September 26, 2020

WWDC 2020: Apple, ARM, together in Macs at last, plus more tech news today

Reports are that Apple is finally announcing a switch to Arm-based CPUs at WWDC, and more tech news you need to know today.

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Wednesday, June 10. 

1. IBM abandons facial recognition tech, and more

MacBook Pro keyboard

Back in April, Mark Gurman at Bloomberg strongly suggested Apple is planning to switch to 12-core ARM-based processors by 2021. And, to ensure developers have enough time and understanding of what they need to do, Gurman has a new report out that says Apple will announce the 2021 hardware switch at WWDC 2020, on June 22. Huge!

  • “The company is holding WWDC the week of June 22. Unveiling the initiative, codenamed Kalamata, at the event would give outside developers time to adjust before new Macs roll out in 2021, the people said. Since the hardware transition is still months away, the timing of the announcement could change, they added, while asking not to be identified discussing private plans.
  • “The new processors will be based on the same technology used in Apple-designed iPhone and iPad chips. However, future Macs will still run the macOS operating system rather than the iOS software on mobile devices from the company.â€�

WWDC 2020! June 22!

  • That’s very soon, and if accurate, makes the (virtual) WWDC 2020 one of the most exciting in years.
  • What will matter to developers is what Apple expects them to do. Rewiring codebases for ARM processors will take time, and the last major change from 32-bit apps to 64-bit apps already caused app problems: macOS Catalina broke loads of apps, despite years of warnings.
  • Hardware manufacturers will also need to develop hardware support and drivers for ARM-based computers, which may see a raft of problems as older hardware is deemed too old/bothersome/expensive to support.
  • There’s some hope that Apple will provide emulation, or a software layer between x86 apps running on all current MacBooks built on Intel processors and x86 instruction sets, and the new ARM-apps.
  • We saw this already when Microsoft unveiled the Surface Pro X, running on an ARM processor, with native apps running great, and apps running on emulation not so well.
  • In short, Windows on ARM is not great, but it doesn’t feel like Microsoft really put the entire company behind it, like Apple is likely to have to do for a successful switch.

Simplifying:

  • Last time we talked about this I had a few emails looking for more details about what it actually means. It means tighter Apple control over its computers, across all Macs.
  • And it means there’s going to be some significant upheaval as newer Macs get more attention than older Macs.
  • It doesn’t mean don’t buy a computer you need right now. And, likely, the first-generation of ARM-Macs from Apple, by all accounts ready in 2021, might not quite be worth upgrading to as bugs are ironed out. Apple’s software even on iPhone has bugs and issues.
  • But it does mean you may have less support for a device running software right now.
  • That’s because current MacBooks, even ones in 2020, are based on an x86 CPU, built by Intel. It’s the same type of CPU in just about every Windows PC and laptop as well, and AMD CPUs are also x86.
  • Apple has about 10% of the PC market, per Bloomberg, but tends to skew towards professionals and creatives due to high-end costs, design and experience preferences, people who’ve sworn off Windows, plus Apple’s ecosystem reasoning.
  • Desktop software, like Photoshop, is built for, optimized, and runs on x86.
  • And to put it simply, ARM processors use ARM instruction sets, and legacy apps can’t run unless emulation is used. But running software under emulation, generally, is an inferior experience because extra processing is needed at every step, slowing things down, or worse, breaking, due to bugs and exception errors.

Why:

  • Although the platform shift sounds complicated, it makes sense when you realize the vast majority of smartphones and tablets, including iPhones and iPads, run on ARM-based CPUs from Intel or AMD.
  • Apple, you may have realized already, loves to have more granular control over its ecosystem and platform.
  • Its own chips (which, at the hardware level, should cost less to make and integrate) brings all of Apple’s products onto one common platform, especially as Apple has seen, by latest reports, “sizable improvementsâ€� over Intel in terms of performance.
  • Once you start talking about when Apple did this already from PowerPC to Intel back in 2005, there’s depth to this conversation. John Gruber at Daring Fireball has a longer, more technical look at the history and likely shift. For more depth to emulation problems, ex-Windows chief Steven Sinofsky has a long twitter thread of insights and opinions, having experienced a similar transition to ARM as well.
  • Will Intel be fine if it’s losing 10% of the PC market?
  • Will the general public and consumers be better off?

One more Apple rumor/leak via Sonny Dickson: “New iMac incoming at WWDC� (Twitter)


2. Despite disappointing Pixel 4, 2019 was Google’s best year for phone sales yet. Model-by-model data wasn’t released, but surely the Pixel 3a and 3a XL did volumes? (Android Authority).


3. Huawei P40 Pro Plus reviews are out: True innovation in a stunted ecosystem, or as David’s video is titled, ‘unfortunately fantastic’. On sale June 25, just without Google (Android Authority).


4. Report: Chinese-made OLEDs fail Samsung’s quality tests for Galaxy S30. In some universe, Samsung not using its own Samsung Display production makes sense (Android Authority).


5. Razer Kishi review: The ultimate Switch-style smartphone controller, well worth the price tag if you mobile game (Android Authority).


6. Quibi adds Chromecast support for watching shows on a big screen (The Verge).


7. 5nm fab process is great and all but now TSMC is working on 3nm: volume production by 2022 (DigiTimes).


8. Zynn is the next hot new video app topping charts. Out of China, it is paying people to download the app, join, and refer their friends for cash. It’s also full of stolen content (Wired).


9. Itch.io offers 700 indie games in a pay-what-you-want racial justice bundle (itch.io).


10. SpaceX’s next Starlink launch will help improve satellite imagery of the Earth (Engadget).


11. This story has many bad and worsening layers: Microsoft’s robot editor confuses mixed-race Little Mix singers on MSN, which is a problem especially as AI bias increasingly defines people’s lives, as discussed yesterday. But it’s so much worse because the robot is automatically publishing stories about its mistake: “the remaining human staff have been told to stay alert and delete a version of this article if the robot decides it is of interest and automatically publishes it on MSN.com. They have also been warned that even if they delete it, the robot editor may overrule them…�  (The Guardian). And the robot editor has been doing exactly that! (Twitter).


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