cooling fan.

How will this be done? Apple will give it a low-voltage processor, like the Intel Atom, which has come a long way from crappy netbooks. I doubt they will switch to the ARM platform, not in the short term anyway. If they do, they will do it with all their Macs at once.

An Air with a low-power processor and a low resolution display removes the one remaining roadblock to reducing its weight - the battery. The battery will get smaller, but battery life will remain the same, in exchange for shorter charging times and even more portability.

This could happen this year. If it does, expect the Air to be accompanied by a corresponding update of the Pro to appease the "we want Haswell" crowd. Those who need that power will flock to the 13-inch Pro. Those who care about the price point will stick with the Air. Those who wanted an 11-inch laptop with Haswell are out of luck, but every Apple update is bound to disappoint somebody.

Retina Airs and touchscreens for Macs are probably half a decade down the line. At that point they may consolidate the MacBook line, but they'll also introduce a new product to further bridge the gap between the MacBook and the iPad
It would make absolutely no sense to put a slow, outdated processor in a MacBook Air. If you look at the history of any line of MacBook (ex MacBook Air) the processor has always been upgraded from the last version. Not downgraded. The MBA has always been above any other netbook because it didn't really compromise power for size.

BTW I wouldn't mind having an 11 inch with a Haswell
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 01:17 PM   #5
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The Atom is crap for anything but a NAS, small server or a router.

Won't make it's way into any decent laptop product.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 01:18 PM   #6
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With those things considered, I believe the headline feature will be, wait for it, no cooling fan.
1) Atom will never figure into any Apple product. Why? Atom is synonymous with both a failed market and with Windows. Not tangential to that failure is the lack of horsepower in the CPU relative to what people came to expect from their computers. Furthermore, Intel continues to raise the low-power high-umph bar in their Core CPUs. Apple may be reducing their prices, but they won't resurrect the netbook market.

2) Apple will *never* headline something so base as "no cooling fan" unless the entire laptop range loses it, or unless its departure heralds something substantial, which an Atom will not. And no, longer battery life is not a valid trade-off for a return to netbook performance. Also, Apple puts a lot of effort into making those fans unnoticeable, so they're not going to bring attention it.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 04:57 PM   #7
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They dont even use the i3, why on earth would they jump down to an atom?
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 06:18 PM   #8
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Okay, it appears I haven't done my research on processors, as I've had a look at the sort of machines that have Atoms inside.

I still think an energy-saving processor could be the way forward for the Air, as soon as the performance difference becomes unnoticeable. What else could they use besides Atom? Perhaps they could take the approach of spreading the load among multiple cores to save power.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 06:20 PM   #9
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Think ARM.

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Old Feb 21, 2013, 07:07 PM   #10
Aegelward
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AMD's Steamroller based GCN platform comes out around the same time as haswel, which should be a huge leap over the Piledriver chips currently used.

Ether the Kaveri (Steamroller) or Kabini (Jaguar, same CPU used in the PS4)

The current Atoms use a single core version of the GPU used in the iPad, and isn't exactly great for desktop use. Reviews of windows machines using these chips have been quite dismal.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 07:30 PM   #11
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If anything, Apple will put a powerful ARM processor in the Air. However if they don't they will stick to Core i5/i7. Atom would be a huge step down, unless Apple decided to make the price ALOT lower in the process.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 07:42 PM   #12
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I can imagine Y-series Haswell chips (10-13W) making it, but Atoms no way.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 07:43 PM   #13
Menel
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ARM isn't happening. Huge paradigm shift for software support.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 08:36 PM   #14
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ARM isn't happening. Huge paradigm shift for software support.
No less that what happened with the Motorola->Intel transition.
And, we know, Apple already tested ARM CPU on Macbook Air, so they may be prepared....

I just don't see it happening for the next two years, but in the future, who knows?
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 08:47 PM   #15
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Worst prediction ever. Period.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 08:52 PM   #16
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Okay, two factors have led me to this conclusion, so hear me out here.

[...]
Doubt it. Very doubtful. The Atom is too crippled in the number crunching game.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 08:53 PM   #17
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Worst prediction ever. Period.
Yes, Atom has been found unsuitable by Steve Jobs for the iPad, you can figure out by yourself how it could be used on a OSX machine....
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 08:57 PM   #18
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Atom...yikes!

Atom is THE four letter word for me. I'm on my second netbook which can take credit for me moving to a MBA 11 next month.

This latest one requires a calendar to time functions not a watch!
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 09:20 PM   #19
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Yes, Atom has been found unsuitable by Steve Jobs for the iPad, you can figure out by yourself how it could be used on a OSX machine....
As of the moment, I doubt it. But who knows.
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Old Feb 21, 2013, 11:27 PM   #20
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Okay, it appears I haven't done my research on processors,
Right, so there should be a period at the end of that sequence of words, and your post should end there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jynto View Post
I still think an energy-saving processor could be the way forward for the Air
Yes! Way to go! Connect those dots! Then, maybe, could we also say that a weight-saving chassis could be another way forward for the Air, because Apple certainly hasn't tried that one out, either?
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Old Feb 22, 2013, 04:26 AM   #21
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An Air with a low-power processor and a low resolution display removes the one remaining roadblock to reducing its weight - the battery. The battery will get smaller, but battery life will remain the same, in exchange for shorter charging times and even more portability.
I actually wondered some time back if Apple would actually create some sort of hybrid intel/arm processor. Just like the bigger macbook pros have 2 graphics cards which they could switch between depending on the nature of the task, a laptop with such a hybrid chip could switch between ARM (for basic tasks like web-surfing or word processing) or intel (for heavier tasks like photoshop).

The main draw would be lesser power consumption for lighter tasks. It would also enable Apple to break out of the predictable Intel release cycle that pretty much sees them announcing new laptops alongside everyone else in the industry.

Granted, the devil's in the details, and being an engineering noob, there are probably issues I don't yet realise.
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Old Feb 22, 2013, 05:44 AM   #22
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No less that what happened with the Motorola->Intel transition.
And, we know, Apple already tested ARM CPU on Macbook Air, so they may be prepared....

I just don't see it happening for the next two years, but in the future, who knows?
ya.

I was more referring to upcoming Air refresh, and the thought of splitting the CPU architecture of Pro and Air into two separate architectures requiring different binaries.

----------

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I actually wondered some time back if Apple would actually create some sort of hybrid intel/arm processor. Just like the bigger macbook pros have 2 graphics cards which they could switch between depending on the nature of the task, a laptop with such a hybrid chip could switch between ARM (for basic tasks like web-surfing or word processing) or intel (for heavier tasks like photoshop).

The main draw would be lesser power consumption for lighter tasks. It would also enable Apple to break out of the predictable Intel release cycle that pretty much sees them announcing new laptops alongside everyone else in the industry.

Granted, the devil's in the details, and being an engineering noob, there are probably issues I don't yet realise.
dont get your hopes up.

Two completely different microarchitectures requiring different binaries.
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Old Feb 22, 2013, 06:03 AM   #23
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I still think an energy-saving processor could be the way forward for the Air, as soon as the performance difference becomes unnoticeable. What else could they use besides Atom? Perhaps they could take the approach of spreading the load among multiple cores to save power.
But they already use an ultra energy efficient cpu in the air. The next generation of the processors will be even better.
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Old Feb 22, 2013, 01:37 PM   #24
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How about a VIA X2?

How wait, that guy takes like 26 watts too, never mind.
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Old Feb 22, 2013, 01:50 PM   #25
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It would be ARM way before Atom. And I doubt ARM will happen in next 3-5 years. Intel is getting their act together. Who knows though. Predicting technology trends is like predicting the weather.
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