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  • Apple Will Take A Long Time To Make A Full Switch To ARM... Or Intel [View article]
    "Remember also that Apple would likely make to switch only once ARM has a HEAVY upperhand."

    Apple licenses the ARMv8 ISA but the ARMv8 CPU cores like Cyclone (A7), Typhoon (A8/A8X) and Twister (A9/A9X) are custom designs by Apple. These cores are already competitive with Intel Skylake in IPC and execution resources. So Apple don't need to wait for ARM to have any upperhand. Apple will do it when they have the Mac OS and first party Mac apps ported to ARMv8. Apple will also have third party developers ready with the ported versions of the most important softwares. I think 2017 is a realistic timeframe for Apple to transition to ARMv8. Anyway time will tell and we can hold on to our respective views till then.
    Oct 3, 2015. 06:15 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple Will Take A Long Time To Make A Full Switch To ARM... Or Intel [View article]
    I am a firm believer that x86 dominance of the computing market is going to end. Its a matter of time. ARMv8 will be a legitimate alternative to x86 in all segments of market. We will see ARMv8 make a big impact starting in servers from 2017 when 16/14nm FINFET based ARMv8 server chips launch. ARMv8 will do to x86 what x86 did to RISC servers. x86 used the volume economics of PC (desktop/notebook) to beat the RISC/UNIX server guys. ARM will do the same to x86. ARM got its feet into the computing market through mobile but it will eventually compete in all areas - desktop, notebook, workstation and server.

    btw ARM ecosystem will gain because the foundries are now fully capable of keeping the pace on process nodes with Intel. TSMC and Samsung have closed the gap in a big way and their pace is increasing further. These foundries built their foundations on mobile business but they will stabilize their future on desktop, notebook and server revenues. Intel has no business having a monopoly in any market segment and I am a firm believer that the free market will eventually not allow any monopoly to sustain especially when there are alternatives. ARM ecosystem is that alternative to the x86 monopoly. In the long run x86 and ARM will coexist in a very healthy manner and ARM will provide good competition in all computing segments.
    Oct 3, 2015. 04:57 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple Will Take A Long Time To Make A Full Switch To ARM... Or Intel [View article]
    First of all I said that Apple is capable of scaling their custom ARMv8 cores to drive their entire product stack. I still maintain that it is possible. There are generally 2 ways of designing a core
    1. High performance design - Uses high performance libraries and are tuned for High frequency and require higher voltages. They are less efficient at low frequencies and are more efficient at high frequencies compared to high density libraries.
    2. High density low power design - Uses high density libraries and are tuned for lower frequencies and require lower voltages. They are more efficient at lower frequencies and less efificient at high frequencies compared to high performance libraries.

    AMD Carrizo is a good example of a SoC which uses High density libraries to achieve better efficiency at its design point of 15W than compared to if it were to use the high performance libraries.

    The above image shows how High density design is less efficient once the 25w per core pair (module) TDP range is hit.

    Similarly Apple can have two core designs -
    1. High frequency design using high performance libraries tuned for maximum frequency and performance and best efficiency at high TDP. This version can power iMac, MacBook Pro and Mac Pro.
    2. Low power design using High density libraries tuned for lower power and maximum efficiency at low TDP. This version can power iPhone and iPad.

    btw Geekbench is the only cross platform benchmark available to compare different CPU architectures performance across ISA and OS. anandtech mentioned they are going to have SPEC CPU2000 tests in their full review of iPhone 6S which I am looking forward to. I agree standardized tests like SPEC CPU 2006 are better representative of the CPU core performance and I am looking forward to see how Core m7 6Y75 and A9/A9X fare against each other.

    btw Apple's motivation in moving to a single ISA is about multiple advantages. Apple would be able to add custom hardware / accelerators to accelerate certain workloads. Another example would be new user interfaces and integration of required custom silicon to provide a good experience Eg: Natural user interfaces like Voice and Gesture recognition might require custom silicon to provide the best possible experience. Another excellent example would be Apple using Imagination Power VR GPU with High Bandwidth Memory 2 (HBM2) and providing disruptive performance and efficiency and new form factors possible due to HBM2. Eg: A 300 sq mm SoC with 16 GB HBM2 which powers the Mac Book Pro and iMac. Apple could eliminate system memory and bring in radical improvements to board size, efficiency and form factor.

    The history of semiconductors is all about integration. There was a time when everything was a separate device on a add-on card. Video cards, sound cards, Network and I/O cards, chipset. We have seen all of these go away. The only thing left is memory and the future is all about 2.5D/3D stacked memory. Apple is well on its way to a single ISA and with 2.5D/3D memory stacking will provide disruptive performance, efficiency and innovative form factors in the near future. I foresee Apple moving to ARMv8 across their product stack by 2017.
    Oct 3, 2015. 01:33 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple : The Road To An ARMv8-A Based Product Stack And Higher Growth [View article]
    Are you following the y-o-y trends because that matters a lot. the iPad is shrinking both in revenue and units. the iPad Pro is an effort by Apple to broaden the market for its tablets and its A-series SoCs. As for integrated graphics the minute Apple designs its own Mac SoCs the prospect of a 300 sq mm SoC with Imagination's GPU IP and HBM2 looms large. I think Apple will choose 2017 for the transition of Mac SoCs to ARMv8-A. The performance, power efficiency and form factor benefits will be mind blowing. For iMacs and Macbook Pros I think such a design would be quite disruptive in terms of performance. For Mac Pros its up to Apple to choose whether a large SoC makes sense or to have a discrete CPU and discrete GPU as they have vastly more TDP and advanced cooling solutions.
    Sep 29, 2015. 12:14 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple : The Road To An ARMv8-A Based Product Stack And Higher Growth [View article]

    "All comes to volume and cost at the end of the day. iPhone volume is ~300m devices per year, Mac ~20m per year. Mac Pro having maybe 0.5m per year. So while Intel list price for 12 core Xeon is 2170$ and Apple maybe pays 500$ per chip and cost of chip being ~40$. So total Mac Pro CPU cost is 250m$ and cost 20m$. Design cost are significant, saving ~100m$ in Mac Pro chips is not worth it, it does not have enough volume."

    The Mac is a significantly larger business than iPad today and is growing at 9% y-o-y in terms of units and revenue. In fact in the last quarter Mac revenue is 1/3rd larger than iPad while last year it was smaller. Mac ASPs are also much higher. So if Apple can design a separate A8X and A9X for iPads then the Mac is a much more deserving candidate for its own chips.

    "Scalable design to 18 cores and needed PC interfaces and work around these would probably take as much effort as current A chip design, bigger cost benefits are in mobile computing with iPhone/iPad so replace of Intel does not really make sense for Apple unless volume of Mac line would grow significantly. "

    Apple has a very good chance to improve market share of Mac Pro by fine tuning its SoCs for very high performance and including even custom accelerators. Particularly I think Apple could go for16c/32t in their Mac Pro by having SMT in their custom ARMv8-A core. The GPU could be a high performance Imagination GPU with HBM2. I see a Apple high performance SoC for Mac Pro with HBM2 possible in 2017. Apple is a company which has no paucity for resources. Apple is well poised to be a powerhouse in high performance chip design.
    Sep 28, 2015. 08:52 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple : The Road To An ARMv8-A Based Product Stack And Higher Growth [View article]
    I expect that Apple will move to an ARMv8-A iPhone/iPad/Mac lineup in 2016 or 2017. Apple has shown that they are very good at designing well integrated hardware and software. I think the more important reason is Intel is becoming more interested in protecting its gross margins. We are stuck with 4 cores and 8 threads right from the Sandy bridge generation in notebooks. Apple could design 6 core / 12 thread based SoCs for Macbook Pro and iMacs and target a 35-55w TDP. For MacPro I think Apple could go 16 core / 32 thread and provide a massive boost over Intel based PC workstations which are stuck with 8 core /16 thread chips. The other reason is Apple could go for very high performance graphics with HBM2 by 2017 for their Macbook Pro and iMacs. Since Apple licenses Imagination graphics IP and owns 10% of Imagination Technologies it needs to control the design of their Mac SoCs to deliver huge increases in CPU and GPU performance. Depending on Intel for those improvements is a bad idea given the fact that Apple are very aggressive with their performance goals for the iPhone and iPad. The Mac would see such relentless pace of improvement if Apple designed the Mac SoC. Moreover HBM2 is disruptive and we will see the SoCs become extremely powerful and really provide console class gaming. Apple needs to take ownership of the Mac hardware and blaze a performance trail as they have been doing for iPhone and iPad.
    Sep 28, 2015. 02:36 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple : The Road To An ARMv8-A Based Product Stack And Higher Growth [View article]

    "I don't understand how any notion of a move by Apple to ARM for the Mac by comparing the top of the line A series to basically the lower end of x86 is confusing. How many actual Apple models could make the move? From a units shipped standpoint how many Macs by unit volume could make the switch?"

    bit i think you do not understand the basics of CPU core frequency and voltage relationship. The Skylake core can run at a range of frequencies and voltages. The higher the frequency the higher the voltage and thus higher the power. You see the Skylake core being used in tablets with 4.5W TDP and in ultrathins with 15W TDP and notebooks with 15W TDP and high end unlocked desktop chips with 91w TDP and finally Xeon chips with 130w TDP. The number of cores, the frequency at which they run and the voltage required to drive that frequency determine the TDP of the chip.

    Similarly I am saying Apple could design a high performance version of their custom ARMv8-A core using high performance libraries and tuned for high frequencies and high performance at the cost of higher voltage and thus higher power. The low power version could be designed using high density libraries which are optimized for low power and lower frequencies / voltages.

    To give you an example Carrizo APU with Excavator core uses High density libraries and is optimized for 15W TDP. The Kaveri APU uses high performance libraries and can run at 4+ Ghz clocks. Carrizo is more efficient than Kaveri at < 3 Ghz speeds but less efficient at > 3 Ghz speeds.

    We can see that Carrizo is better in efficiency and can run at higher normalized frequency till 20w per module but above that Kaveri is more efficient and thus the better choice.
    Sep 28, 2015. 02:13 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple : The Road To An ARMv8-A Based Product Stack And Higher Growth [View article]

    "How do you know how well the Apple cores can scale? I saw a comment somewhere else that point out that they were already operating at similar voltages and would be difficult to scale from a frequency perspective. I have also seen estimates that the A9X TDP is significantly higher than the 4.5W of the Skylake core M."

    What do you mean by similar voltage. Do you know what range of voltages / speeds the Core M runs at ? You have no basis for comparison. btw where have you seen about A9X TDP estimates. Please share with us if you have the information.

    Neither you nor me know what the TDP of A9X is and whether its higher than Skylake Core M which has a 4.5W TDP. The fact is Apple is not using active cooling for iPad Pro as is used in the Surface Pro 3 which uses 15w core i3 and core i5 chips. For passive cooling the 5W TDP is the norm.

    "Given how hard it has been for Intel to reduce its high power designs to be come low power designs, is it really that easy for Apple to suddenly move to higher power designs ? "

    Custom CPU core design is damn hard. It does not matter if its Cyclone or Skylake. What i am saying is Apple can design a high performance version of Apple's custom ARMv8-A core. The difference could be that the high performance core is developed using high performance libraries and is tuned for higher performance at the cost of higher power while the low power version is developed using high density libraries and tuned for low power and lower frequencies.
    Sep 28, 2015. 01:52 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple: Finding iPad's Future [View article]
    Apple needs to come out with a 12-13 inch iPad Pro which goes right after Intel's 2-in-1s and convertibles. Apple needs to give atleast a couple of options - a fixed ultrathin design with keyboard and trackpad which is even better than the new 12 inch Macbook using Core M and another option is a tablet with a detachable keyboard/trackpad option. This would allow Apple to go after all kinds of productivity users - those who want a full featured notebook for productivity and those who want a 2-in-1 device (tablet + notebook). I am sure Apple has these products ready for the next cycle. I think Apple wanted to wait for 16/14nm FINFET node as it wanted a SoC which competes very well against Core M both in performance and power efficiency. Apple's A9X is going to be the beginning of Intel's nightmares in notebook/mobile computing.
    Aug 14, 2015. 12:57 AM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Apple: Finding iPad's Future [View article]
    What Apple needs is better software to exploit the tremendously powerful A8X in the iPad Air 2 and upcoming A9X chips in the upcoming iPad Air 3. By better software i mean more content creation apps and a better iOS tuned for content creation and productivity. Multitasking is getting introduced with iOS 9 so thats a good start. By going after content creation and productivity Apple's Ax SOCs are now directly going to compete against Intel's Core M chips used in tablets. I am very confident Apple can compete and maybe even beat Intel with their SOCs. The A9X is going to be a powerhouse SOC with 4 of the latest Enhanced Cyclone CPU cores and the latest Imagination graphics based GPU (maybe quad cluster or higher). Combined with LPDDR4 and massive bandiwdth this chip is going to be extremely competitive against Core M. I am looking out for A9X and Skylake Core M comparisons later this year. I believe Intel will be conservative and stick to < 100 sq mm (for Core M) while Apple will go all out and get close to even 150 sq mm. Apple needs to take the fight to Intel and basically use the A9X in tablets, 2-in-1s and convertibles. They have the hardware. They need to execute and get the software and apps and beat Wintel at their own game. I am confident Apple can do it.
    Aug 13, 2015. 09:22 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • How Apple Will Foil Intel's Mobile Ambitions [View article]
    TSMC has clearly stated that when they start ramping volume production that they expect the majority of their customer products to be made at 16FF+. We will see when the products release what node they are made at. I would not be surprised to see a 16FF+ mobile SOC or GPU by late 2015 or early 2016.
    Nov 6, 2014. 09:01 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • How Apple Will Foil Intel's Mobile Ambitions [View article]
    According to TSMC their 16FF/16FF+ chips will be in customer products by Q4 2015 (high single digit of Q4 2015 wafer revenue at 16FF/16FF+ , similar to Q3 2014 which had 9% of wafer revenue at 20nm). These 16FF/16FF+ products will reach retail most probably in Dec 2015 or Jan 2016. So you see according to this timeline the iPhone 6S might not get 16FF given its yearly Sep launch, but you are likely to see mobile chips from other companies and maybe even GPU chips (Nvidia might skip 20nm and go straight to 16FF / 16FF+) make it to 16FF/16FF+ in a year's time.
    Nov 5, 2014. 07:54 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • How Apple Will Foil Intel's Mobile Ambitions [View article]

    "Intel either ships product to everybody who wants it or announces 3 quarter delays (and get hammered by everybody for it)."

    Oh is that the reason why Intel has not launched notebook and desktop 14nm Core processors in Q4 2014. 14nm notebook chips looks like late Q1 2015 and desktop is now slated for late Q2 or early Q3 2015. The trickle of parts called Intel Core M is a joke and in fact the wafer volume of TSMC 20nm will be more than Intel 14nm in 2014. Apple's A8 chip is 89 sq mm (compared to Core M at 82 sq mm) and A8X is significantly larger (50% more transistors than A8) and given the sales of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus its clear that Apple is selling whatever they can produce. btw the volume of iPhone chips is no small number.

    Q1 2013 earnings call

    In Apr 2013 TSMC confirmed that they had entered 20nm risk production. read page 4

    "A few comments on 20 nanometers and 16 nanometers FinFET. On 20 nanometers risk production has started in the first quarter, that is last quarter.Engagements with the customers are on schedule, have scheduled 20 product tape-outs for this year from multiple customers. Many of these tape-outs will drive high production volume. And yield progress on 20-nanometer is on track"

    Q2 2014 earnings call

    read page 5
    "We started 20 SoC production in January this year and by fourth quarter of this year, the 20 SoC will account for 20% of the quarterly revenue -- wafer revenue. And for the whole year of 2014 we expect 20 SoC will be about 10% of our total wafer revenue of the year of 2014, of course"

    Q3 2014 earnings call

    page 3

    "By technology, after two years of meticulous preparation we began volume shipments of 20-nanometer wafers. The revenue contribution went
    up from 0% to 9% of the third quarter wafer revenue. This is the fastest and the most successful ramp for a new technology in TSMC's history"

    page 5

    "Next, I'll talk about the 16-nanometer ramp and competitive status. In 16-nanometer, we have two versions, 16 FinFET and the 16 FinFET Plus.
    FinFET Plus has better performance and has been adopted by most of our customers. 16 FinFET we began the risk production in November last year and since then have passed all the reliability qual early this year. For the FinFET Plus, we also passed the first stage of the qualification on October 7 and since then entered the risk production. The full qualification, including the technology and product qual, is expected to be completed next month. So right now we have more than 1,000 engineers working on ramp up for the FinFET Plus. On the yield learning side, the progress is much better than our original plan. This is because the 16-nanometer uses similar process to 20 SOC, except for the transistor. And since 20 SOC has been in mass production with a good yield, our 16 FinFET can leverage the yield learning from 20 SOC and enjoy a good and smooth progress. So we are happy to say that 16-nanometer has achieved the best technology maturity at the same corresponding stage as compared to all TSMC's previous nodes."

    So roughly 1 year from start of risk production to start of volume production for 20nm and around 6 months to start high volume shipments. The volume ramp in H1 2014 was slow as TSMC worked its way to higher yields and then it was a steep ramp in Q3 2014. Q4 2014 20nm wafer revenue is expected to be >= 20% of total revenue.

    read page 17, 18 of Q3 2014 earnings call
    So according to TSMC 16 FINFET production ramp starts in late Q2 2015 with 1.5 quarter lead times (more processing steps than 20SOC) and will contribute to high single digit of revenue (7 - 9%) in Q4 2015.
    Nov 1, 2014. 01:33 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • How Apple Will Foil Intel's Mobile Ambitions [View article]
    cinci is a troll. He was vehemently arguing that TSMC 20nm will never happen in 2014. But that has happened and the iPhone 6 is here and manufactured at TSMC 20nm. so you can bet against TSMC while I am bullish that they will meet their timelines. nothing more to discuss.
    Oct 31, 2014. 08:27 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • How Apple Will Foil Intel's Mobile Ambitions [View article]
    Ultratech could be referring to Samsung but TSMC is proceeding well with the risk production of FINFET. TSMC has demonstrated working silicon with partners like HiSilicon and ARM.

    TSMC also stated in their Q3 earnings conference call that they expect to pull in 16 FINFET volume production ramp to late Q2 2015. The lead times are 1.5 quarters as 16 FINFET has more processing steps. They also stated high single digit % of wafer revenue at 16 FINFET in Q4 2015. In fact a TSMC customer has already committed a high volume tapeout already. read page 12, 17, 18

    ASML in their Q3 earnings call said 14/16nm FINFET ramp is a 2015 event and not 2016 event.
    Oct 30, 2014. 01:06 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
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