New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBook

Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBook
By: David Kanter (dkanter.delete@this.realworldtech.com), May 21, 2011 1:36 pm
Room: Moderated Discussions
Robi5 (monfera.robert@gmail.com) on 5/21/11 wrote:
---------------------------
>David, excellent article!
>
>A few points:
>
>I don't think the original article specifically mentioned the Macbook Pro line;
>maybe it'll be the regular Macbooks or Macbook Airs (which Steve Jobs mentioned are the future of Macbooks).
>
>Also, the tight Apple ecosystem and the up-and-coming App >Store can do things like
>enforcing double or alternate binaries, eliminating >run-time emulation or JIT costs.

That's true, but how would they handle folks who don't wish to develop for one platform or the other?

>Apple is keen to optimize its systems for performance, for >example via superior matrix algebra packages which >automatically make use of all cores etc. If most >applications rely on these math libraries, it helps with >both the conversion and the high level of optimization.

Everyone has matrix math libraries. It's not a big deal at all.

>Add to that the agressive use of GPGPU for generic >calculations (like Photoshop transformations) and the >microprocessor performance is no longer as important.

I keep on hearing this sort of rubbish from Nvidia. How many applications use OpenCL? The reality is that most applications cannot use the GPU. I've talked to Apple's architects; they really care about performance and will tell you that OpenCL does not solve that problem for the vast majority of applications.

Even for something like Photoshop or Premiere (which are some of the best use cases), you still need the right balance of CPU and GPU horsepower. Amdahl's law still applies.

>Also, the parallelized Apple math libraries can spread >aroud workload for an arbitrary number of cores, e.g. 16 >ARM cores if needed. See an example: http://jeffreybreen.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/veclib-open-source-r-for-mac/

Everyone has math libraries like that...but math libraries are not all that helpful for many applications. The reality is a fast CPU will accelerate any application. GPUs only accelerate a few applications. Now, when they work, they can be ~4-8X more efficient. But it doesn't matter if you can't use it.

>Apple is now a large cap company, easily eclipsing Intel >itself. So it's not in
>the realm of the impossibility that Apple buys a bigger >player.

Apple has never bought a large company. Look at their list of acquisitions, the biggest was NeXT. They buy small companies or work with outside vendors (e.g. Intel, TSMC, Samsung, Adobe, AMD, Imagination, Nvidia).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mergers_and_acquisitions_by_Apple

>They might even
>buy AMD which have experience with RISC architecture >(maybe former DEC Alpha guys,
>not to mention that modern x86 processors are RISC >internally).

Most of the DEC Alpha teams are at Intel, although there are others throughout the industry (e.g. at Apple via PA Semi, some at AMD, some at Sun, some at Google).

Also, modern x86 processors are not 'RISC internally'. RISC refers to the software visible instruction set architecture. x86 decodes into uops which are not software visible. uops are not an instruction set in any meaningful sense of the word.

Even ignoring that massive difference, x86 does not really follow RISC principles internally. RISC philosophy favors:

1. Fixed length
2. Strict load/store architecture
3. Simple addressing modes
4. No self modifying code
5. Simple data types and simple instructions

x86 uops are fixed length. But they are load+op, with complex addressing and the caches must handle self modifying code. They also have uops for natively handling strings with SSE 4.2, or natively encrypting data for AES.

The reality is that x86 is still quite CISCy. Sometimes this is a benefit (string comparison is pretty sweet), sometimes this is a big disadvantage (self modifying code, x87).

But the fallacy of 'x86 is RISC internally' is just that - a fallacy.

David
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TopicPosted ByDate
New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookDavid Kanter2011/05/10 12:19 AM
  New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookMark Christiansen2011/05/09 11:24 PM
  New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookLouis Gerbarg2011/05/09 11:54 PM
  New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBooknone2011/05/10 12:57 AM
    New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookDavid Kanter2011/05/10 01:18 AM
      New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBooknone2011/05/10 02:14 AM
        New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookDavid Kanter2011/05/10 02:19 AM
          New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookGoose2011/05/10 02:34 AM
          New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookRatherNotSay2011/05/10 06:25 AM
          ARM predication not so horriblePaul A. Clayton2011/05/10 08:05 AM
            ARM predication not so horriblenone2011/05/10 08:12 AM
              Partial update seems kind of oddPaul A. Clayton2011/05/10 08:29 AM
                Partial update seems kind of oddExophase2011/05/10 08:51 AM
                  Partial update seems kind of oddMichael S2011/05/10 12:56 PM
                    Partial update seems kind of oddMichael S2011/05/10 01:25 PM
                      Partial update seems kind of oddWilco2011/05/10 02:39 PM
                        Partial update seems kind of oddanonymous422011/05/10 07:09 PM
                          Partial update seems kind of oddrwessel2011/05/10 09:57 PM
                  Condition register usesPaul A. Clayton2011/05/10 05:56 PM
                  Partial update seems kind of oddMegol2011/05/11 01:06 AM
          New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookKevin G2011/05/11 01:21 AM
      New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookWilco2011/05/10 03:47 AM
        New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookMichael S2011/05/10 04:06 AM
          New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookWilco2011/05/10 04:25 AM
            New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookMichael S2011/05/10 05:13 AM
        Predication and OoOEExophase2011/05/10 08:34 AM
          Predication and OoOEWilco2011/05/10 03:46 PM
            Predication and OoOEExophase2011/05/11 07:51 AM
        ARM ISADavid Kanter2011/05/10 09:12 AM
          ARM ISAUngo2011/05/10 12:30 PM
  New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookThibs2011/05/10 02:45 AM
  New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookLlew2011/05/10 03:33 AM
    New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookDavid Kanter2011/05/10 09:34 AM
  New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookKevin G2011/05/10 03:55 AM
    New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookDavid Kanter2011/05/10 10:07 AM
      New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookKevin G2011/05/11 01:33 AM
        New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookDavid Kanter2011/05/11 02:00 AM
  New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBook ... The FACTS say otherwise !fabrice2011/05/10 04:07 AM
    New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBook ... The FACTS say otherwise !Rakesh Malik2011/05/11 03:03 PM
      New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBook ... The FACTS say otherwise !Richard Cownie2011/05/12 08:50 AM
        New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBook ... The FACTS say otherwise !Rakesh Malik2011/05/12 09:10 AM
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  New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookRichard Cownie2011/05/10 06:41 AM
    Dual CPU makes more sense than dropping x86Mark Roulo2011/05/10 07:54 AM
      Dual CPU makes more sense than dropping x86Richard Cownie2011/05/10 09:02 AM
        Dual CPU makes more sense than dropping x86Mark Roulo2011/05/10 09:28 AM
          Dual CPU makes more sense than dropping x86Richard Cownie2011/05/10 09:55 AM
            Dual CPU makes more sense than dropping x86Wes Felter2011/05/10 11:20 AM
      Dual CPU makes more sense than dropping x86rwessel2011/05/10 11:01 AM
        Dual CPU makes more sense than dropping x86fabrice2011/05/10 12:02 PM
    New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookDavid Kanter2011/05/10 10:18 AM
      New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookRichard Cownie2011/05/10 12:10 PM
        Form factors and performanceDavid Kanter2011/05/10 12:39 PM
          Form factors and performanceRichard Cownie2011/05/10 05:25 PM
            Form factors and performanceLinus Torvalds2011/05/10 06:24 PM
              Form factors and performanceRichard cownie2011/05/11 02:12 AM
                Form factors and performanceRichard Cownie2011/05/11 03:44 AM
              Form factors and performanceGabriele Svelto2011/05/11 09:03 AM
                Form factors and performanceLinus Torvalds2011/05/11 10:16 AM
                  Form factors and performanceMark Christiansen2011/05/11 11:06 AM
                  Form factors and performanceRichard Cownie2011/05/11 12:36 PM
              Form factors and performanceDoug Siebert2011/05/11 10:19 AM
                Form factors and performanceRakesh Malik2011/05/11 03:36 PM
            Form factors and performanceFoo_2011/05/11 04:33 AM
              Form factors and performanceRichard Cownie2011/05/11 05:35 AM
              Form factors and performanceJoe Kerr2011/05/11 09:05 PM
    New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookUngo2011/05/10 01:33 PM
      New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookRichard Cownie2011/05/10 04:54 PM
  Maybe after Cortex A15 ?Nicolas2011/05/10 07:07 AM
    Maybe after Cortex A15 ?anonymous422011/05/10 11:01 AM
      Maybe after Cortex A15 ? Nicolas2011/05/11 01:34 PM
  One way for ARM to beat Inteletienne2011/05/10 04:38 PM
  Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?John H2011/05/16 08:14 PM
    Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?blah2011/05/17 08:02 PM
      Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?Brett2011/05/18 02:50 AM
        Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?Llew2011/05/18 03:43 AM
        Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?David Kanter2011/05/18 09:46 AM
          Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?Brett2011/05/18 11:43 AM
            Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?blah2011/05/18 08:01 PM
            Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?David Kanter2011/05/18 11:47 PM
              Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?Rob Thorpe2011/05/19 01:07 AM
                Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?blah2011/05/19 11:01 AM
                  Perhaps ARMed apple netbooks?Richard Cownie2011/05/19 11:48 AM
              iOS changes from OSXBrett2011/05/21 12:18 PM
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              iOS changes from OSX Brett2011/06/03 10:50 AM
  New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookRobi52011/05/20 11:55 PM
    New Article: Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBookDavid Kanter2011/05/21 01:36 PM
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