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    Newsletter Issue #1022: So Much for Apple Silicon Being Cheaper

    October 19th, 2021

    Forgive me for being naive about it, but I honestly expected Apple to be able to reduce the price of new Macs as a result of the switchover to Apple Silicon. You see, they no longer have to pay a third-party provider for those CPUs, and thus they should not have to concern themselves with prices that were high enough to ensure a profit for the manufacturer, Intel.

    Instead, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,499 for the entry-level model, $100 more than its predecessor with Intel Inside. With all the goodies, which include the 32-core GPU, 64GB of unified memory (shared by the CPU and GPU), and an 8TB SSD, it maxes out at $6,099.

    Now to be fair to Apple, there are no doubt billions of dollars in development costs to build the new Mac processor family even though it’s based on the existing lineup of A-series chips for iPhones, iPads, and the Apple Watch. So I’m not begrudging Apple’s right to cover its costs and earn profits, but those higher-end Intel chips aren’t cheap.

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    Newsletter Issue #1018: Random Thoughts on the Upcoming Apple Silicon Macs

    May 25th, 2021

    As you might expect, the skeptics are looking hard to find problems with Apple’s first generation Macs with the M1 chip. They need something to do, but other than app developers who haven’t upgraded their goods to the new silicon, and a few glitches here and there, the rollout has been quite seamless. What’s more, high Mac sales clearly indicate customers are pleased, or at least the changes aren’t impediments to buying new gear.

    Now I’m sure most people who purchase new Macs aren’t concerned so much about the fine details of a new processor architecture. That’s all about we geeks getting involved in the nuts and bolts and Apple’s design choices.

    For the first release of the M1 Mac mini, MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, Apple followed the same tact used in the transitions from Motorola to PowerPC and from PowerPC to Intel. The external designs were virtually identical to the models they replaced except for the new hardware. As a practical matter, most everything you did to make the new Macs run was the same as the older Mac. The 24-inch iMac represents the first change, to a thinner, lighter form factor — and they come in colors, which makes it sort of a throwback to the second generation iMacs from over 20 years ago.

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    Newsletter Issue #995: Does Apple Really Want to
    Alienate Customers with ARM on a Mac?

    June 14th, 2020

    A lot of what passes for tech journalism — or mainstream journalism for that matter — fails to recognize the history behind a matter. So for several years, as Apple produced faster and faster custom ARM-based CPUs that vanquished competing silicon, there has been growing speculation that the Mac will get them next.

    On the surface, it makes plenty of sense sense. In recent years, Intel has begun to hit the wall in improving the performance of its own CPU. Its efforts to build mobile processors haven’t gone so well. At one time, the low-power chip that came to be known as Atom was considered as a possible contender for use in the iPhone, or perhaps other Apple mobile gear.

    It never happened, and Intel’s efforts to move from its core competency – PC processors — haven’t gone so well. For a time Apple even bought billions of dollars of baseband modems for iPhones from Intel, but the company hasn’t been able to scale up to 5G. In the end, Apple settled a simmering series of lawsuits with Qualcomm to buy its hardware instead.

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    Newsletter Issue #993: Revising ARM on Macs — Again!

    May 17th, 2020

    It’s fair to say that if you repeat a somewhat reasonable rumor about Apple year after year, it might eventually come to pass. So as its ARM-based CPUs have become more and more powerful, it seems a given that Apple is poised to ditch Intel one of these days and make the third processor switchover in its history.

    Now when Apple first moved to the PowerPC in 1994, it didn’t seem so much of an issue at the time, although it survived for 12 years. But the Intel rumors were around for quite a while. One of the most interesting ones focused on Apple having a secret project, “Star Trek,” where new Macs were being tested with Intel CPUs at the same time that Steve Jobs was reassuring everyone that they were perfectly happy with the progress of the PowerPC.

    Lest you forget, the most powerful Macs with the G5 required liquid cooling to keep the chassis from frying. It was never tamed for notebook use, so year after year the fastest PowerBooks lost traction against even cheaper Intel-based Windows portables.

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