(Veteran tech columnist Jon Markman is the publisher of Strategic Advantage, a popular daily newsletter about the great digital transformation of business, entertainment and society — and how to invest in it. Click here for a free two-week trial.)
Apple ((AAPL) –Get Report) managers during an afternoon presentation introduced M1, the first desktop processor designed in house. If corporate claims pan out it is a watershed achievement in both performance and efficiency.
M1 is also the beginning of the end for companies like Intel.
Context is important. Most of the world’s computers run on Intel architecture. Its X86 silicon powers supercomputers, data centers, workstations and personal computers of all sorts. For many of those applications Intel is still the leading supplier chips. It’s a good business that has spawned a large ecosystem of suppliers and software developers.
In June, Apple promised to begin developing its own chips for Macs. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company could have stuck with the X86 architecture but managers chose a different route. New Macs, they said, would bring a quantum leap in processing power and efficiency. They would also run software applications native to iPhones and iPads.
The M1 is built on the same ARM Holdings platform that powers those mobile devices, with one important design choice. Intel-based Macs have separate chips for central processing unit, input/out control, security and memory. With M1, Apple chip designers decided to bring all of those functions onto a single chip, leading to tighter integration and power efficiency.
These “system on chip” designs are not new. Apple’s proprietary SoCs have long been the standard in mobile chip design. The company’s design prowess is the reason iPhones perform much better in benchmarks than competitor SoCs from Qualcomm ((QCOM) –Get Report ) and Samsung.
The quantum leap with M1 is it’s not really a mobile chip. While it sips power like the processors in iPhones, it is also a powerhouse built from the ground up to deliver…