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Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:50 pm

Apple engineers are planning to offload the Mac’s low-power mode, a feature marketed as “Power Nap,” to the next-generation ARM-based chip. This function allows Mac laptops to retrieve e-mails, install software updates, and synchronize calendar appointments with the display shut and not in use. The feature currently uses little battery life while run on the Intel chip, but the move to ARM would conserve even more power

However, Apple has no near-term plans to completely abandon Intel chips for use in its laptops and desktops


http://daringfireball.net/linked/2017/0 ... an-arm-mac
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:55 pm

Holy click baity headline Batman.

They're not working on an ARM CPU.  They're working on an ARM controller of sorts.  Not exactly the same thing.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 01, 2017 6:17 pm

If Apple ever did an ARM CPU in their notebooks, it would probably sell as well as their ARM Surface Tablets. And we all know how well that did.
 
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 01, 2017 6:31 pm

Redocbew wrote:
Holy click baity headline Batman.

They're not working on an ARM CPU.  They're working on an ARM controller of sorts.  Not exactly the same thing.

The post makes no mention of a "CPU". You assumed that. You mislead yourself.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 01, 2017 6:37 pm

End User wrote:
Redocbew wrote:
Holy click baity headline Batman.

They're not working on an ARM CPU.  They're working on an ARM controller of sorts.  Not exactly the same thing.

The post makes no mention of a "CPU". You assumed that. You mislead yourself.

So what non-CPU ARM chip is Apple planning to use, then?

ARM is a CPU ISA.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 01, 2017 6:39 pm

I struggle to imagine how this would save power compared to waking up an Intel CPU for a few ms and racing back to sleep. 

It would definitely add weight, motherboard space, and extra hardware/software design work though.
 
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 01, 2017 6:45 pm

End User wrote:
Redocbew wrote:
Holy click baity headline Batman.

They're not working on an ARM CPU.  They're working on an ARM controller of sorts.  Not exactly the same thing.

The post makes no mention of a "CPU". You assumed that. You mislead yourself.


The original source article, and the blurb you quoted talks about the system as a whole running off this mystery ARM chip.  That sounds like the job of a CPU to me.  Call it a controller or a co-processor if you want, but it's just a weird story in general.  Unless Apple is building a completely different subsystem capable of running on ARM and all the required logic to switch from one to the other(if that's even possible), then I really doubt that's actually the case.  Fetching emails and checking the calendar while in a state of reduced power usage isn't exactly something brand new we'd need a separate controller/co-processor/widget/doohickey for anyway.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:50 am

Ha!

There already is an ARM core in the new touch bar MacBook Pros: it controls the touch ID sensor. The catch is that this ARM core does not interface with anything in user space or even much with superuser/hypervisor space.

This rumor still wouldn't permit user space applications but it would apparently work in super user space. I suspect that certain system calls from applications will be able to be executed on the ARM core, oblivious to the user space x86 application. With Apple controlling the OS, the limitations here are simply Apple's willingness to try this.

The other thing of note is that this could be a play to increase performance at the lowend. Intel's lowest power products are still dual core and adding several ARM cores to offload system tasks would be a means of freeing up CPU time for user space applications. The performance increase would entirely depend on how much background system tasks get offloaded and how much the application spends on system calls that gets ported over. At the low end this could be noticeable but on the quad core MacBook Pros, not so much.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:54 am

ARM CONFIRMED!

Well not really.

Apple might want to look at the relative success of the iPad compared to Macs and think a bit before removing the headphone jack pulling out the x86 processor just because.

Oh, and as a followup, if Apple really cares about battery life so much, changing the chip ain't going to cut it. Figuring out how to reduce the power consumption of the display... that could be worthwhile.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:02 am

the wrote:
The other thing of note is that this could be a play to increase performance at the lowend.  Intel's lowest power products are still dual core and adding several ARM cores to offload system tasks would be a means of freeing up CPU time for user space applications.  The performance increase would entirely depend on how much background system tasks get offloaded and how much the application spends on system calls that gets ported over.  At the low end this could be noticeable but on the quad core MacBook Pros, not so much.

Background activities takes a fractional amount of processing power. Even the lowest duallies are idling doing just that. It is a non issue.
It will likely handle application and system updates and other power nap stuff, allowing the system to be entirely powered off. It might also be used to improve security, by running some critical code on an entirely different memory space.
Pretty much what the ARM coprocessor does in the PS4.
 
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:07 am

the wrote:
There already is an ARM core in the new touch bar MacBook Pros: it controls the touch ID sensor. The catch is that this ARM core does not interface with anything in user space or even much with superuser/hypervisor space.


Yup, and ARM has already taken over the datacenter too! (iDRAC/iLO/IPMI pretty much are all based on ARM CPUs). :P

nico1982 wrote:
Pretty much what the ARM coprocessor does in the PS4.


Yes, that seems to be the direct analog.
 
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:20 am

chuckula wrote:
Oh, and as a followup, if Apple really cares about battery life so much, changing the chip ain't going to cut it. Figuring out how to reduce the power consumption of the display... that could be worthwhile.

The panel is alreay off when the machine is sleeping, but the sleep battery life of a Macbook is still a fraction of iPad's standby time (days vs weeks). A dedicated CPU will greately improve those figures. At the same times, might be able to perform more tasks than what is available today (Using Siri? Interaction with iPhone/Watch?).
 
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:55 am

chuckula wrote:
ARM CONFIRMED!

Well not really.

Apple might want to look at the relative success of the iPad compared to Macs and think a bit before removing the headphone jack pulling out the x86 processor just because.

Oh, and as a followup, if Apple really cares about battery life so much, changing the chip ain't going to cut it. Figuring out how to reduce the power consumption of the display... that could be worthwhile.

If Apple really cares about battery life they should add a few precious millimeters and several thousand mAh to their designs. It's not rocket science, every Apple device goes for thinner first, battery life second (or tenth), especially the Macbook. It really looks as if industrial design in Apple basically means "make it thin".
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Thu Feb 02, 2017 11:28 am

just brew it! wrote:
End User wrote:
Redocbew wrote:
Holy click baity headline Batman.

They're not working on an ARM CPU.  They're working on an ARM controller of sorts.  Not exactly the same thing.

The post makes no mention of a "CPU". You assumed that. You mislead yourself.

So what non-CPU ARM chip is Apple planning to use, then?

ARM is a CPU ISA.

Good grief. Did you not see my quotes? Redocbew was clearly thinking about ARM replacing Intel from a primary CPU provider point of view. I was merely referencing what Redocbew mistakenly assumed.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Thu Feb 02, 2017 11:29 am

ptsant wrote:
if industrial design in Apple basically means "make it thin".

Which is a good thing.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:46 am

End User wrote:
ptsant wrote:
if industrial design in Apple basically means "make it thin".

Which is a good thing.

There is such thing as "thin enough".
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:50 am

ptsant wrote:
End User wrote:
ptsant wrote:
if industrial design in Apple basically means "make it thin".

Which is a good thing.

There is such thing as "thin enough".

Putting CPU/GPU power aside I much prefer using my personal 12" MacBook over my work supplied 15" MacBook Pro due to the massive difference in weight and bulk. If I need CPU/GPU power I much prefer using desktops/servers to do the heavy lifting as that is where the real power lies.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:23 pm

ptsant wrote:
End User wrote:
ptsant wrote:
if industrial design in Apple basically means "make it thin".

Which is a good thing.

There is such thing as "thin enough".

When it compromises other parts of the product. Everything comes with a trade-off.

For example, there are some that claim Apple could have come up with significantly better battery life if they had just made the latest MacBook Pro a little bit thicker, with slightly bigger batteries.

Personally, I believe they crossed over that line into negative net trade-off when they started soldering down the RAM and SSDs. I would take a slightly thicker machine, in a heartbeat, if it meant I could still upgrade the memory and drive.
 
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:26 pm

Vhalidictes wrote:
I struggle to imagine how this would save power compared to waking up an Intel CPU for a few ms and racing back to sleep. 

It would definitely add weight, motherboard space, and extra hardware/software design work though.

It's a doorway to running on full ARM chips. There's no other end-road to this. They get the basics done for low-power active sleep, then start cranking on making the entire stack run fully on ARM.
Last edited by Waco on Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:27 pm

End User wrote:
ptsant wrote:
End User wrote:
Which is a good thing.

There is such thing as "thin enough".

Putting CPU/GPU power aside I much prefer using my personal 12" MacBook over my work supplied 15" MacBook Pro due to the massive difference in weight and bulk. If I need CPU/GPU power I much prefer using desktops/servers to do the heavy lifting as that is where the real power lies.

And I think this is where better product differentiation would help. The MacBook Pro should be a Pro device. If you want thin and light, that MacBook (previously MacBook Air) should fit the job nicely if you want ultimate thinness and lightness.

I think desktops are becoming more niche than ever. I use a MacBook Pro for my daily work. It is almost always plugged into power and two additional monitors. But I can take it between work and home easily (similar setup in both places). I greatly value the power and relatively large amount of memory and storage. An Air-specced thin and light device wouldn't really work well. That is why I hate that Apple is Air-ing the Pro line. I don't want ultimate thin and light. It's a freakin "Pro" for heaven's sake! I want 32G of RAM and a 1TB SSD, and I want to be able to upgrade both in the future if the market provides.

Since this devices is only used occasionally for extended periods of time on battery, that is clearly secondary to me.
 
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:16 am

End User wrote:
ptsant wrote:
End User wrote:
Which is a good thing.

There is such thing as "thin enough".

Putting CPU/GPU power aside I much prefer using my personal 12" MacBook over my work supplied 15" MacBook Pro due to the massive difference in weight and bulk. If I need CPU/GPU power I much prefer using desktops/servers to do the heavy lifting as that is where the real power lies.

I really get the fact that some users are perfectly happy with a very thin device, or even a tablet. Maybe even most users. Apple under Jobs pioneered the vision that "one device fits all", which did work remarkably well at some point (remember how there never was to be a bigger iPhone or a smaller iPad?). Today, Apple cannot beat the competition in all metrics simultaneously. And even though I don't think they need to imitate Starbucks in having 32 different variants of every device, I do believe that there is a place for a device that does not put the emphasis only on looks and thinness. I know I won't be paying for that.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:36 am

I definitely wouldn't pay for it either. I'm only using one because my employer paid for it and it was better than the alternative they offered (we had our choice of a MBP or a Lenovo something-or-other, and apparently the Lenovo sucked).
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:07 am

The more difficult it becomes to run Windows/Bootcamp effecively on a Mac, the more it will hurt their sales.

I know a lot of Macbook fans (hell, I'm one of them as long as we're talking pre-2015) and most of them cannot live or survive solely on the OSX ecosystem. Even if they love OSX, they dual-boot out of necessity and I think Apple underestimates what portion of their MBP sales and appeal are tied to the ability to run Windows.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 08, 2017 11:16 am

Chrispy_ wrote:
The more difficult it becomes to run Windows/Bootcamp effecively on a Mac, the more it will hurt their sales.

I know a lot of Macbook fans (hell, I'm one of them as long as we're talking pre-2015) and most of them cannot live or survive solely on the OSX ecosystem. Even if they love OSX, they dual-boot out of necessity and I think Apple underestimates what portion of their MBP sales and appeal are tied to the ability to run Windows.

Some percentage of those people could probably use a VM instead. I do Linux development, so I run VMs for that. Obviously this doesn't help if you need native performance.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 08, 2017 11:30 am

It's usually native that's needed, because the stuff that runs well in a VM is available for OSX anyway (MS Office, Adobe, some of the Autodesk, SQL and Oracle-based stuff too).

And of course DirectX 9/10/11/12 for, uh, Apple gaming. I know their GPU selections suck these days, but a non-trivial percentage of people still want to run games on their MBP.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 08, 2017 12:28 pm

Waco wrote:
It's a doorway to running on full ARM chips.  There's no other end-road to this.  They get the basics done for low-power active sleep, then start cranking on making the entire stack run fully on ARM.

I wouldn't make that assumption just yet.  Low power design features are often at direct odds with high performance, which is part of the reason why both Apple and Google implemented a coprocessor scheme in their recent phone designs.  Apple uses a Motion Coprocessor (iPhone 6 and up) to gather and interpret sensor data before deciding whether to bother the main CPU about it; Google's Sensor Hub (Nexus 5X/6P & Pixel) does that and also manages the camera and outbound radios.

Edit: For Apple, it's actually the iPhone 5S and up, along with various tablets and most iPads starting with the Air generation.  Also some Microsoft, Motorola, Samsung products, etc. have their own hub or integrate another vendor's solution.
Last edited by ludi on Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 08, 2017 12:32 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
The more difficult it becomes to run Windows/Bootcamp effecively on a Mac, the more it will hurt their sales.

I know a lot of Macbook fans (hell, I'm one of them as long as we're talking pre-2015) and most of them cannot live or survive solely on the OSX ecosystem. Even if they love OSX, they dual-boot out of necessity and I think Apple underestimates what portion of their MBP sales and appeal are tied to the ability to run Windows.

You can run Windows in a VM under several different products. In fact, IMHO, that's far preferable than having to continually reboot into one or the other, because you can run both at the same time. So what's the barrier?
 
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 08, 2017 12:48 pm

Buub wrote:
Chrispy_ wrote:
The more difficult it becomes to run Windows/Bootcamp effecively on a Mac, the more it will hurt their sales.

I know a lot of Macbook fans (hell, I'm one of them as long as we're talking pre-2015) and most of them cannot live or survive solely on the OSX ecosystem. Even if they love OSX, they dual-boot out of necessity and I think Apple underestimates what portion of their MBP sales and appeal are tied to the ability to run Windows.

You can run Windows in a VM under several different products.  In fact, IMHO, that's far preferable than having to continually reboot into one or the other, because you can run both at the same time.  So what's the barrier?

VT-d lack-of-support?
 
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 08, 2017 1:15 pm

Vhalidictes wrote:
Buub wrote:
Chrispy_ wrote:
The more difficult it becomes to run Windows/Bootcamp effecively on a Mac, the more it will hurt their sales.

I know a lot of Macbook fans (hell, I'm one of them as long as we're talking pre-2015) and most of them cannot live or survive solely on the OSX ecosystem. Even if they love OSX, they dual-boot out of necessity and I think Apple underestimates what portion of their MBP sales and appeal are tied to the ability to run Windows.

You can run Windows in a VM under several different products.  In fact, IMHO, that's far preferable than having to continually reboot into one or the other, because you can run both at the same time.  So what's the barrier?

VT-d lack-of-support?

You don't need VT-d unless you're trying to pass raw PCIe devices into the VM (bypassing the virtualization layer).

Pretty much all recent x86 CPUs with enough horsepower to run VMs effectively have VT-x (which is the one you actually care about for desktop virtualization).
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Re: Apple working on ARM chips for Macs

Wed Feb 08, 2017 1:57 pm

My mistake, JBI - I had just read _Chrispy's post: "And of course DirectX 9/10/11/12 for, uh, Apple gaming."

You're right, people not planning on playing games can pretty much already virtualize anything needed.

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