Mac Minis with ARM Prototype chips.

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Omega Mac, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. Omega Mac, Aug 25, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016

    Omega Mac macrumors 6502

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    #1
    Are these the most important Mac's you have never heard of until now? Nestled among one fascinating insight after the next is a passing observation. Is this a glimpse of the next major silicon pivot in the Apple story?

    In case it's not clear. This article focused primarily on the development of the A-Series chip, the bet Steve took and the man who has made these chips possible. All told, utterly transforming Apple fortunes and shaking up the industry.

    If these customised Mac mini's are cooking prototype ARM silicon under the hood then... it is not hard to guess the rest.
     
  2. Crosscreek macrumors 68030

    Crosscreek

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    #2
    I do really believe that Apple will make a move to ARM for some of their computers in the future. There is a revolution going on right now in ARM and I think other manufacturers are participating to bring ARM into main stream computing with the participation of INTEL.

    It would not surprise me that Apple will leap out with one of the first ARM laptop computers capable of running macOS.
     
  3. Omega Mac thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #3
    I know little about the finer aspects of macOS but I get the impression this is the OS that will transition Apple Mac to ARM processors.

    I actually believe when this happens, this will be Steve Jobs ultimate vision for Apple fulfilled and I think they are being very loyal to that baseline vision. Articles such as (which I am sure are Apple led)t are a great way to signal what's still at the heart of Appe.

    In doing so Apple are also making a real break with the secrecy under Jobs. So you have to wonder what is it they are trying to leverage that's more valuable than mere advertising. They are after all the top or one of the top brands on the planet.

    What I think they've done that maybe to counterpoint the space that Steve Jobs left that does not seem filled to many. Is to open up us to a glimpse of the fruits of that legacy and how it's still providing for even greater advances than when Steve Jobs was around.

    The idea of computing is going to change very much. Look back 5 years...look back 10 or look back 20... now imagine that curve into the future, the one where everyone is onboard the same boat, on the same techno-revolutionary journey that is unprecedented in human history.

    You have to design with that vision in hand. I have seen it and it's coming, it's always coming.
     
  4. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #4
    There is nothing -- and I mean absolutely nothing -- unprecedented about Apple's hardware technology. Apple does not lead in hardware adoption, it rather lags the rest of the industry. Apple's true innovation (and this was explicitly the genius of Steve Jobs) is in making existing technology easier for average folk to use.

    Sure, Apple is testing out different CPU families. They're no stranger to non-Intel hardware (they were using PowerPC chips up until around 2005 after all), and they've got the advantage of an OS based on BSD Unix, meaning they (at least should) have less trouble porting their OS to new CPUs, unlike other OS manufacturers.

    My problem with Apple is not that they are testing OS X on new hardware, but that they have been so incredibly stingy with what hardware they allow OS X to run on. Apple of course limits the operating system to their own machines, but lately they've been putting low-power chips in all their machines, and moreover made those machines almost entirely non-upgradable by the end user.

    In short, where the computer industry as a whole has been moving forward with more powerful hardware and into new computing niches, Apple has moved backward, with less powerful hardware and with fewer options.
     
  5. BeefCake 15 macrumors 65816

    BeefCake 15

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    #5
    @Omega Mac great catch on that article. A question I have also, which may be way off, is it possible that the new file system they're developing APFS a precursor to the introduction of ARM on a Mac? "The Apple File System (APFS) is the next-generation file system designed to scale from an Apple Watch to a Mac Pro." https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2016/701/
     
  6. Crosscreek, Aug 25, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016

    Crosscreek macrumors 68030

    Crosscreek

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    #6
    Apple has a lot of tech they have bought over the years and they tend to sit on it for what ever reason.

    They don't compete in the high end gaming market so why make high performance computers?

    Apple has changed it business to services and IOS, iPhones and iPads with some laptops and iMacs in the background.

    Apple makes money off the App Store, Icloud, Apple music and Apple pay. The services will make more money than building X86 computers.

    That's is now Apple.
     
  7. masterbaron macrumors regular

    masterbaron

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    #7
    Stingy - Stoic - Secreted - Self center - I not you ... and so you wait on the girl who looks the best instead of the girl who handles it the best ---- at the end of the day --- is it done yet?

    Just because they can ... they don't ... instead tease you and string you along ... sound familiar?
     
  8. Omega Mac thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Thanks, and great link. I hadn't seen this presentation on the new APFS.
     
  9. Moonjumper macrumors 68000

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    #9
    ARM started on desktop computers. I wouldn't be surprised to see them return. And Apple are probably in the best position to do it.
     
  10. theluggage macrumors 68030

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    #10
    (a) I'd be surprised if Apple didn't have prototypes of ARM-powered Macs, or at least lash-ups of OS X for ARM. Some of the work needed to get OS X running on ARM has already been done in creating iOS. (Note: I said some of - that's a million miles away from ready to ship - and good luck with Thunderbolt, AMD graphics drivers and suchlike). It's a sensible contingency plan in case they have problems with their mates at Intel. Remember - they had OS X running on Intel for a long time before IBM and Motorola dropped the ball on PPC and they decided to switch. If they didn't do it officially then it would probably happen as a "moonlight" project (if not, they're hiring the wrong programmers!)

    (b) You're at Apple, you've got an A10 prototype/testing board (probably about postcard-sized) and you want to slap it in a case, what case do you use? Just because it says "Mac Mini" on the outside doesn't mean its not duct tape inside.

    ...neither of which should be taken to mean that there will be ARM Macs in the shops for Xmas.

    I'd love to see ARM come back to the desktop (it started life kicking sand in the face of the Intel 286), there's now some interest in using ARM in servers and supercomputers (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/08/23/fujitsu_arm_post_k/ - although that will probably have serious extra hardware packed in to do the real crunching). The great thing about ARM is that its pick'n'mix - so if todays mobile ARM chips aren't on a par with an Intel i7, "just" chuck in lots of cores, vector units, cache etc. OK, not a home project but don't Apple have a Scrooge McDuck gold-filled swimming pool somewhere?

    Personally, I think ARM Macs are feasible, but not likely: the three problems are legacy software, x86 emulation and virtualization. "Modern" OS X software, written ground-up in ObjC/Swift and using OS X frameworks properly, should just recompile, but legacy, cross-platform stuff might be a problem: MS Office and Adobe CS (and software of a similar ilk) spring to mind as potential problem: less of a problem than it would have been 10 years ago, mind.

    Apple managed previous chip changes with emulation software - a 68000 was far more powerful than a 6502 and could emulate an Apple II faster than the real thing. The PPC was somewhat more powerful than the 68k, ditto the Core Duo vs. the PPC. The ARM's claim to fame is more in their power consumption, customisability and how many cores you can cram on a chip, so I don't think that even new chips are going to be that much faster than the Intel "Core i" equivalents, and might not have the grunt for acceptable emulation of x86.

    Loss of the ability to virtualise x86 operating systems (particularly Windows & Linux) would also be a pain for some users , whether it is for running Windows software, or development (& I suspect that more web developers are going to go down the Docker, or similar, route). Probably be hoopy for iOS development, though...
     
  11. AlliePallie macrumors newbie

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    #11
    Hmmmm. I saw a note, a year or so ago, to the effect that Apple was testing a Mac Mini with eight, count 'em, eight ARM processors. These were of undefined type with some undefined interconnect arrangement. Could be, shall we say, interesting.
     
  12. hawkeye_a, Aug 25, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016

    hawkeye_a macrumors 6502

    hawkeye_a

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    @Omega Mac Great find!

    I wouldnt be surprised if this was Steve Jobs' plan from way back in 2000. The PowerPC(which i liked) wasnt going to deliver what Apple wanted/needed. And intel, while being a great chip designer and manufacturer would mean Apple tying its products and development to an outside orginization which may or may not share Apple's view of the future.

    iPdone and iPad have lead to Apple significantly improving their knowledgebase in semiconductor designs.

    I personally dont care for "pc gaming". But i do think performance needs to be addressed... Encoding/decoding video and music, image processing, etc (iPhone does most of these things now). Then theres the app ecosystem and software support.

    Of all tech companies out there, only one has managed these gigantic transitions succesfully and been met with market success; Apple. (68k-PowerPC-Intel, classic MacOS to MacOSX).

    If thats part of the plan, it will surely put Cook to the test.
     
  13. grcar Suspended

    grcar

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    #13
    Oh great! Mac mini buyers get to be guinea pigs to beta test some weird hardware. Wow! And none of my current Intel software will run on the new chips. Remember Motorola chips? Remember IBM Power chips? Maybe Apple will have a dandy Rosetta II app to run my software. Should I buy two of the new machines, or just a glock to put me out of my misery?
     
  14. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #14
    Yeah, this is what drives me nuts about Apple. They decide on one or two devices that "should be fine for most users", and never go any further than that. So if you want to use OS X, you've gotta shoehorn your usecase into one of Apple's chosen devices, or give up on it.

    I'm remembering why I liked Linux in the first place. Want to run on an X86 machine? Fine! It works on almost any of them. Want a PowerPC device? Works there too. How about Arm? Yup, no problem.

    OS X has the same underlying system -- rather than choose one hardware platform, Apple could choose to provide OS X on every platform. They chose not to, so it is up to them to instead at least provide a wide enough range of authorized devices to at least allow users to get something close to the hardware of their choice. They've chosen not to do that either, and give less and less hardware flexibility every passing year.

    There's really no point in using OS X any more; the OS itself is still probably my favorite, but I don't think I'll ever find a use case for OS X on devices like Apple is providing. Apple just doesn't provide optimal hardware for heavy computation (or even heavy gaming), and OS X is more OS than you really need for someone just doing day-to-day office work...
     
  15. hawkeye_a macrumors 6502

    hawkeye_a

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    Maybe i'm just seeing the upside here?

    While i like intel's processors, the idea of an N-core ARM, which is cheaper, quieter and cooler, custom designed for OSX has me excited for the tech.

    RosettaII ....yeah im sure there will some bridging emulation software, followed by "Fat" binaries, and finally only custom compiled code.

    It sure is gutsy for Apple to do something like this. And the Apple I like, is an Apple which takes big bold risks.
     
  16. grcar Suspended

    grcar

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    #16
    The risk is, by not keeping their machines current, and by over-charging for old or experimental hardware, they lose customers. What happened to insanely great --- for the customer?
     
  17. hawkeye_a macrumors 6502

    hawkeye_a

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    #17
    The purpose of these boxes is to get things done. Now i'll admit, i dont run windows on my mac nor do i game on my mac. And none of these transition are easy on the customers.

    The potential i see here is a custom processor built for OSX. That synergy alone sounds great. And the prospect of an N-core A9X driving OSX has some major geek appeal(for me).
     
  18. Crosscreek macrumors 68030

    Crosscreek

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    #18
    Died with Jobs......
     
  19. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #19
    GAH! Unix was and is designed as an operating system that can be easily ported to new hardware. You don't need a custom CPU for it; just build a CPU that runs as fast as you can, and Unix will take full advantage of it.

    We really don't need to go back to something like Lisp machines.
     
  20. Nermal Moderator

    Nermal

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    #20
    This doesn't necessarily indicate ARM-based Minis; there could be dedicated testing hardware that just happens to be "driven" by (Intel-based) Minis. Bear in mind that the original 1985 ARM1 CPU was an add-on board that connected to existing machines; it wasn't until the ARM2-based Archimedes 305 and 310 came out in 1987 that true ARM-based machines were available.

    ARM-based Macs have been rumoured for more than twenty years. It may happen, or it may not.
     
  21. JCsHands2 macrumors newbie

    JCsHands2

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    While I believe that Apple could switch to the ARM platform, I don't think that is what is going on in this story. I read "where rows of customized Mac Minis are testing prototype chips under various temperature and pressure conditions" as meaning that these custom Mac Minis are controlling the temperature and pressure conditions. It doesn't look like anything is attached to the Mac Mini that would affect the temperature or pressure, that device appears to be connected to the Mini via a thunderbolt cable.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2...e-chief-chipmaker/img/apple-lab-cupertino.jpg
     
  22. grcar Suspended

    grcar

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    #22
    I think you guys figured it out.

    Good that Apple itself uses the mini. Hopefully they will keep it in the product line!
     
  23. Omega Mac thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Ok guys, you have to treat this like a glint from a diamond in the dirt. Right now we're looking into the relative dark pit of the future.

    Cursorily it appears the opening photo depicts these customised minis or does it? Is this the separate building where the iDevice chips are tested? i.e. what "No one has ever seen this before".

    Now the journalist is taken to another location;

    So what are we seeing that no one has ever seen before. ARM chips being prototyped for macOS machines?
     
  24. keysofanxiety macrumors 604

    keysofanxiety

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    #24
    Couldn't disagree more with this. The A-series chips in iOS devices are stunning. Their chip design is unrivalled. This is only going to get better and better.

    I'm not sure how performance would be impacted with emulating the x86 instruction set; if it would have to be done through software through virtualisation like Rosetta, if it can be done in the hardware, and of course if the tradeoffs would be worth it.

    But boy if they pulled it off... very, very excited to see the Apple in 5 years from now.
     
  25. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #25
    Yup, Apple has done a fine job directing their A-series of CPUs. They've optimized the design well for their iPad line.

    But what I'm saying is that there's nothing stopping Apple from porting OS X to every single CPU designed by every manufacturer on this planet. Portability was the original goal of Unix. There's a reason why you can install Linux on pretty much every desktop, every laptop, every workstation, every supercomputer, every tablet, every phone, almost every embedded device...

    Apple is wasting a lot of the potential of OS X by limiting it to so few devices. I think OS X should be standard operating system people use on practically any device; it really is that good. But it sure looks to me as though Windows (or Linux) users are going to continue to increase at the expense of OS X users, as there are just so many more platforms available for those operating systems.
     

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