Apple Silicon promises to FINALLY move technology beyond the 1980s, and really not a moment too soon. The world of technology took an enormous flailing-arms step backward in 2006 when Apple moved from PowerPC to Intel, and now Apple is correcting that misfortune.
What was up with that? It all boiled down to money, as most things in our consumerist society does. IBM, Motorola and Apple had joined forces in the 90s, providing the PowerPC chip, a non-x86 Intel cpu, its RISC architecture vastly more efficient and more power-per-watt than the x86 could hope to be. This was also the prior to the consequences of Microsoft’s illegal and anticompetitive licensing practices becoming apparent. There was hope in the 90s that companies could compete, based on the market place for computing systems being open. It wasn’t, and the American justice system failed to protect the open market.
By the 00s, Apple realised they were not generating enough revenues from Macs to sustain PowerPC development, whereas Wintel’s illegal business practices certainly were. After Intel’s massive disaster with Pentium 4 and Itanium, it was able to recover with AMD’s 64-bit enhancements to the 386 – the basis of all Intel’s most widely used processors today. Thusly, Macs and all consumer computers currently run on these ancient, archaic, inefficient and ugly cpu architectures.
ARM cpus and their RISC architectures were widely deployed in the 90s onward and form the basis of all handsets and tablets. Apple’s extensive development of its SoCs, especially with the A4 in 2010 for iPhone 4 and iPad, gradually culminated in the A7. This 64-bit SoC from Apple regularly compared favourably to x86 processors used in basic laptops. The A14 expected this year ought to compare favourably with x86 processors in gaming laptops.
The money needed to hire, retain, invest, develop, refine, market, produce and deploy Ax SoCs is the result of Apple’s massive investments and drive to provide an attractive alternative to the basic necessity provided by Microsoft and Alphagoo. Since its inception in 1976, Apple is a self-determined company with products focussed on an integrated experience. This business model is in stark contrast to the slipshod, haphazard and sometimes farcical ‘partnerships’ as exemplified by the rest of the industry.
Naturally, Apple removed interference in its plans from potential threats. Considering that even the USDOJ did nothing to protect Microsoft’s competitors, Apple’s increasing drive to protect itself is very easy to understand. When the App Store was deployed in 2008, the blogger narrative provided clear evidence of unfair treatment of Apple’s business model.
The Walled Garden of the App Store was repeatedly derided for about six years by a huge variety of sources, usually attacking Apple for assuming too much control over its own platform. As Android went through several revisions, however, and filled with adware, malware and blatant fraud, its failure as ‘open’ has demonstrated beyond doubt that Apple’s approach is significantly better. And profitable.
This progression was mirrored in SoCs, which Apple had been working with Samsung to produce since the first iPod. Highlighting Apple’s need to protect itself, to ensure its IP was isolated from competitors, was reaffirmed by the half-decade long copy-cat trial. Despite Samsung confidential documents clearly stating ‘copy Apple’, Samsung was lauded ad nauseam by bloggers for its savvy, all the while framing Apple as a bully. With great delight I watched Apple move to TSMC, depriving those hypocritical thieves a great deal of revenue.
So now we return to Intel. Apparently, Jobs approached Otellini to produce the cpu for the iPhone, but was declined. After the iPhone began creating its own market, Otellini approached Jobs to produce the cpu for the iPad. “Too late!” she cried. Intel then paid Android licensees billions to use Atom chips, to no end. With Spectre and Meltdown, and a swath of bugs in their 7th to 9th generation cpus, Intel has been floundering. Compared to the power-per-watt efficiencies Apple has been achieving with Ax, Intel has been frozen at the bottom of a lake, somewhere.
Just as with Apple depending on software companies in the 80s, licensing in the 90s, service providers in the 00s, and parts suppliers in the 10s, there is no doubt in my mind that in the 20s, Apple will finally terminate their dependence – a potentially terminal source of vulnerability – on ‘partnerships’. Just as the Walled Garden of software has resulted in the only successful application deployment platform, the Walled Garden of hardware shall result in amazing SoCs.
Intel was forced into a mutual partnership with AMD due to the P4-Itanium blunders, and failed to recognise iPhone as having any future value. Intel flubbed its expansion into ARM-RISC processors, and has been unable to extricate itself from Microsoft’s tentacles of incompetence. Intel has provided Apple with no reason to continue with x86, and Intel has been unable to offer anything better. Intel’s x86s not only retard Apple’s ability to provide better products, but are also a demonstrated vector of vulnerabilities into Apple’s business.
After Intel exited the modem business, Apple snapped up the best of Intel’s staff. Apple was the last company using Imagination Technology’s PowerVR graphics with any significant deployment numbers, and developed their own GPU and Metal, likewise untethering themselves from their competitors. Apple left the deceiving Samsung, protecting themselves from further betrayal. Now Apple is finally leaving Intel’s decrepit x86 architecture behind, where those DOS-originating cpus shall languish for a time as the entire tech industry continues deflating from Covid.
I can’t wait to see how Apple Silicon evolves over the next decade! Good-bye x86, and good riddance!