Apple with M1 core may make Intel and AMD laptops uncomfortable this year

Last year's M1 core MacBook can be said to be a "new product" that is bigger than the iPhone 12 surprise.

Many people don’t believe that Apple has allowed the new Mac to achieve what previous generations of products have not been able to do with just a single chip—a significant improvement in performance and battery life, a significant reduction in power consumption, and the support of the iOS application ecosystem. Each item shows an overwhelming advantage over other competing products.

On the other hand, the successful debut of the M1 core also allowed the X86 camp to accept a "cross-border blow" from the ARM chip, giving us the opportunity to think about the hardware design of the personal computer, and even the ownership of the chip architecture.

Under the general trend of multi-platform integration, will the general computing field in the future be bound to X86 only? If we want to make better laptop devices, which direction should the chip develop? This will become a new proposition for major manufacturers.

Not long after the beginning of the year, the news about this year's new Mac followed. Many news have proved that after self-developed chips, Apple is already planning a comprehensive upgrade around the Mac.

On the other hand, in the face of the menacing ARM, Intel, AMD and other manufacturers have also proposed new directions for the development of new technologies in the future.

This year's personal computer market is bound to be difficult to calm down.

How will the Mac change in 2021

The latest Mac prediction comes from two celebrities in Apple's news industry: Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Tianfeng International analyst Guo Mingchi. According to existing information, the arrival of Apple's self-developed chips is likely to bring about a round of huge changes in the new Mac.

This includes two core changes: the resurrection of the MagSafe magnetic charging interface and the cancellation of the TouchBar touch bar.

It is nothing new for MacBook products to bring back an old design many years ago. Earlier, the MacBook keyboard also experienced the process of changing from a scissor foot to a butterfly type, and from a butterfly type back to a scissor foot.

This also proves that sometimes the new design is not necessarily better than the old design, the key is to see whether it can bring enough value.

MagSafe is roughly the same. Its magnetic adsorption feature is a design that can greatly improve the plugging experience of the MacBook's power interface . Old users who have used it also know it is good.

Here, the revelation information also added one point, that is, "fast charging", which may also be a new reason why Apple intends to revive it.

After all, the advent of fast charging will significantly shorten the charging time of MacBook, and coupled with MagSafe's own magnetic adsorption function, even if it is not a universal interface such as USB-C, I think most users will not refuse its return .

Let's analyze the TouchBar touch bar. For many people, this is probably a design that "perception is not strong, it doesn't matter whether it has it or not".

Previously on the iPhone, there was also a feature similar to its positioning, but has been cancelled, called "3D Touch".

To be honest, they are all very good innovative ideas, but they also have a commonality, that is, the interaction is too implicit and requires some learning costs.

This also makes the benefits they bring not obvious, and it is difficult to replace core operations such as sliding and keyboard and mouse.

Compared with Intel and AMD only replacing processors and graphics chips in previous years, plus user complaints about interfaces, keyboards and other issues, the replacement of Macs with self-developed cores also gives Apple the opportunity to make changes to the appearance of Macs. New changes.

One point was mentioned in the news, that is, the new MacBook will adopt a "flat right-angle design similar to the iPhone 12."

This also involves the adjustment of the mold, but considering the excellent power consumption performance of the previous M1 version of the MacBook, Apple has no reason to continue to use the old design.

▲ Last year's M1 MacBook basically copied the old mold, but there is still much room for improvement. Picture from iFixit

In addition, the long-rumored new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, iMacs resembling Pro Display XDR, and even more compact Mac Pros are expected to debut this year, and they will also become a new batch of "de-Intelized" "Mac.

In the face of the upcoming Apple, what will be the strategy for the "Wintel Alliance" around Intel and Microsoft?

The architecture dispute between ARM and X86

Technology media AnandTech produced a picture showing the evolution path of performance between Apple’s A-series chips and Intel chips over the same period in the past few years.

From this, you will see how the gap between the two was shortened and intersected step by step, and finally Apple completed the overtake.

▲ Picture from: AnandTech

This is not to prove that ARM is better than X86. After all, advanced manufacturing process and unique CPU micro-architecture design are also one of the reasons why Apple's self-developed chips are coming from behind.

What's more, when faced with desktops with higher power consumption walls and in the field of servers, X86 still has its advantages. This is also an area that Apple is difficult to shake in the short term.

But one fact is clear: ARM-based chips used in computers are not as tasteless as we imagined. As long as it is used properly, it can also be comparable to current mid-to-high-end X86 processors and complete desktop-level work normally.

For many people, the M1 version of the Mac is also a sign of the maturity of the ARM personal computer, which will greatly promote the development of the ARM ecosystem, and will compete for one acre of land in the future PC market.

In principle, Microsoft also had the same opportunity as Apple, and in terms of time, it actually launched the ARM chip on the Windows system earlier than Apple, and also united with Qualcomm to launch an application on the Surface Pro. ARM custom processor SQ1 on X.

Unfortunately, the experience of this product is not satisfactory, and the transfer efficiency for X86 applications is not high. Other Windows laptops that also use the Snapdragon 8cx chip do not have obvious advantages when comparing their own X86 products of the same level. Advantage.

▲ Windows 10 PC terminal equipped with ARM processor, in fact, has appeared a few years ago

Ecology may be a key reason. Considering that Microsoft has been rooted in the X86 software ecosystem for many years, it did not show the same firm attitude as Apple in this attempt to transform the ARM architecture.

This is not so much a technical problem, but more like a commercial bondage that the X86 alliance is difficult to unravel.

Over the years, the entire Wintel alliance has developed very mature. The entire chain has not only a large number of third-party developers attached to it, but also OEM companies responsible for product development, Microsoft operating system licensing, and chip manufacturers selling general-purpose CPUs. Said to be one link after another.

But from another perspective, this is also a huge burden of the X86 Alliance. Is it necessary to support another platform in a highly mature ecosystem? Microsoft is hesitant, and other manufacturers can't find the motivation to migrate.

At present, at least on the chip side, desktop ARM chips represented by M1 will not have much impact on the Intel and AMD markets for the time being. Because it is impossible for PC users to plug the M1 into the motherboard of their desktop computer, and a large amount of desktop work still needs to be done well on the X86 platform.

Although not talking about it, the two manufacturers will not sit still. Some initiatives surrounding structural reforms have now slowly surfaced.

For example, Intel already plans to launch a 12-generation Core processor code-named "Alder Lake" in the second half of 2021. It will integrate both high-performance core and high-performance core on a single chip, which is more like the heterogeneous design adopted by Apple and Qualcomm when designing mobile phone chips.

This is also regarded by Intel as "a major breakthrough in the X86 architecture", depending on whether it can bring new competitiveness.

From a long-term perspective, if Apple’s self-developed chip plan effectively promotes Mac’s market growth, or on the product side, it will bring enough functional subversion, such as Samsung and Huawei, which already have ARM chip self-developed capabilities, and have laptops, Manufacturers of mobile phone business will most likely enter the game for ecological integration.

At that time, ARM will break the monopoly of X86 desktops, and it will be an inevitable result-especially in the field of notebooks that pay more attention to performance and power consumption, and emphasize battery life and response time. In the next few years, the ARM platform will continue to The process of X86 challenge.

The change is destined to be slow, so whether X86 sticks to the ground, or ARM is getting stronger, or the two are evenly divided. In the next few years, this struggle will bring many new changes.

The personal computer market is also recovering

An objective fact is that in today's PC market, devices equipped with Intel and AMD chips and running Windows systems are still the absolute mainstream, and the threats that Mac can pose are extremely limited.

But the emergence of M1 has significantly boosted Apple's market share. In the fourth quarter of 2020, Apple's Mac shipments achieved a year-on-year growth rate of 49.2%, making it the fastest-growing brand among the top five.

Of course, this also benefits from the recovery of the personal computer market. Affected by the demand for home office and online learning, the entire PC market has turned around in the past year and has begun to rise against the trend, and this short- and medium-term demand has now gradually penetrated into the mass consumer market itself.

5 years ago, most people would not be motivated to switch computers, and you can hardly expect to see innovation appear.

Nowadays, it is a very rare opportunity for all manufacturers selling PC processors, graphics cards, and manufacturing computers, because the new round of personal computer replacement is likely to come early due to the epidemic; and those who hold the results of self-research Apple will definitely try to cannibalize more shares with the new Mac.

When new platform competition emerges and market demand becomes sufficiently active again, the associated influence will gradually appear. I'm not sure if this will bring a new computer revolution, but what is certain is that personal computers have been silent for too long and it is time to make some changes.

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