WWDC 2014’s Keynote presentation highlighted more fruitage from Apple’s decision to roll their own CPU, and further differentiate Apple products from Google products (and others). The ability to control the design and manufacture of the entire product is Apple’s goal. They’re nearly there.
What Price Differentiation
Differentiation is a key element in product marketing. Apple believes in differentiation, too, and it shows up most in recent iPhones and iPads.
How so? In WWDC 2014’s Keynote presentation Apple talked about the Metal technology layer coming in iOS 8.
Instead of continuing to use open libraries like OpenGL (which any manufacturer can use) for processor intensive graphics, Apple decided to roll their own in Metal, which speeds up compute tasks and 3D rendering on A7 and soon A8 enabled iPhones and iPads.
That means games will look better and run faster on iOS devices than run-of-the-mill Android smartphones and tablets. The Metal framework in iOS 8 is the layer that makes that possible and its optimized for Apple’s A7 and soon-to-be-released A8 CPUs for iPhone and iPad.
Apple is able to manage and control all the pieces necessary for superior gaming performance, all the way up to 3D capability (check out the WWDC 2014 Keynote video for the example).
Why is this new technology for app developers called Metal? The idea is that Metal ‘is close to the metal’ of GPU and CPU graphics performance. Apple says Metal can be 10 times faster than similar games which take advantage of OpenGL.
Apple went so far as to create a Metal Shader Language which can precompile tasks so they run faster. Because Apple controls the language, software APIs, and the GPU/CPU, iOS devices end up with better performance. By this time next year the games available for iPhone and iPad will be highly differentiated from games on Android devices.
By controlling hardware and software, Apple creates products that makers of Android devices cannot; especially in power, capabilities, and battery consumption. Unfortunately, for now at least, Apple remains behind the curve when it comes to iPhone and iPad screens. Many Android-based devices have higher resolution screens with more vibrant colors.
Apple remains forced to purchase mobile device screens with lesser capability, partly because the company requires manufacturing of components by the hundreds of millions. It’s easy for Amazon to plunk 3D into a low cost smartphone as a gimmick because so few units will be sold.
Yet, Apple’s investment into the manufacture of sapphire screens for mobile devices may prove to be another differentiator; at least until others catchup, or a truly unbreakable glass and case hit the market.