Apple Just Upturned the Industry. Who’s Next?

Article By : Rupert Baines, Codasip

With its new custom M1 Pro and M1 Max, Apple is now so far ahead of Intel and Microsoft, is it possible for anyone to catch up on the innovation front?

Apple has launched its new custom M1 Pro and M1 Max. Both are significant upgrades to the MacBooks previously using Intel processors. But, significantly for the industry, and particularly for Apple’s competitors, this move puts Apple far, far ahead of Intel and Microsoft.

It’s safe to say from the reactions over the last twelve hours that Apple just left Intel in the dust when it comes to power and performance metrics. A truly astonishing leap forward.

Rupert Baines
Rupert Baines

It is one of the most astonishing demonstrations of performance gains possible when you optimize an architecture for a specific use-case and software load (the MacOS in Apple’s case). It’s an exemplary showcase of hardware and software co-design.

It also shines the light onto PC design and, unfortunately, shows there has been a lack of innovation in Windows PCs over the years. Essentially, the architecture is still 30 years old with decades of incremental tweaks. It’s been a race to the bottom. As ZDNet said, “you wanted cheap, now all you get is cheap.” But Apple has demonstrated transformative innovation.

What we are left with is a challenge for the rest of the industry. What can Intel, AMD, HP, Dell and others do? Microsoft, at least, could follow suit with its Surface platform: control hardware and software together.

I did not expect Apple to deliver this performance so soon. But the M1 Pro shows what next year’s desktops, including perhaps lining up what MacPro could be delivering. And before you know it, M2 will be along.

This challenge is not only seen in desktop or laptop PCs. The same logic applies in servers. Arm is working with Google, Facebook and Amazon looking at the same HW/SW co-design challenges and potential — and the same opportunity for huge leapfrog innovation. And then Alibaba also just announced its in-house Arm V9 server

This approach applies to all chips. Any ASIC or SoC has the scope to massively improve price/power/performance with intelligent use of HW/SW co-design and optimization.

Unfortunately, not many firms can afford to modify Arm. The cash cost of both the architecture license and the very skilled team needed to change things is high. Where companies can potentially make impact, though, is by using an architecture like RISC-V, which is already available and, without sounding too cliched, democratizes the opportunities to further innovation now and not in a few years’ time.

The problem some might say is that they don’t know how to work with a new core or how to create something specifically for their needs. While this might be unknown territory for some designers, companies like Codasip make it easier to develop those new products by providing a variety of production ready processor cores or helping to customize an architecture to enable differentiation. It is the combination of easy customization while leveraging a standard architecture and ecosystem that enables exciting opportunities for anyone designing chips to emulate Apple and to disrupt their industry.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

Rupert Baines is CMO at Codasip.

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