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Apple's Path to Arm-Based Macs Could Start With a New 12-Inch MacBook

Gerdi

macrumors regular
Apr 25, 2020
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Oh come on.

Systems with two cores are a net win for almost anyone: just shove all the system background processes on the other core, and your focused app gets an entire core for itself.

For four cores, the benefit is already a fair amount smaller, but still there.

As the core count increases, the returns diminish, except for specialty applications that are parallelized well, such as AOT compiling (JIT compilers like Roslyn don't parallelize nearly as well), video encoding, etc.
....

There's a reason Apple is so focused on high single-thread performance.

To make a long story short, all of this is irrelevant in the context of the discussion - because a SoC does not run close to its performanc limit when running a single thread. The difference between architectures is getting visible when you approach the limits - namely you are using the full potential of the chip and not just a fraction.


Almost nobody cares about what the CPU TDP rating is. Apple won't even tell you what theirs is, and you still haven't given a Microsoft or Qualcomm source on theirs being 7W. Not that it really matters. Yes, it's interesting on a theoretical level if they can do better performance at lower wattage, but at the end of the day, the final product matters. It's just a small number on a spec sheet. And in this case, it's so small, they don't seem to publish it at all.

Lol - power efficiency is the central question when comparing architectures, because power efficency ultimatively limits the performance of your device. If you designing a phone - your limit is below 5W - if user is interested in the number is irrelevant - but he surely wants a phone, which he can put in his pocket. And because thats driven by the laws of physics, it does not matter if the number is pusblished or not.
If you design a passively cooled closed case tablet, the power limit is around 7-10W when you want the device to stay somewhat cool. Going up in power at one point you will need a fan and a thicker and heavier chassis due to the needed cooling solution.
Even at the desktop space you will want to stay below around 150-200 W if you want to stay air cooled. In fact many desktop products stay at around 100W thermal power in oder to employ a relatively cheap and quite! cooling solution.

In any case the TDP numbers might only be relevant for likes of me, who engineers SoCs - but the user certainly expects some thermal properties and size/weight of his device. In any case the user will get the best performance if the CPUs are more power efficient than what is possible with x86 designs.

So if it helps you, forget about the numbers and just think about the product. Does not change the fact that power efficiency limits the performance you get out of a certain product.
And here ARM cores and Apple cores in particular beat any AMD/Intel cores at the same technology. And this will go through the whole power spectrum from phone to desktop.
 
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firewood

macrumors 604
Jul 29, 2003
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Almost no developer needs to disable SIP. macOS can be locked down a fair bit further before it becomes untenable for developers. Heck, you could if you wanted to make iPadOS a development environment.
Not only allowing installing *any* app (that comes with source code and/or a buildable Xcode project), but a lot of other holes would need to be punched in the iPadOS sandbox to allow full use of lldb and Instruments on running apps and processes to debug and tune, as well as run automated integrations/builds/regressions, and etc. But maybe not disabling SIP.
 
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chucker23n1

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Dec 7, 2014
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Still an option, but maybe not as seamless as I'd thought. Telling devs they need to resubmit to be compatible with the latest OS isn't beyond the pale-- and I'm not sure it would be the first time they've done something like that. If a dev can't be bothered to re-upload an intermediate product of an App they've already made, how much support is that app really getting?

"You have half a year to make a new build of your app that may not even compile without some changes, or your app flat-out won't run on our new computers"? That seems unprecedented to me. Run slowly, or with limitations (e.g., not filling the entire screen, on bigger iPhones), sure, but not at all?

It'll also lead some developers to simply ditch the Mac, which at its current status isn't a good message to send.
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Not only allowing installing *any* app (that comes with source code and/or a buildable Xcode project), but a lot of other holes would need to be punched in the iPadOS sandbox to allow full use of lldb and Instruments on running apps and processes to debug and tune, as well as run automated integrations/builds/regressions, and etc. But maybe not disabling SIP.

Sure, lldb, Instruments, etc. need a level off inter-process communication and monkey-patching that is currently impossible in iOS, but never say never.
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Lol - power efficiency is the central question when comparing architectures, because power efficency ultimatively limits the performance of your device. If you designing a phone - your limit is below 5W - if user is interested in the number is irrelevant - but he surely wants a phone, which he can put in his pocket. And because thats driven by the laws of physics, it does not matter if the number is pusblished or not.

I'm not disagreeing with that.

If you design a passively cooled closed case tablet, the power limit is around 7-10W when you want the device to stay somewhat cool. Going up in power at one point you will need a fan and a thicker and heavier chassis due to the needed cooling solution.
Even at the desktop space you will want to stay below around 150-200 W if you want to stay air cooled. In fact many desktop products stay at around 100W thermal power in oder to employ a relatively cheap and quite! cooling solution.

Yes, I understand the merits of keeping the TDP low.

I'm saying it's an engineering problem. At the high level, it's not the consumer's concern. If one laptop runs cool and fast and another runs hot and slow, the latter is a bad product. It doesn't matter if it's because the heatpipe was designed poorly, the device is too thin, the CPU is inefficient, etc. The sum of all parts is simply bad.

And the sum of all parts of the Surface Pro X? I'll probably take either an iPad Pro or a Surface Pro 7 over it any day, because Qualcomm chips aren't that great, and neither is Windows on ARM.

So if it helps you, forget about the numbers and just think about the product. Does not change the fact that power efficiency limits the performance you get out of a certain product.
And here ARM cores and Apple cores in particular beat any AMD/Intel cores at the same technology. And this will go through the whole power spectrum from phone to desktop.

Sure.
 
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Detnator

macrumors 6502
Nov 25, 2011
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That's also what the Macbook Air is for.

Azrael.

I know I’ll get flak for this but the current MacBook Air makes no sense. It’s so close to the low end MBP in size and weight that the “Air” part is virtually pointless.

The 12” MacBook should have been MBA in the first place. And this new 12” ARM one should be and replace the MBA also, with perhaps a 14” version as well. But super thin and light, no fans, etc. that’s all the stuff that “Air” meant originally.
 
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matram

macrumors 6502a
Sep 18, 2011
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I guess there are two reasons for the relatively large smallest SMB. Thermals and the keyboard.

Hopefully an ARM chip will result in thinner low end MB. Maybe the butterfly keyboard will resurface in some form?
 
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chucker23n1

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Dec 7, 2014
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I know I’ll get flak for this but the current MacBook Air makes no sense. It’s so close to the low end MBP in size and weight that the “Air” part is virtually pointless.

The 12” MacBook should have been MBA in the first place. And this new 12” ARM one should be and replace the MBA also, with perhaps a 14” version as well. But super thin and light, no fans, etc. that’s all the stuff that “Air” meant originally.

I agree with your second paragraph. Surely Apple's original plan was for the 12-inch MacBook to eventually replace the Air (and perhaps be renamed to it at some point), but Intel's thermals didn't allow for it. So the Air became bigger again and added a fan. The TDP went up from 4.5 (2015 MacBook) to 7 (2018 Air), then to 10 (2020 Air).

But the first paragraph? I think you have that backwards — the low-end Pro isn't a great product. The Air is.
 
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firewood

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"You have half a year to make a new build of your app that may not even compile without some changes, or your app flat-out won't run on our new computers"? That seems unprecedented to me. Run slowly, or with limitations (e.g., not filling the entire screen, on bigger iPhones), sure, but not at all?

It'll also lead some developers to simply ditch the Mac, which at its current status isn't a good message to send.

They don't care. Why? They've done it to iOS developers, and the number of developers and apps still increases.

Apps are regularly booted from the iOS App Store if they haven't been updated to the current APIs, often with just 30 days notice from Apple to the developer. The numbers ditching are small compared to the increase in total iOS developers.
 
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Azrael9

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Apr 4, 2020
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But the first paragraph? I think you have that backwards — the low-end Pro isn't a great product. The Air is.

The Macbook Air has been underwhelming performance wise since it's inception.

Great design. It's a popular product. And the most affordable 'Mac' with keyboard and monitor included since the iMac abandoned the sub £1k price bracket.

Ergo?

Any A14x in the Macbook Air...will be transformational and kick az. We've seen what a A12x is like in a 12.9 inch iPad.

If there's one product that would be ripe for this. It's the Macbook Air. An 8 core A14x cpu/gpu(!) would see Macbook Air blow Intel and PC laptops, 90% of them, out the water. It would get such a performance lift in cpu, gpu, design, battery....

That's alot of potential market for a faster, more efficient and thinner laptop. It would fly off the sales at 'adoption rate' prices of...

£799 and £999?

If they want a marketshare 'Mac ARM' product to kick start the 'Mac ARM' revolution? This would be the one. Laptops are the biggest Mac sellers. And it would strike at the heart of the Wintel homeland. Tanks on the edge of the 'cheap' Wintel laptop market with something 'aspirational', 'affordable' and 'quality.'

Azrael.
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I know I’ll get flak for this but the current MacBook Air makes no sense. It’s so close to the low end MBP in size and weight that the “Air” part is virtually pointless.

The 12” MacBook should have been MBA in the first place. And this new 12” ARM one should be and replace the MBA also, with perhaps a 14” version as well. But super thin and light, no fans, etc. that’s all the stuff that “Air” meant originally.

It will make sense when the A14x goes in there... :)

Azrael.
 
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chucker23n1

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The Macbook Air has been underwhelming performance wise since it's inception.

Great design. It's a popular product. And the most affordable 'Mac' with keyboard and monitor included since the iMac abandoned the sub £1k price bracket.

Ergo?

Any A14x in the Macbook Air...will be transformational and kick az. We've seen what a A12x is like in a 12.9 inch iPad.

Sure. Keep in mind the 2020 Air yielded a tremendous boost. The mid-range (which is just $100 more than the base) scores 1062/2708 vs. 2018's 746/1501. 42% boost in single-core (when do you ever get that kind of generational jump?), and 80% in multi-core (granted, that's largely due to doubling the cores).

And there's more of a boost to come with Tiger Lake.

(But, yes, an A14M will beat the Ice Lake MacBook Air, and probably also the Tiger Lake one.)

If there's one product that would be ripe for this. It's the Macbook Air. An 8 core A14x cpu/gpu(!) would see Macbook Air blow Intel and PC laptops, 90% of them, out the water. It would get such a performance lift in cpu, gpu, design, battery....

Could be.
 
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Azrael9

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(But, yes, an A14M will beat the Ice Lake MacBook Air, and probably also the Tiger Lake one.)

Could be.

It's the one product Apple seem to have done (following the design/spec revision following the 1st Steve Jobs introduction...) that seemed to capture the imagination of it's target base.

The 11 inch was very affordable. I'm surprised Apple 'canned' it.

In terms of getting a product into the a new 'Mac' ARM audience, powerful, sexy and affordable? I'd could see a few million of them being sold every quarter.

Ez.

Azrael.
 
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chucker23n1

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It's the one product Apple seem to have done (following the design/spec revision following the 1st Steve Jobs introduction...) that seemed to capture the imagination of it's target base.

The 11 inch was very affordable. I'm surprised Apple 'canned' it.

My guess is the 13 sold better (and gave Apple more cash, too).
 
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Cheffy Dave

macrumors 68030
I think a much better approach than just a switch is to have dual processors. An ARM and an Intel CPU over the next five years. That way, tasks that only run on Intel allow the Mac to use more power and turn on the Intel processor. In all other cases, it would use a much lower power state of a twelve-core A-Series ARM SoC. This, if implemented well, could allow Apple and developers a path to ensure customers get the best of both worlds. Apple can show its prowess and SoC capabilities without leaving out Intel/x86/Windows and etc.

This scenario has never been offered but it seems to me to allow the best of both worlds. Apple could run its own graphics which would probably destroy anything AMD has available. The SoC can do certain things much faster and better than Intel. But for those Intel-only apps that are power hungry not alienate them.
It’s truly the best of both worlds. It requires some advanced code and a rosette model to emulate all possible for running as much as possible on ARM CPUs. At the same time, when it just isn’t feasible like with Adobe Premiere Pro or other intensive apps, allow Intel to shine.
This strategy would allow a win-win for Apple, customers, developers and etc. as Customer will not be left out in the cold and developers will have time to implement a new instruction set.

anyone want to give their thoughts?
It would be kind of like a "transition machine", don't think it'd sell well. So nice to see you back my friend!💗
 
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cmaier

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Jul 25, 2007
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My guess is the 13 sold better (and gave Apple more cash, too).
I miss the 11. I have two of them - one my kid uses and one i use when i travel (so i don’t have to bring my 15” MBP or a 16” MBP on the road). Sometimes I just like to go type on them so i can remember what a real keyboard feels like :)

(My kid’s MBA used to be my wife’s. She replaced it was a MB 12”. Just had the keyboard and battery replaced in the very last week of AppleCare. Keyboard failed once before. Piece of crap Keyboard. Argh.)
 
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NikoKnows

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Jun 13, 2020
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I think transition goes as follows:
1. iPad Pros gets all pro apps Apple makes in Mac like Final Cut Pro. Those apps work great when connected to external display and where iPad’s touch screen has many functions of the application and in some cases mouse trackpad. Next November.

3. You can place iPad 12,9” top of MacBook’s keyboard to function better than keyboard as an editing tool for video editing etc. Just plug iPad with MacBook via USB 3.0 cable. iPad edits video with MacBook together.

4. iPad Pro 14,2” with A14Z chip: next November with iOS 14.2. 😉
And yeah, Rosetta functionality makes a return for iPad: now it will be possible to run Mac applications on iPad?

Macbooks will be replaced by iPads in not too distant future! Sure there will be some usage cases for Intel macs but its going to get less needed.
 
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chucker23n1

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And yeah, Rosetta functionality makes a return for iPad: now it will be possible to run Mac applications on iPad?

Macbooks will be replaced by iPads in not too distant future! Sure there will be some usage cases for Intel macs but its going to get less needed.

Why would Apple go through the trouble of porting the Mac to ARM and creating a new design language for it, only to get rid of the Mac soon after?
 
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chucker23n1

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I somehow don't think Niko knows …

:p

Anyway, I've seen that sentiment quite a bit, and find it puzzling. If anything, the announcements from recent months seem to say:

  • the platform UIs are converging a little: the iPad gains Mac-like sidebars (and basically exactly the Mac's Spotlight popup UI); the Mac gains some iPad-like UI traits
  • platform capabilities are, too: the iPad gains trackpad support, but in its own way. The Mac might get touch support; the much larger padding in the new UI suggests that. But the trackpad isn't the main way to use an iPad, and touch will likely not become the main way to use a Mac. Just supporting ways.
  • the Mac will stay for at least half a decade to come. They're not gonna make all these changes and launch a Mac Pro and all that only to merge the two.
This is not a Windows 8 repeat; it's a way for each platform to learn from each other while still retaining a distinct focus.
 
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NikoKnows

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Jun 13, 2020
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Why would Apple go through the trouble of porting the Mac to ARM and creating a new design language for it, only to get rid of the Mac soon after?
Read my post carefully. MacBooks are not going to be around, I said. You misunderstood on purpose?

iPads with At least 11” screens will get full macOS capability.
 
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chucker23n1

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Read my post carefully. MacBooks are not going to be around, I said. You misunderstood on purpose?

iPads with At least 11” screens will get full macOS capability.

What does iPads getting "full macOS capability" even mean? You seem to be describing a MacBook.
 
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NikoKnows

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Jun 13, 2020
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What does iPads getting "full macOS capability" even mean? You seem to be describing a MacBook.
what Is hard to understand on that?

One can have Magic Trackpad or Magic Mouse or Bluetooth mouse or whatever and move a cursor on iPad screen also in macOS environment. Only for 11” screen iPad Pro and bigger...

😌
 
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chucker23n1

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They're adding major features both to macOS and to iPadOS. Some of those cross-pollinate; e.g., macOS 11 looks a lot more like iPadOS, and iPadOS 14's sidebars look a lot like macOS's. But I see no evidence of merging, or discontinuing one or the other. On the contrary, if anything, the announcements in recent months (such as trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4 or the many things in macOS at WWDC) seem to say the opposite: both platforms will continue separately.

I don't "Macbooks will be replaced by iPads in not too distant future!" makes sense, given recent announcements.

(And, from a financial perspective, why would Apple do that, when they can sell you both an iPad and a Mac?)
 
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NikoKnows

macrumors newbie
Jun 13, 2020
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They're adding major features both to macOS and to iPadOS. Some of those cross-pollinate; e.g., macOS 11 looks a lot more like iPadOS, and iPadOS 14's sidebars look a lot like macOS's. But I see no evidence of merging, or discontinuing one or the other. On the contrary, if anything, the announcements in recent months (such as trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4 or the many things in macOS at WWDC) seem to say the opposite: both platforms will continue separately.

I don't "Macbooks will be replaced by iPads in not too distant future!" makes sense, given recent announcements.

(And, from a financial perspective, why would Apple do that, when they can sell you both an iPad and a Mac?)
thanks for your reply.

iPadOS and macOS will both work in some iPads I believe. There will be app “macOS” or so to get into macOS...
 
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