Apple reportedly plans ARM shift for laptops
'Done deal', apparently
Apple may - and we emphasis that last word - have decided to transition its laptops from Intel processors to ARM-based CPUs
Intel certainly has a fight on its hands in the media tablet market, currently dominated by ARM chippery, but does it need to worry about the laptop space too? It will if the allegation about Apple, made by chip-centric site Semi Accurate, proves to be correct.
The whispers SA has heard have it that ARM's in-train shift to 64-bit processing will see Apple, already shipping millions of ARM-based devices in the form of iPods, iPhones, iPads and the occasional Apple TV, move its laptops to ARM too.
Speaking of the Apple TV, that's one device that has already made such a transition from the first-generation model's Intel processor to the latest version's Apple A4.
Users don't see any difference. The UI is the same, and no less responsive. The new model is smaller, but that's as much because it lacks its predecessor's hard drive than any extra power efficiency on the part of the A4 - the first Apple TV's Intel chip wasn't exactly a monster.
Moving a consumer electronics product from Intel to ARM makes sense: Apple TV doesn't have the multi-tasking and performance requirements a laptop does. And, in any case, the shift was pragmatic: Apple now needs to maintain only two OSes - Mac OS X and iOS - rather than three, the third being the past-its-prime, tweaked version of OS X that the first Apple TV ran.
Such pragmatism may well see Apple bringing OS X and iOS into closer harmony, at least from a functional perspective. The next OS X, Lion, brings over a heap of features and UI methodologies from iOS, though as any OS X and iOS programmer will tell you, OS X is way more feature-filled than its mobile sibling.
For all the many similarities in the operating systems' APIs, there are many differences, even between directly comparable classes and methods. Full harmonisation of the two operating systems won't be easy.
It's unlikely then that a ARM-based MacBook - most likely the MacBook Air series, we'd say - will run iOS, but an ARM-compiled version of OS X is certainly not out of the question.
What is open to discussion is whether ARM CPUs, even the 64-bit jobs coming, according to SA, in the late 2012/early 2013 timeframe, will be up to the task of powering performance-oriented machines.
Next page: ARM muscles in
This argument (AC 07:58) is quite possibly one of the worst arguments that I have ever read. Macs are good because people in Starbucks use them. And Starbucks' clientele are clearly the height of society. Lmao. Oh dear..
They'll use LLVM if they're smart
9 out of 10 of apps really don't care what architecture they're running on.
If Apple are smart they'll offer a LLVM compiler target in OS X. i.e. the app wouldn't be compiled into x86 instructions or ARM instructions, they'd be compiled into LLVM bitcode. At runtime the OS would compile the bitcode into a native binary and cache it somewhere for subsequent execution. It would mean the app would work any supported architecture - ARM, x86, anything. It would mean no more fat binaries, no more worries the next time the OS moves again.
LLVM is an incredibly powerful abstraction layer and I suspect Microsoft will have to do something similar.
Because the HAL doesn't abstract the CPU instruction set?
Obviously, Apple will make the migration easy for new software - potentially as easy as a recompile, if there's no inline x86 assembly, but an existing binary can't run on an ARM system without resorting to x86 emulation.
...the fact the Windows will apparently run on ARM too.
So not only will users get low-power and portability, but also the rich experience of *the* standard environment.
Long game going on here
Even if it does not make sense in the short term it is not suprising that Apple is looking seriously at ARM. Not becasue it is obviously better for the users but it is better for Apple.
Apple is still primarily a hardware company but the ongoing trend in hardware is for more and more of the important hardware to be combined into a single device package. Any company that sticks with Intel are going to end up putting a cosmetic case around the Intel package as all their competitors. This makes it hard to be different enough to charge much of a premium for your hardware.
Things are much easier if you license ARM and build your own processors. Even if most of the hard stuff comes from ARM you still have plenty imput into the design and you can take that oppertunity to make sure your software won't run on 3rd party hardware.
Now I know that Apple are the world leaders in getting people to pay a premium for hardware that is not very dissimilar to everyone elses but there must always be a risk that they might get landed with a legal ruling unambiguously legalising the hackintosh. The more markets they can move to the iphone/ipod modle the better from their point of view.