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whm1974
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seeing the end of x86?

Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:19 pm

Now with Apple and Amazon looking to replace the CPUs in the Mac, and Amazon looking to switch over to ARM based hardware, I'm wondering if X86 based Processors are on their way out... In addiction since the RISC-V ISA is free for everyone to use, and has somewhat wide support, I'm wondering if in the not far off future, will we be all using non-x86 based Personal Computers?

Will these be Open Systems, or completely Proprietary Platforms?
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:18 pm

Amazon's AWS is a very large service with a very wide set of customers. They'll never be able to cover the needs of every client with only their own CPUs. They are big enough to support pretty much everything be it x86, ARM or anything else that makes enough sense to enough people. If major market shifts happen, they will simply organically follow it, not lead it.

Apple is as proprietary as they come.

I imagine we will only see PCs and servers shift off of x86 when there are non-x86 cpus on the open market that are substantially better than competing x86 cpus across a very broad swath of workloads and measures and with strong prospects of maintaining that lead for many years. Apple is the only company right now looking like they could conceivably achieve something like that someday...IF they actually sold to the open market and I don't see that happening.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:31 pm

Apple is a niche player. Amazon provides infrastructure.

x86 on home and work PCs has a lot of software and developer inertia. It also has other markets, like the upcoming console gen that will last for some 6 years. Despite the 10nm delays Intel is doing well, as does AMD. x86 is entrenched and leads in performance (or at worst is competitive). Why would it disappear all of the sudden?

At best you'd get some competition. The balance of power may shift in 10-15 years, or it may not.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:08 pm

RISC-V may grab a decent (but probably not majority) chunk of the embedded market. There's less of an inertia effect with embedded, as embedded developers are already accustomed to dealing with multiple architectures. I doubt it'll ever gain much of a foothold in the desktop/laptop space. It might become a niche player in the datacenter, but that's probably a long shot.

ARM will likely continue to dominate in mobile and embedded. I expect it to continue to encroach on x86's territory here and there, but not completely displace it any time soon.

I'd be willing to bet that x86 will continue to be the dominant platform for most desktop/laptop/datacenter use cases for the next decade, at least. It's just too entrenched to go away any time soon.
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setaG_lliB
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:27 pm

"The Pentium Killer"
"Is this the end of x86?"

That's all you heard back in '94 when the PowerPC first came out. Even Microsoft was dabbling in non x86 versions of WinNT, just as they are now with Win10 on ARM. And for several years, PPC was faster than x86, especially at floating point. But, by the time the PIII and Athlon hit a GHz and gained SIMD support, x86 had easily caught up with the PPC G4 in overall performance. To make matters worse for the PPC alliance, Intel and AMD were rolling out higher clocked CPUs on a near daily basis. By the time the G5 was out, PPC was so hopelessly behind that Apple had no choice but to switch ISAs.

My prediction: In 10-12 years Intel and AMD will have x86 CPUs so far ahead of any ARM based CPU that Apple will have no choice but to switch back.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Tue Jul 14, 2020 7:00 am

What you are seeing is the end of specialty uses of ARM and risc-v.

Previously all you could use ARM for was either super high performance or super efficiency you almost never saw it being used for just general computing. (average performance with average efficiency)

x86 is not going away any time soon but it does have more competition than it sued to have.
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Tue Jul 14, 2020 12:18 pm

Apparently at least one industry "export" believes Microsoft will have to seriously consider making the same switch: https://9to5mac.com/2020/07/13/switch-to-arm/

On the other hand, he has legacy Apple ties, so he might be a bit biased. Still it's one insightful glimpse into the industry.

If Apple really does get competitive absolute performance while also getting better performance-per-watt, this prediction might actually be right.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Tue Jul 14, 2020 1:18 pm

From that guy's source article here...

"Data": MacBook Pro with i5-8559u and 28W TDP is hot; new iPad Pros, which use A12Z and come with a "18W power adapter", are not hot.

Conclusion: "This gives us an idea of what to expect from Apple Silicon in future Macs: Significantly lower TDP without losing processing power."
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Tue Jul 14, 2020 2:47 pm

Sounds like a standard Mac user's response, not surprising to see the same thing from someone from Apple.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Tue Jul 14, 2020 3:29 pm

When Apple uses ARM, will that be the end of x86?
When Apple used x86, was that the end of x86?
When Apple used PowerPC, was that the end of x86?
When Apple used Moto 68k, was that they end of x86?
When Apple used MOS 6502, was that the end of x86?
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Tue Jul 14, 2020 3:42 pm

JustAnEngineer wrote:
When Apple used MOS 6502, was that the end of x86?

TBF x86 didn't exist yet back then...

But when IBM chose x86, that likely prevented 68000 from becoming the dominant 16/32 bit architecture of the day.
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Tue Jul 14, 2020 4:14 pm

The 68000 and 68030-based systems were 3 to 5 years more advanced (back when CPU manufacturers did not sit on their asses for five years) than anything 8088 or 80286-based, but market forces killed them off.
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Tue Jul 14, 2020 5:17 pm

Aranarth wrote:
x86 is not going away any time soon but it does have more competition than it sued to have.


Your autocorrector has a point here. Those "who's suing who" infographics with a large apple close to the centre will have to be redone, with a larger apple closer to the centre.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Tue Jul 14, 2020 8:05 pm

The end of x86? No.

But it could be the end of x86 dominance. We may return to the days of multiple competitive options.

One scenario that occurred to me today involves the Mac mini. Currently, the entry point is about $800 with a quad core i3. Suppose Apple kept the price but inserted the rumored 12 core (8 big/4 little) Apple Mac SOC.

Now suppose Microsoft allows the ARM version of windows to run on it. Apple already says they’ll support Linux.

Depending on exactly how the performance/watt turns out, such a hypothetical Mac mini might be interesting to more than just Mac users.
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Tue Jul 14, 2020 8:10 pm

setaG_lliB wrote:
"The Pentium Killer"
"Is this the end of x86?"

That's all you heard back in '94 when the PowerPC first came out. Even Microsoft was dabbling in non x86 versions of WinNT, just as they are now with Win10 on ARM. And for several years, PPC was faster than x86, especially at floating point. But, by the time the PIII and Athlon hit a GHz and gained SIMD support, x86 had easily caught up with the PPC G4 in overall performance. To make matters worse for the PPC alliance, Intel and AMD were rolling out higher clocked CPUs on a near daily basis. By the time the G5 was out, PPC was so hopelessly behind that Apple had no choice but to switch ISAs.

My prediction: In 10-12 years Intel and AMD will have x86 CPUs so far ahead of any ARM based CPU that Apple will have no choice but to switch back.

I predict you will be wrong :-)

A few key differences between now and then:

Apple market cap and cash on hand
The relative size of the market for Apple Silicon compared to x86 today vs PPC compared to x86 back then.

In a nutshell, back then intel had more money and better economies of scale. Now both are flipped.
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:25 am

blastdoor wrote:
setaG_lliB wrote:
"The Pentium Killer"
"Is this the end of x86?"

That's all you heard back in '94 when the PowerPC first came out. Even Microsoft was dabbling in non x86 versions of WinNT, just as they are now with Win10 on ARM. And for several years, PPC was faster than x86, especially at floating point. But, by the time the PIII and Athlon hit a GHz and gained SIMD support, x86 had easily caught up with the PPC G4 in overall performance. To make matters worse for the PPC alliance, Intel and AMD were rolling out higher clocked CPUs on a near daily basis. By the time the G5 was out, PPC was so hopelessly behind that Apple had no choice but to switch ISAs.

My prediction: In 10-12 years Intel and AMD will have x86 CPUs so far ahead of any ARM based CPU that Apple will have no choice but to switch back.

I predict you will be wrong :-)

A few key differences between now and then:

Apple market cap and cash on hand
The relative size of the market for Apple Silicon compared to x86 today vs PPC compared to x86 back then.

In a nutshell, back then intel had more money and better economies of scale. Now both are flipped.


Except that Apple only has ~10% of the total PC market and they will only be making chips for themselves.
Now Intel will have lost a large customer. Bad for intel.

This means the total market for x86 chips is about 10% smaller and the AMD portion of it will be a larger part of the smaller pie making AMD look better and Intel look worse.
This also means that of the total silicon market now Apple is now a bigger slice than it was before. (being the market for ALL cpu's, gpu's, ram, logic controllers etc.)

Now when Apple starts making chips for its competitors THEN start to worry about x86 being at the beginning of the end.
Would apple ever make chips for other people? I highly doubt it. I don't think they have ever made technology of any type for anyone but themselves.
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Wed Jul 15, 2020 12:17 pm

Aranarth wrote:
Now when Apple starts making chips for its competitors THEN start to worry about x86 being at the beginning of the end.
Would apple ever make chips for other people? I highly doubt it. I don't think they have ever made technology of any type for anyone but themselves.

They don't have to. ARM is an "open" standard (quotes because it seems there is some licensing involved; haven't dug deeply into it). So, for example, the Amazon thing can happen, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Google start building their own ARM-based servers for their datacenters.

That said, Apple has a distinct advantage in some sense. They have the most sophisticated and most advanced SoC, with their neural processing engine and integrated GPU, which by all accounts is far better than Intel's lackluster offering.

So if you want a chip that can do general processing, and leverage that "neural processor" (can't think of a better term for it off the top of my head) to do specialized processing, plus decent graphics performance, you either have to engineer something competitive with Apple's offering, or maybe offer to buy their chips.

Microsoft might have the resources to do this, though it's not something have expertise with (they've only done small silicon, not full-blow processors). Being Microsoft, they'll probably throw money and engineers at it, but it may take them some time to get it right.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Wed Jul 15, 2020 1:41 pm

Aranarth wrote:
I don't think they have ever made technology of any type for anyone but themselves.


So, i'm totally quoting you out of context, but bear with me.

Clearly Apple makes technology for people other than themselves! Look at all the people buying iPhones, Macs, AirPods, etc! --- they aren't all Apple employees.

Of course, I know what you meant, so my comment is a bit disingenuous. But consider:

1. you can run Linux on a Mac
2. Apple isn't stopping anyone from running the ARM version of Windows on a Mac -- it's MS licensing of that version of Windows that currently precludes it. If MS changes the licensing, then ARM Windows can run on a Mac.

So, if you want to buy a computer running on Apple Silicon but don't want to run macOS, Apple isn't stopping you.

Yes, this isn't quite the same thing as Apple selling SOCs to Dell. But how much does that really matter to anybody other than Dell?

I think the bottom line for computer buyers is that Apple is not requiring you to join the Apple ecosystem of software and services in order to use Apple Silicon. They are just requiring you to buy a computer from Apple.
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Wed Jul 15, 2020 1:45 pm

Buub wrote:
Microsoft might have the resources to do this, though it's not something have expertise with (they've only done small silicon, not full-blow processors). Being Microsoft, they'll probably throw money and engineers at it, but it may take them some time to get it right.


Well, that's what Apple did.

This formula almost always holds, at least asymptotically as $ and/or time -> Infinity:
Money + patience = success.

Heck, look at the US space program. In 1942 the US had no experience. They did an acqui-hire to bring in some German rocket scientists, spent several hundred billion dollars (inflation-adjusted), and kept working at it for 30 years. Next thing you know, boots on the moon!

It's an inspiring message for the young people --- There's nothing you can't do if you spend 30 years and a trillion dollars!
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Thu Jul 16, 2020 7:44 pm

blastdoor wrote:
Buub wrote:
Microsoft might have the resources to do this, though it's not something have expertise with (they've only done small silicon, not full-blow processors). Being Microsoft, they'll probably throw money and engineers at it, but it may take them some time to get it right.


Well, that's what Apple did.

This formula almost always holds, at least asymptotically as $ and/or time -> Infinity:
Money + patience = success.

Yes, but it's not as simple as that. It took Apple years to develop that level of expertise. They have some world-class silicon engineers on staff. The level of knowledge to design a competitive CPU is not found in college classes, and is not required to make Barney dolls and tablets.

It will take at least a couple years to staff up to that level, and a couple years more to crank out a competitive product. I doubt even Microsoft could be competitive in the desktop/workstation SoC field in less than five years. Taking short-cuts will simply make for compromised or inferior products.

Though maybe that's where they start: create their own ARM CPU for low-powered devices that doesn't have to compete head-to-head on the desktop. Then maybe learn through that process and develop the expertise, the same as Apple did. Still I don't see this being a quick turnaround situation.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Thu Jul 16, 2020 8:36 pm

Apple bought PA Semi, they didn't start from scratch.

I don't think Microsoft is interested in producing thier own PC hardware.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Thu Jul 16, 2020 8:56 pm

tfp wrote:
I don't think Microsoft is interested in producing thier own PC hardware.

Surface doesn't count? Seems like a foot in the door to me. Xbox is darned close to being a PC too, in function if not in name,
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:55 pm

No not really, they have been making xboxes for years as well. If they start doing some sort of silicon design for cpus or purchase a design house then maybe they are starting down the "apple" path.

With the death of windows phone I think it would be hard for them to enter the way apple did with first designs for iPhone and then work thier way up in processing power.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Fri Jul 17, 2020 12:22 am

SQ1 used in the Surface Pro X has Microsoft input. Probably not as much as what they would like us to believe, but they dabbled with the chip behind XBox 360 with IBM as well. So this is not their first rodeo. If they want, in time, they would have accumulated/acquired enough know-how to go alone.
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Fri Jul 17, 2020 2:00 am

I did a quick search and saw a job posting around silicon design and asic chips as well. They are also sitting on a huge bank roll, they can afford to do it I just don't see it happening any time soon if ever.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Fri Jul 17, 2020 6:31 am

Well, I guess if jim Keller shows up at Microsoft, then we’ll know ;-)
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:57 am

blastdoor wrote:
So, if you want to buy a computer running on Apple Silicon but don't want to run macOS, Apple isn't stopping you.

Yes, this isn't quite the same thing as Apple selling SOCs to Dell. But how much does that really matter to anybody other than Dell?

I think the bottom line for computer buyers is that Apple is not requiring you to join the Apple ecosystem of software and services in order to use Apple Silicon. They are just requiring you to buy a computer from Apple.


Where that breaks down though is pricing. Apple charges Apple prices. I don't see the market for users who want Apple Silicon but to run a Windows or Linux variant being large enough to threaten Dell (or any other large OEM). Sure there are people who would do it, but it's a niche, not a market revolution.
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Sat Jul 25, 2020 7:00 pm

The devil is in the details. I can imagine Apple’s price points will remain the same, but there might be a big uplift in performance and performance/ watt. The question is — how big is that uplift?

Given the process advantage and apples excellent design team, it could be big.
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Sun Jul 26, 2020 1:18 am

blastdoor wrote:
The devil is in the details. I can imagine Apple’s price points will remain the same, but there might be a big uplift in performance and performance/ watt. The question is — how big is that uplift?

Given the process advantage and apples excellent design team, it could be big.

Apple does not manufacture chips. Any belief that they have any form of process advantage is absolutely false because they don't have a process at all. Don't mistake TSMC for Apple and don't think nobody else has access the the same processes.

Regardless, Apple doesn't play in servers. They don't actually have a traditional desktop product either. They don't cover the whole or even the bulk of the total market. How are they supposed to supplant or replace x86 if they have no competing products for large parts of the market? And if other OEMs don't have access to Apple's ARM cpus...what else do they have? Qualcomm maybe? If those OEMs don't have good enough alternatives to x86 but Apple does then Apple would need to have products for the entire market and literally monopolize EVERYTHING or x86 will persist.

So no, there is no devil in the details here. Pricing and performance are irrelevant. Unless Apple decides to start selling their cpu tech just as the likes of Qualcomm, Intel, or AMD do then they aren't providing an alternative to x86 and won't change anything. It's as simple as that.
 
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Re: seeing the end of x86?

Mon Jul 27, 2020 2:10 pm

Xolore wrote:
blastdoor wrote:
The devil is in the details. I can imagine Apple’s price points will remain the same, but there might be a big uplift in performance and performance/ watt. The question is — how big is that uplift?

Given the process advantage and apples excellent design team, it could be big.

Apple does not manufacture chips. Any belief that they have any form of process advantage is absolutely false because they don't have a process at all. Don't mistake TSMC for Apple and don't think nobody else has access the the same processes.

Substitute Apple for AMD and your statement is pretty much unchanged.

You are pedantically correct. But I don't think anyone here is beating a drum about "process advantage". Intel is still the king of process, even if the independent fabs are close on their heels.

But that's irrelevant, and who's arguing that anyway?

Apple has some world-class chip designers on staff, and their chips are designed in-house. This is their advantage, not fab process. Like AMD (now), they design the chips and someone else makes them.

Xolore wrote:
Regardless, Apple doesn't play in servers. They don't actually have a traditional desktop product either.

Apple has dabbled in servers in the past, and the Mac Pro is a server-based workstation. The only reason they aren't in servers now is because it's a distraction from their main market, not that they couldn't do it.

And this very thread is precisely about them entering the desktop market with their CPUs. So, while technically correct, again, you are talking around the discussion going on here, which is what the effect will be when Apple fully establishes their CPUs and SoCs on the desktop.

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