Apple's chip move might remake the PC market

If Apple does switch its computer lineup to A-series chips found in the iPhone, it gets all the same feature, performance and even supply-chain benefits.

Apple's chip move might remake the PC market

Switching to its own chips means that Apple controls its own destiny in yet another way, without hanging the Mac's capabilities on Intel's.

Photo: Dmitry Chernyshov/Unsplash

It's been rumored for years that Apple's planning to switch its Mac lineup to a homemade processor, rather than continuing to rely on Intel for its chips. Now, Bloomberg reported the switch could begin as soon as this year's WWDC, which kicks off June 22. The announcement would likely come long before any product rollout, of course, because developers will need as much time as possible to get their software working on the new hardware. But the change appears to be finally around the corner.

If Apple does make the switch, it could shake up the PC market in a big way. For many years, there have been virtually no ways to truly differentiate one laptop or desktop from another, outside of funky designs or slightly improved keyboards. They all use the same chips, which means they all get roughly the same performance, roughly the same battery life, and run the same software roughly the same way.

Recently, though, a few companies have started to experiment outside the boundaries. Dell and others have been building laptops with AMD processors, and even Microsoft has experimented with a more mobile-friendly ARM architecture. But while the last few months have been kind to the PC market, with NPD reporting six consecutive weeks of laptop sales growth as COVID-19 forced people to work from home, the broader signs still don't look great.

For Apple, which owns about a tenth of the PC market, there's plenty of reason to think that switching chips could switch its market share. For evidence, look at smartphones. Multitouch and the App Store get all the credit, but Apple's decision to make its own chips certainly belongs on the list of reasons the iPhone has so successful. After years of development and iteration, Apple's A-series chips are generally considered to be at least a generation ahead of Qualcomm's, both in performance and efficiency. It's also one of the reasons the company is able to sell a $399 iPhone SE that's as powerful as top-end Android devices.

More recently, on devices like the AirPods, Apple has used its own chips, and that marriage of hardware and software the company never stops talking about has helped it add uncopyable features like simple pairing and rock-solid connection. Without Apple's chips, it's impossible to build headphones that can match AirPods.

If Apple does, indeed, switch its computer lineup to the same A-series chips (which by some measures are already more powerful than the Intel processors inside current MacBooks), it gets all the same feature, performance and even supply-chain benefits. A switch to A-series chips would likely mean big battery life improvements for MacBooks, it could make it easier to create the kind of tablet/laptop hybrid people are clamoring for, and paired with Apple's newly acquired 5G division, it could make a 5G laptop a very real possibility. Most of all, it means that Apple controls its own destiny in yet another way, without hanging the Mac's capabilities on Intel's.

The switch will be brutal — Mac OS is not only based on Intel but on decades of history, and thus tech debt. As developers discovered with the Catalyst technology, it's not always seamless to port apps from one architecture to another. But if Apple gives itself, and developers, enough time, the invisible new chip inside millions of laptops could change the market.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

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Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

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The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

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Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

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Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

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