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Intel sez Sandy Bridge, Apple sez MINE or cya?


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#1 of 13 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 14 2010 - 03:45 PM

Start here: http://www.appleinsi...n_expected.html So the big itch between Apple and Intel this last year's go round was that Apple wants to have the flexibility of using external GPUs of its own specification, we saw this result in a bit of delays for new MacBook Pros for example. This generation Intel does the unthinkable to Apple and MORE tightly couples the CPU and GPU into a SOC a system on a chip. Well guess what, Apple has its OWN SOC these days, the A5.  That they are VERY good at programming for. After 5 years of heralding the jump to Intel as the savior of Apple, is it so inconceivable that Apple could start moving to the A5 in Laptops and even down the road to the Desktop?  I don't know, but I know this tight integration is great for Intel in the PC world but not so hot in OSX world.  Could be an interesting year.

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#2 of 13 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted July 14 2010 - 04:05 PM

Sam- While interesting concept, the A5 is nowhere near in the league of an i3/i5/i7.  Not even close.  And a major shift would create HUGE outrage from developers, as well as major cost to Apple. A5 is super quick fora phone, etc.. but try to render video on it.. real, large scale video editing.  Or photo editing.  What you can capture on a phone vs. doing real output based editing is a whole different animal.
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#3 of 13 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 15 2010 - 01:23 AM

Sorry, I didnt mean to imply that they would use the A5.  But lets face it, Apple likes to keep everything in house and they have gotten VERY smart about building SOCs and also very smart about building OS software that would take advantage of as many processors as it can get its hands on PLUS X Code is processor neutral from the start.  They can probably build an OSX for any chip they want to these days, and if they had one in house that they could control the supply and availability on rather than being beholden to Intel isn't that a strong lure?  If I was Apple I'd be leaning that way for sure, build a proprietary chip family that scales from phone to desktop and beyond. Of course I know the PowerPC legacy and the disaster that caused for Apple.  But that's not what we have here.  Apple has built up everything they need with the exception of a foundry, and my understanding is that they can do the design work these days, tape out, and compete on price to hand that to any number of foundries who can build to spec.  Gross oversimplification maybe, but still an entirely different business model than PPC. And as an OSX programmer using XCode why the hell would I care if the underlying metal was from intel vs. anyone else so long as it was fast, reliable and massively available to consumers?  The metal is 100% abstracted away in modern development...

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#4 of 13 OFFLINE   Ted Todorov

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Posted July 15 2010 - 07:09 AM

Apple sells a large number of Macs to people who wish to run Windows, be it through VMWare/Parallels or Boot Camp. That would be the main argument against.
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#5 of 13 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 15 2010 - 08:04 AM

Hmmm, fair point, guess I hadn't considered that.  I only bootcamp off of one machine, and that's to play Everquest on the road.  Steam is picking up on the gaming side of things for OSX but still the PC is miles ahead.  But still, that IS a big stopper isn't it....

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#6 of 13 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted July 16 2010 - 03:01 PM



Originally Posted by Sam Posten 

Sorry, I didnt mean to imply that they would use the A5.  But lets face it, Apple likes to keep everything in house and they have gotten VERY smart about building SOCs and also very smart about building OS software that would take advantage of as many processors as it can get its hands on PLUS X Code is processor neutral from the start.  They can probably build an OSX for any chip they want to these days, and if they had one in house that they could control the supply and availability on rather than being beholden to Intel isn't that a strong lure?  If I was Apple I'd be leaning that way for sure, build a proprietary chip family that scales from phone to desktop and beyond.

Of course I know the PowerPC legacy and the disaster that caused for Apple.  But that's not what we have here.  Apple has built up everything they need with the exception of a foundry, and my understanding is that they can do the design work these days, tape out, and compete on price to hand that to any number of foundries who can build to spec.  Gross oversimplification maybe, but still an entirely different business model than PPC.


And as an OSX programmer using XCode why the hell would I care if the underlying metal was from intel vs. anyone else so long as it was fast, reliable and massively available to consumers?  The metal is 100% abstracted away in modern development...


Insanely gross simplification.  Right now, you've got two major chip manufacturers (AMD/Intel) in the desktop market.  The reason why it stays that way is because the cost of upward development is spendy.  It's why the G5/etc. series processors died, and why 68xxx died before them.  It's why Cyrix died.  It's why Via got mostly out of the game.

The thing is, end users who are buying a desktop expect real performance.  And while you can code in a universal platform - and many do, the issue isn't that.  It's that the platform is also in part built around the assumptions of the chip available.    Much of the coding doing in Xcode is still oriented around an export profile matching X86_64 or even X86.  Since 2007, the default compiler option within Xcode for output to a Mac (not other platform) was X86/X86_64.. and Intel is the one supplying that compiler:  http://software.inte...r-in-xcode-ide/


Apple may do many things, but they do not have the foundaries, manufacturing space or partner to get into a chip war with Intel.. they thought about it when there was a chance to snap up AMD, and passed.  Designing silicon like A5 is one thing, a locked platform that has certain performance expectations.  But those performance expectations are nothing compared to what desktop and production users are after.. not even in the same ballpark.

The assumption that "the metal" is 100% abstract in the environment is also foolish.  How many PowerPC macs do you still see hanging around these days?  Part of it was performance, where even with guns from IBM-Apple they couldn't keep pace.  But also part of it was instruction sets.  We take for granted the fact that these instruction sets are now universal and adopted.  But these CPU based instructions, from wait cycles to SSE to power management are key to an OS and programs to determine not only how they perform but what we expect.   If they weren't, then there would be almost no point in adding new instructions in any chip since the Pentium :)  And while it doesn't seem that way to a passive user, to the developers, it means a great deal.  Which is why Apple has worked hard to more tightly integrate support for these new instructions as they become available for performance:


http://developer.app.../xcode_3_2.html



As an example.  Apple has worked hard, as have everyone else, to allow it's developers to make the most use out of the hardware availabe, and Xcode helps provide that.  But they are using data libraries and compilers paid for by Intel, which only Intel and AMD have intellectual shared property rights (per agreement), and they are using licensed technologies to help app acceleration which are direct finds to a CPU if available.

Do programmers care about the metal?  Hell yes.  Tell someone building say, SolidWorks that your video card is OpenGL2.  Fine.  You'll get display, but you'll lose Realview and you'll lose accelerated textures.  The compile works on all, it's universal, but take away hardware abilities and features go away.


Of all the possibilities, Apple going into the CPU business is one I completely discount.  Now, they could buy AMD tomorrow and that would change; but Apple has no rights to the X86 desktop license, they have no rights to the compiler without a cross agreement from Intel, and starting from scratch again would be a major screwball to throw at developers.


I'm just saying, as someone with friends that work at Intel.. this is a possibility I can tell you is not anything I forsee at all, unless apple completely gives up on the professionals market.


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#7 of 13 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 17 2010 - 05:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mattCR 


The thing is, end users who are buying a desktop expect real performance.

This is where you and I fundamentally disagree.


The vast majority of buyers will put up with a 'good enough' solution.  Examples I can think of off the top of my head to prove this point:


-iMacs

-MP3s

-Windows XP

-Netbooks


Etc.


With the iPad Apple continued to show they don't care for the status quo.  I'm not fully convinced their end goal right now isn't a fully locked down DESKTOP environment to match that of iOS.  and you know what?  The greybeards will bitch about it but the public would LOVE IT.



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#8 of 13 OFFLINE   Keith Plucker

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Posted July 18 2010 - 05:28 AM



Originally Posted by Sam Posten 

So the big itch between Apple and Intel this last year's go round was that Apple wants to have the flexibility of using external GPUs of its own specification, we saw this result in a bit of delays for new MacBook Pros for example.


Actually, I think the only reason Apple wanted to go another way with the GPU in that case was because Intel's solution didn't offer the performance they wanted.


If Intel's integrated GPU solution offeres competitive performance, Apple would probably be happy to use it.


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#9 of 13 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 18 2010 - 02:02 PM

You could be right, but I thought  understood it to be thermal profile related rather than pure performance...

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#10 of 13 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted July 18 2010 - 02:25 PM

Originally Posted by Sam Posten 

Quote:


This is where you and I fundamentally disagree.


The vast majority of buyers will put up with a 'good enough' solution.  Examples I can think of off the top of my head to prove this point:


-iMacs

-MP3s

-Windows XP

-Netbooks


Etc.


With the iPad Apple continued to show they don't care for the status quo.  I'm not fully convinced their end goal right now isn't a fully locked down DESKTOP environment to match that of iOS.  and you know what?  The greybeards will bitch about it but the public would LOVE IT.


I think you have to look at what your list is.  Imacs, Mp3 type players, (I'm not sure why XP is on the list, as it's an almost 10year old+ OS now, and on introduction was not a matter of "good enough" in many areas..) and netbooks reflect very cheap technologies.  In those markets, I'd argue the CPU etc. doesn't matter.


But this is where Apple gets into a divide.  They COULD right off the libraries, etc. the compilers.. if they are also willing to right off basically their entire powermac series line, because people dropping $2500+ on a PC are expecting far more then just "it plays MP3s" or basic email that a netbook provides.


All of those you mention fall into the "function" over "form" they get the job done at a relatively cheap price point.


But do you see anyone dropping the money on one of these:


http://store.apple.c...mco=MTAyNTQzNDQ


If you remove support for data and video calculation, rendering work, production and prepress?   Realize, apple has strong inroads in those markets, which have for a long time been part of what has made it money.  Now, tomorrow it could say that they have decided that market isn't worth it to them anymore, the market of the end user matters - and then they could adopt a totally different strategy.


But go up to anyone even inside of apple and say "Let's try to develop FinalCut5 to run on a cut down processor with no access to X86_64 datapaths, rendering execution cycles, and oh yeah, we'll need to re-license an entire new connection bus because we aren't taking PCI-Express with us unless we design a from scratch IO translator that can mesh that with our unique data pattern.


You are talking an incredible amount of re-engineering on almost all fronts.  This is doable, and really not that difficult if you say "we give up on ever having software that uses that type of technology supported anymore"  but it's not very doable if you want those third party companies to continue to develop applications that work the way you expect them to.  And it would mean you'd have to sell two completely different versions for a while if you do, doubling the work developers do.


Could apple do it?  Sure.  They could.  I've slowly wondered if they aren't teetering on giving up on the MacPro type line.  But for the time being, I think they are hard pressed to actually do it.  It would be a very bold move, and maybe a good one, but there would be some serious complications.


BTW, this is what prevented them from adopting Intel's graphic processor, because while it manages video etc. fine, Intel's graphic processor handles some tasks - especially editing and photo editing poorly because it can't keep ultra-large frames in mind.  So, huge images would tile in.  This doesn't happen on Nvidia's platform.


Go to an A5 graphics design, and you'd be at a whole different level of tiling in results.  If Sandy Bridge can process the larger images in buffer - which is one of the things Intel says it is specifically working on for them - then I expect Apple to adopt it.


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#11 of 13 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 27 2010 - 02:02 AM

Ars sez there will be blood: http://arstechnica.c...ed-to-clash.ars

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#12 of 13 OFFLINE   Thomas Newton

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Posted July 31 2010 - 05:29 AM

ARM is intended mainly for use in embedded systems.  The available designs thus emphasize low power consumption more than they do absolute performance.  A typical target for an ARM CPU might be an iPod Touch or an automobile engine controller.  Another characteristic of the ARM market is that ARM is a fabless vendor that licenses CPU designs.  ARM might design a CPU core, then Apple might pay to use it as the basis of a custom chip like the A5, then a third company ("semiconductor foundry") might manufacture the chips. x86 chips are intended mainly for use in desktops and notebooks, where electrical power and thermal dissipation budgets are greater, and where performance expectations are, too.  While I may be mistaken, I believe that Intel and AMD both run vertically-integrated CPU businesses.  That is, Intel designs CPUs in-house, then manufactures them at its own semiconductor plants.  They might occasionally make minor variants of chips for good customers like Apple, but even then, it's Intel making the changes in-house, instead of allowing the customer to have access to the "blueprints" for manufacturing CPU cores. Switching from x86 to ARM would be every bit as disruptive as switching from 68K to PowerPC or switching from PowerPC to x86.  But instead of a promise of a performance increase, there would be a promise of a performance decrease – hardly a motivation to switch!

#13 of 13 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 31 2010 - 07:23 AM

Again, true but none of that necessarily matters.  =)  Past is prologue and all that.

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