Chips, In­tel, it’s all change at Ap­ple

Switch­ing to Ap­ple pro­ces­sors means iphone apps can seam­lessly run on Macs. Steve Jobs would be proud

Financial Mail - - PATTERN RECOGNITIO­N - @shap­shak BY TOBY SHAP­SHAK

Ap­ple dropped a bomb­shell last month when it an­nounced it was ditch­ing In­tel’s chips in favour of its own pro­ces­sors. It’s mon­u­men­tal for a num­ber of rea­sons, not least of which is the end­ing of the 13-year re­la­tion­ship with the world’s largest chip­maker that helped pro­pel Ap­ple shares on their decade­long strato­spheric run.

When the then CEO Steve Jobs gave no­tice in 2005 that Ap­ple would switch to In­tel pro­ces­sors, it was a strate­gic mas­ter­stroke. To un­der­stand why, we need a quick re­fresher on soft­ware de­vel­op­ment — which will be­come even more rel­e­vant later.

All soft­ware needs to be writ­ten for the ac­tual hard­ware it runs on. If your mi­cro­pro­ces­sor de­sign is unique, which Ap­ple’s was at the time, it means soft­ware developers need to pro­duce a sec­ond set of code for that hard­ware. When 95% of the world’s com­put­ers run Win­dows, there is very lit­tle in­cen­tive to re­write your com­puter pro­grams (as they were called) for the re­main­ing rump of the mar­ket.

But, if Ap­ple’s com­put­ers ran In­tel chips, then the amount of work re­quired for such pro­grams to work on Macs would be sig­nif­i­cantly less. Sud­denly lots more soft­ware was be­ing writ­ten for Ap­ple.

From In­tel-pow­ered Macs to itunes and the truly ground­break­ing iphone (launched in 2007), Jobs drove Ap­ple’s in­no­va­tion and its even­tual tri­umph as the first $1-tril­lion com­pany, in 2018.

The real en­gine of that growth was the iphone, whose mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tem (IOS) was run­ning on 1-bil­lion de­vices by 2016. And part of its suc­cess has been the wide range of apps that do ev­ery­thing from check­ing e-mail, news and the weather to help­ing run our busi­nesses and lives. Mo­bile de­vel­op­ment has long over­taken desk­top com­put­ing for pres­tige, pop­u­lar­ity and sheer mar­ket size.

Ap­ple’s App Store may have fewer over­all cus­tomers than Google’s An­droid Play Store, but IOS cus­tomers have al­ready bought a pre­mium de­vice and are more likely to buy apps and sub­scribe to in-app pur­chases.

While Mac­books used In­tel chips, the iphone and ipad use Ap­ple chips. Mo­bile chips need to be more pow­er­ful while us­ing less power — which is how they are de­signed to per­form.

Ap­ple, which up­grades its own chips ev­ery year, has re­port­edly been un­happy with In­tel over the rel­a­tively slow rate at which it up­grades its pro­ces­sors. It’s an­other sign of how the mo­bile in­dus­try has pro­foundly in­flu­enced the desk­top era that spawned it.

Now, by switch­ing to its own chips for its desk­top com­put­ers, all those mo­bile apps can run on the Mac­book Pro and Air, the imac and Mac Mini. Sud­denly the Macs have many more apps avail­able, while developers can sell their apps to more cus­tomers — with­out hav­ing to re­write them for a dif­fer­ent ar­chi­tec­ture.

It’s a big deal. I haven’t seen Ap­ple wag its tail like this for years.

Shap­shak is edi­tor-in-chief and pub­lisher of

It’s a sign of how the mo­bile in­dus­try has in­flu­enced the desk­top era that spawned it

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