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
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
Stuff magazine (stuff.co.za)