Irrelevant Hacks

Irrelevant musings of a hack blogger

Apple and ARM – Part 4

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So, based off of my last post, professionals may have a hard time working around the limitations of the new ARM based Macs. But what about your average user and their family, will they notice? The truth in this, is probably not.

Since the release of the M1 and M1Pro we’ve seen good performance and the computers actually being competitive regarding equivalent x86 models. With Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation software, the migration isn’t that painful for average users. Most apps work fine and don’t get a huge slow down. And for browsing, general productivity work, the average user won’t even notice the difference.

Gaming though may be another matter entirely. Given that Steam is ignoring the Linux and Mac Platforms a bit (though this may get better with the Steam Deck), new games aren’t as optimized or easily distributed for the Apple ARM platform yet. There’s been work with Unreal Engine and Unity to implement Apple ARM compatibility for desktops, even though they have such compatibility for iOS for a while now. So it may just be a matter of time.

But personally, I think that in order to get better support for the platform, we’re going to have to see an increased user base, not just for Apple’s M series of processors, but also computers running Windows 11 for ARM (such as the Surface line of products from Microsoft). At the moment, the supply chain issues we’re seeing with Covid and in general, may be limiting the creation of new ARM based silicon from other manufacturers. So companies are more willing to bet on the sure and ever-present x86 CPUs, rather than try for a new platform. Add in ARM’s sale to Nvidia being under question and possibly dead, the future of the platform is also murky regarding IP and licensing.

I don’t think that ARM on the desktop is dead, but outside of Apple, there’s a lull in its implementation. It might take another year or two before things start moving in that direction, in the mean time, Apple will still be improving their products and also have a ton of reserved use of TSMC’s fabs. So there’s very much the chance that ARM on Windows might be seen as worse than ARM on Mac, due to performance differences between CPUs. As a consequence, it might actually be of help to both Apple and Microsoft if a version of Bootcamp comes along that supports Windows 11 on ARM. It could help speed the adoption of ARM for the rest of the market, and break Intel’s almost monopoly on the home computer market.

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