Rumors point to Apple moving to ARM processors for future notebooks

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 6, 2011 - 07:11 PM |
Tagged: project denver, nvidia, macbook, Intel, arm, apple

A very interesting story over at AppleInsider has put the rumor out there that Apple may choose to ditch the Intel/x86 architecture all together with some future upcoming notebooks.  Instead, Apple may choose to go the route of the ARM-based processor, likely similar to the A4 that Apple built for the iPhone and iPad.

What is holding back the move right now?  Well for one, the 64-bit versions of these processors aren't available yet and Apple's software infrastructure is definitely dependent on that.  By the end of 2012 or early in 2013 those ARM-based designs should be ready for the market and very little would stop Apple from making the move.  Again, this is if the rumors are correct.

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Another obstacle is performance - even the best ARM CPUs on the market fall woefully behind the performance of Intel's current crop of Sandy Bridge processors or even their Core 2 Duo options.  

In addition to laptops, the report said that Apple would "presumably" be looking to move its desktop Macs to ARM architecture as well. It characterized the transition to Apple-made chips for its line of computers as a "done deal."

"Now you realize why Apple is desperately searching for fab capacity from Samsung, Global Foundries, and TSMC," the report said. "Intel doesn't know about this particular change of heart yet, which is why they are dropping all the hints about wanting Apple as a foundry customer. Once they realize Apple will be fabbing ARM chips at the expense of x86 parts, they may not be so eager to provide them wafers on advanced processes."

Even though Apple is already specing its own processors like the A4 there is the possibility that they could go with another ARM partner for higher performance designs.  NVIDIA's push into the ARM market with Project Denver could be a potential option as they are working very closely with ARM on those design and performance improvements.  Apple might just "borrow" those changes however at NVIDIA's expense and build its own option that would satisify its needs exactly without the dependence on third-parties.  

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Migrating the notebook (and maybe desktop markets) to ARM processors would allow the company to unify their operating system across the classic "computer" designs and the newer computer models like iPads and iPhones.  The idea of all of our computers turning into oversized iPhones doesn't sound appealing to me (nor I imagine, many of you) but with some changes in the interface it could become a workable option for many consumers. 

With even Microsoft planning for an ARM-based version of Windows, it seems that x86 dominance in the processor market is being threatened without a doubt.  

Source: AppleInsider

Windows 7 is so mainstream, 8 is so much cooler

Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2011 - 11:27 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, win8, OS, arm

Successfully selling an OS seems to have spurred Microsoft into a frenzy of action, far from the massive denial and self abuse they indulged in after the launch of that flounder known as ME Vista. We are already seeing leaded builds of Windows 8, which are festooned with more ARMs and Ribbons than that Royal Wedding last night.  Thanks to these leaks, and a list compiled by Maximum PC, you can see the 7 things we know about 8.

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"Pre-release versions of Windows 8 have leaked to the web. Here’s what they tell us about the upcoming OS

Recently leaked builds show that Windows 8 will be a very different OS from its forebears, from the kernel to the cloud. ARM processor support, mobile-device optimization, and system-wide menu tweaks abound. There are still a lot of things we don't know about the next OS from Microsoft, but the number of things we can say for sure is growing. Read on for our list of 7 things we know about Windows 8!"

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Source: Maximum PC

AMD hints at possible ARM processors

Subject: Processors | April 28, 2011 - 11:41 AM |
Tagged: arm, amd

 

"AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced a distinguished line-up of keynote speakers as well as technical session topics for the inaugural AMD Fusion Developer Summit (AFDS), which will be held June 13-16, 2011 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington.
 
Industry keynote presentations will be delivered by esteemed industry experts from AMD, ARM and Microsoft. In his keynote “Heterogeneous Parallelism at Microsoft” Herb Sutter, Microsoft principal architect of Native Languages, will showcase upcoming innovations to bring access to increasingly heterogeneous compute resources directly into the world’s most popular native languages.
 
Jem Davies, ARM fellow and vice president of Technology, Media Processing Division, will deliver a keynote about ARM’s long history of heterogeneous computing, its future strategy, and ARM’s support of standards, including OpenCL™."

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Could AMD be developing ARM based products for tablets, netbooks, servers and smartphones? There will be a version of Windows 8 that is ARM compatible. AMD may be working on a version of Fusion that uses ARM instead of x86.

It would make sense for AMD to license the ARM architecture if they could compete with Nvidia’s Tegra and Qualcomm’s snapdragon processors.  AMD has a proven track record in creating graphics cards and so does NVidia. Will that give AMD an advantage from the start?  Can AMD produce a better product or a product that is used in different types of applications that Tegra or future Tegra products were not designed for?

 For several years now AMD has always been playing catch-up with Intel’s x86 processors and there in no end in sight. Will Bulldozer give AMD the performance catch-up needed to be faster the Intel? I doubt it or at least not when Sandy Bridge-EX comes out in Q4 of 2011.

We will have more information after the AMD Fusion Developer Summit.

 

Source: AMD

16 core Cortex A15s coming soon?

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2011 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: servers, cortex, arm

We have been hearing of a little something called Project Denver that ARM has been working on, which they claim will have them selling chips to the server market.  The new Cortex A15 will be a 32bit chip with 40bit physical addressing, and multiple cores capable of reaching 2.5GHz, all while using the same amount of power as the previous Cortex A9 generation.  Maybe Intel and AMD do have something to worry about.  Drop by The Register for more.

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"ARM Holdings' high-performance, low-power Cortex-A15 processor design will appear in products in late 2012 or early 2013, when it will begin to muscle in on territory long dominated by Intel's x86 architecture."

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Source: The Register