Apple, Amazon and arm

The New York Times discovers Advanced RISC Machine architecture.

From Don Clark’s “Amazon and Apple Are Powering a Shift Away From Intel’s Chips” in Wednesday’s Times:

For close to a decade, supporters of the chip technology that powers mobile phones vowed to shake up the market for computers. For the most part, they made little headway.

Now that finally seems to be changing, in a potential power shift over the direction of the computer industry.

The change is being driven by Apple and Amazon, two tech behemoths that are cutting their dependence on the Intel chip technology that has long controlled most personal computers and larger server systems. Instead, the companies are increasingly leaning on homegrown chips that were designed using technology that Arm, a British company, licenses for smartphones and other consumer products…

Apple fired a salvo last month when it introduced Mac computers that for the first time used its own Arm-based chips. In June, Amazon’s cloud computing business started marketing a new computing service based on its own Arm-based chips, telling customers that the service was both faster and cheaper by one-fifth than its Intel-based offerings…

“Everyone’s like, wow, Apple’s totally in, Amazon and others are in,” said Keith Kressin, a senior vice president at Qualcomm, a large supplier of Arm-based chips. “This is going to happen for real.”

My take: Telling a chip architecture story through the companies that adopt it for a variety of uses makes for a strange read. Especially because the author had to wait until the 17th paragraph to sneak in yesterday’s Apple-Amazon news:

[Amazon] announced a plan on Tuesday to run Intel-powered Mac mini computers in its data centers to help programmers develop software for Apple systems without using Apple hardware.

Makes me wonder whether Amazon, by helping Apple clear inventory, got a great price for those racks of Intel Mac minis it’s set to deploy.

See also: Courting Apple developers, Amazon to buy tons of Macs

11 Comments

  1. Kathy Corby said:
    Aha, so those Mac mini servers are not the newest and the best. But it’s probably all to the good. If I were a developer, I would ask myself whether it wouldn’t make as much sense to buy a new Mac mini with an M1 chip, and get the benefits of speed and energy efficiency, rather than pay Amazon for last year’s model.

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    December 2, 2020
  2. Joe Murphy said:
    Philip @ “My take: Telling a chip architecture story through … the author had to wait until the 17th paragraph to sneak in yesterday’s Apple-Amazon news” itself contradicting the headline makes it a strange read as well.

    As I recall, the fact Amazon actually purchased Intel Macs was first noted by Mordechai Beizer. Thank you Mordechai.

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    December 2, 2020
  3. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    It would be cool to hear how solo devs would treat this if they were on a budget. Let’s say I’m my son, I would probably buy an M1 Mac Mini (borrowing money from my mom) and do coding & unit test my MacOS & iOS code there. Then I’d pay maybe a weeks worth of time on the AWS Intel Mac Mini’s for cloud-based & x86 testing.
    And, as needed, only “rent” cloud services for testing (e.g. integration & UATs & cloud perf./vol. testing), not development? Hmm…

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    December 2, 2020
  4. Joe Murphy said:
    I also found it strange, considering the headline, the reported didn’t mention Apple was one of the three companies that created ARM.

    All in all, I’ll go with your comment Kathy, ” it’s probably all to the good. .”

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    December 2, 2020
  5. Chris Ferebee said:
    Considering the rate at which Apple normally turns over inventory (more than once a week?) it seems unlikely there was an inventory glut of Intel Mac minis!

    For that matter, the Intel mini will probably be around for quite some time, for various vertical applications.

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    December 2, 2020
  6. David Emery said:
    If you have a Mac application and automated regression tests, it would be very useful to ‘rent’ a bunch of Macs for a couple of days to run a lot of tests in parallel.

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    December 2, 2020
  7. Fred Stein said:
    Why is this news to NYT? “For close to a decade, supporters of the chip technology that powers mobile phones vowed to shake up the market for computers. For the most part, they made little headway.”

    Apple made great strides over the years in performance, performance per watt/per dollar, in silicon process, and in proliferation up and down the size and price point. Moving up has been inevitable. There’s more to come. Several of us commenters called it long ago.

    NYT did not see it because of confirmation bias of their mis-perception of Apple as slick promoter of commodity gadgets.

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    December 2, 2020
    • Steven Noyes said:
      You stole my train of thought on the opening paragraph. The NYT is almost not reading anymore.

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      December 2, 2020
    • Lalit Jagtap said:
      Fred, I agree with your observation about the NYT team’s “confirmation bias of their misperception of Apple”. I wish this Fred, comment can be published on Twitter to educate readers of NYT to be part of this community. The NYT team has been a bad/sloppy job with covering WMD in Iraq which I will never forget in my lifetime.

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      December 2, 2020
  8. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. Intel became a dominant force in computing in the 1990s, emerging as the biggest supplier of processors for PCs and later exploiting its high-volume manufacturing to make lower-priced chips for servers. But the company did not make chips for smartphones, which became hugely popular starting in 2007.”

    Since the news reported here is not new to any of us, to me the biggest story is that line above embedded in the NYT’s article.

    I read recently an article with Adele after she had broken the record for the biggest debut for an album ever released. Adele was asked why it took her 4 years to come out with a new album. She already had recorded more than another album worth of songs in the interim and scrapped all of it to start over. Her response was: “…. You’re only as good as your next album.” Adele explained that she wanted the album to be great and that the previous material was good, but not great. Businesses and tech companies especially, can learn a lot from Adele’s statement. Intel did not learn.

    Continue….

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    December 2, 2020
  9. Jerry Doyle said:
    Continue….

    It’s a poignant reminder to any successful company that you only are as great as what your next product (or service) is viewed. Being invested solely in Apple, Adele is my reminder to assess Apple’s performance daily. Is Apple holding itself to a high standard and shooting for great “every” time? Is Apple settling for something less because it is just good? Apple is only as bad as its last faux pas and only as good as its next new product release. As long as Apple moves in the right direction Apple will do just fine. Forget past failures and move forward continuously, striving to create the world’s greatest product with every release. Greatness takes time; lots of time. Ten years for the M1. This is the lesson Intel failed to learn as other great American companies of recent that have falling from their respective pinnacle also failed to learn. It is what keeps me up at night watching my Apple investment. My comfort with Apple is deep, very deep; but it starts with Tim Cook.

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    December 2, 2020

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