One of the primary aspects of a product’s success is differentiation. As an example, beyond Apple ecosystem, the Mac is differentiated from most Windows PCs and Chromebooks by quality components and macOS Sierra. Likewise, the iPhone is differentiated from most Android devices by quality components, iOS 10, and Apple’s own CPU designs in the A10 Fusion, which is based on the ARM architecture.
Differentiation is a key component of Apple’s success. Based on the performance from the iPhone’s A10 Fusion, many Apple watchers think the company could develop and introduce an Intel-less Mac Pad; a touchscreen Mac with an ARM CPU inside. Is there another alternative? Yes.
ARM vs. AMD
In the world of fake news, it’s not news that Intel has struggled to manufacture new CPUs according to schedule. To put it bluntly, it’s difficult to make more powerful CPUs that also are smaller than previous models. More powerful? It seems as if each new generation of Intel’s best is a marginal improvement over the last.
That explains why Apple’s own in-house A10 Fusion CPU rivals the Intel M-series mobile CPUs found in the MacBook, and both iPhone and iPad Pro can outperform Intel CPUs in less expensive PC notebooks. Intel struggles to maintain dominance in the market.
Enter Advanced Micro Devices, or, AMD; a continual thorn in Intel’s side as a company than makes x86-based microprocessors– as does Intel– and Nvidia discrete graphics processors (GPUs), which find their way into various high-end Macs.
AMD has a new series of desktop CPUs called the Ryzen 7 line which rival Intel’s most expensive and most powerful Core i7-6900K CPUs. At less than half the price. These are desktop class CPUs that sit between what Apple uses in the iMac line and the Intel Xeon multi-core CPUs found in the aging Mac Pro.
This brings up a couple of interesting high end and low end scenarios and opportunities for Apple.
Differentiation is a key to product marketing and Apple differentiates the iPhone and iPad by its own ARM-based A10 and A9X CPUs. AMD differentiates the new Ryzen 7 CPU line by outperforming comparable Intel CPUs at half the price.
What could Apple do with such differentiation?
First, the aforementioned Mac Pad, a touchscreen, entry-level Mac with its own A-Series CPU that already exceeds performance in many Intel consumer PCs. Sorry, this model likely wouldn’t run Windows or Linux, but it would make an excellent entry-level Mac.
Second, the iMac and Mac Pro models suffer. The iMac tops out at quad core, while the Mac Pro hasn’t seen an upgrade in any component since it was launched in 2013; an ice age in technology. Enter AMD’s Ryzen 7 family, capable of putting some real power in an iMac, or, fully capable of setting the stage for a mid-range Mac Pro.
Either way, AMD or ARM, a little competition for Intel is good for the soul. For another look at Apple’s recent chip pains, check out Wil Gomez’s article on Apple Chip Pain Again.