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On a related note, if Apple does switch to ARM chips for their laptops, that will make mainstream ARM server-side development more viable than any cross-platform story ever can. Or kill the Mac desktop. One or the other :)

It will most likely kill apple laptops as a developer platform.

Unless you are deeply disconnected from the hardware, CPU architecture does matter. Most developers using macbooks I know have VMs for either Windows or Linux works.

It might be conceivable to use the ARM port of <Insert your Linux distribution here>, or the ARM version of Windows 10. But it would also require a good desktop virtualization solution for ARM. If Apple release its own solution or creates a partnership with let's say VMWare to release something at the same time an ARM macbook comes out, it might work, but barely, and I'm not sure if developers are at the top of Apple's priority list. In the end, with the Linux subsystem in Windows, choosing Windows as a development platform might make more sense.

As a side note, if Apple switches to ARM, I foresee a lot of cringing. The switch from ppc to intel was annoying for a lot of Apple users at the time, but there were a lot of goodies (bootcamp, better autonomy, better performance, VMs) that kind of made it up for it, basically, nothing was lost in term of possibilities, a few were actually gained, and only the transition was a bit painful. With a switch to ARM, you may gain a little in term of autonomy, but with macbook pro already at +8 hours (~a work day), not sure it's a game changer, at best you will stay the same in term of performance, and you will lose in compatibility with other OSes.

I think kill is too strong. Certainly some developers will need to be on an Intel chip, but not all. How many developers use their laptops as a dumb SSH terminal? While some C extensions to scripting languages will need some love, the majority of major interpreted or VM driven languages work already.

My feeling is it will be net zero as far as ARM servers are concerned until the hardware is made and is viable. Perhaps Apple ARM laptops will help with marketing ARM as a viable option, but we already develop on OS X in order to deploy to Linux without any great calling for OS X servers.

Cloud server “hardware” has also drifted from what you see in real hardware. There are numerous times in my career I’ve had to explain to deveopers of all experience levels that their SSD is several orders of magnitude faster than the tiny EBS volume they’re reading from and writing to.

In short, I think architecture mismatch just isn’t that important to most Web App oriented companies. My girlfriend works at a travel industry giant and they’re at the opposite end, putting IBM mainframes to good use. They don’t have much use for Macs and most of their developers seem to be on Windows instead of anything resembling what they’re deploying on. For the segment of our industry that does care, they’ll have options and will choose them regardless of what Apple, Google, and Microsoft do with ARM, Intel, Power, MIPS and other architectures.

Maybe it would be interesting to look at the past.

Was the PowerBook as heavily used as a developer laptop as the MacBook is today?

(or Power Mac vs desktop PC as desktops were more common at the time).

I was not in the industry at the time (2000 - 2006) so I don't know the answer.

While the Intel switched helped, at least I thought it was great, the big deal was that OS X was a tremendously usable Unix on amazing laptop hardware.

I'm not sure the architecture mattered as much as that did.

Agreed. I switched when there were still G4 PPC laptops just because OS X was a usable Unix with good hardware. The switch to Intel was good, but it wasn’t because I struggled with the architecture. It was for the more powerful CPUs and battery life.

Sorry, but in Windows, Mac and Linux x86 docker is a huge part of my workflow... I'm having enough trouble guiding people out of windows only as it stands, ARM is too big a pill to swallow in teh near future. There's still enough bad parts in scripting environments at the edges (I'm a heavy node user, scss and sqlite being a big two touch points).

I can imagine a neat divide here between “MacBook” (based on ARM, 15 hour battery life) and MacBook Pro (based on Intel i7, 6 hour battery life, optimised for VMs).

Maybe WOA will be a thing then too....

I consider myself a pretty average Mac user, and I've already been turned off by the last couple rounds of Macs that Apple has shipped. Messing up the one remaining upside, x86 compatibility, would be be the straw that broke the camel's back. They still only have single digit market share in desktop computing, this could be the death blow for their platform.

I would expect them to pursue a dual processor strategy first. The bulk of the OS can run on ARM and power apps can remain on x86.

Sounds about right. They actually already have this setup, the T2 chip in recent macs contains an arm processor which handles some tasks like disk encryption. It could be possible that future OSX versions will leverage that processor for more general purposes.

I can't imagine that's good for battery life.

Or price.

But what if the switch to arm comes with a lot more battery life and great performance?

Not all Mac users are devs.

I wouldn't imagine you'd get a lot of performance boost from the change. You'll see battery life but that assumes they aren't looking to run a crazy number of cores to make it compete with the x86. And they only way that massive core counts help is if the software is designed to utilize them correctly.

Its not that all users are devs. Its that all devs might not be able to make their software work well under that environment.

Wow, I have five hundred cores, now it’s no longer a big deal that (insert cpu-hogging Electron app) is constantly maxing out four of them!

Current crop of Apple A chips runs circles around almost all Intel chips which they put in the laptops at a fraction of TDP.

I think you will see a lot of performance boost after switching to ARM. If they start on the "low end" then a macbook will be practically on par with a mbp. This might not be useful at first for native development, but I am quite sure that macOS, iOS and web development will be very much possible on these machines - the three domains that Apple cares most about.

Knowing Apple, they would just go for the 'even lighter' approach, and insert a battery half the size of the current-ones...

A battery lifetime of 8 or 12 hours is plenty, and going beyond that isn't that much of a marketable strategy, unless it has to become 24h+ or something. A lower weight approach however would also mean a lower BOM for Apple, and more profit, while being able to shout "1/3rd lighter!" - and that's an easy sell :)

>And they only way that massive core counts help is if the software is designed to utilize them correctly.

That's for servers and scientific software (and perhaps 3D and such).

For regular devs the massive core count helps even with non optimized apps, because unlike the above use cases, we run lots of apps at the same time (and each can have its core).

I'm on a 2013 retina, because nothing in the meantime offered incentive to switch. I'm wondering how a switch to ARM would affect that.

They can make ultra slim butterfly keyboard that feels like Cement when you type on it

When that happens we’ll also see a big push to add ARM support to all the native nodejs modules that are out there. (And I assume Ruby, Python, Go, etc packages).

Linus’s prediction is based on the premise that everyone will continue to use x86 for development. But that’s probably not going to be the case for long. Multiple sources have leaked the rumour that Apple will release an arm MacBook next year. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft has an arm surface book in the wings too.

[1] https://www.macrumors.com/2019/02/21/apple-custom-arm-based-...

Developers don't develop on Surface books, and Macbooks are in low percentages.

The majority of people in the world writing code are using x86 PCs and Microsoft and Apple aren't about to change that with any *Book.

Linus' premise that everyone will continue to use x86 for development is because they will.

There's no incentive for companies or individuals to go switch out all of that x86 hardware sitting on desks and in racks with ARM alternatives which will offer them lower performance than their already slightly aged hardware at initially higher costs.

I can forsee _some_ interest in ARM cloud, and I don't think it'll be the issue Linus claims at higher-than-systems-level, but I absolutely would bet on x86 going nowhere in the human-software interface space in the foreseeable future.

> Macbooks are in low percentages

For some reason Macbooks seem disproportionately represented amongst web developers. All the agencies I know in Sydney and Melbourne are full of macbooks.

> There's no incentive for companies or individuals to go switch out all of that x86 hardware sitting on desks and in racks with ARM alternatives which will offer them lower performance than their already slightly aged hardware at initially higher costs.

Uh, why are you assuming ARM laptops will have lower performance and a higher cost compared to x86 equivalents? The ARM CPU in the iPad pro already outperforms the high end intel chips in macbook pros in some tests. And how long do you think Apple will continue to sell intel-based macbooks once they have ARM laptops on the market? Maybe they'll keep selling intel laptops for a year or two, but I doubt they'll keep refreshing them when new intel processors come out. When Apple moved from powerpc to intel they didn't keep releasing new powerpc based laptops.

Once web development shops start buying laptops with ARM chips, it will be a huge hassle if random nodejs modules don't build & work on ARM. At this point I expect most compatibility issues will be fixed, and that will in turn make deploying nodejs apps on arm a more reasonable choice.

Obviously we'll see, and this is all speculation for all of us. But I think its a reasonable path for ARM chips to invade the desktop.

I'm not assuming per-se, im guestimating, basing it on my understand of x86 and ARM. I graduated in Electronic Engineering from a university department who's alumni include Sir Robin Saxby, they pushed ARM hard, and I have a fairly good understanding of where it's at architecturally compared to x86.

Apple have 100% control over every part of their hardware and software from the get go, so it's inevitable they perform excellently on that hardware; they can optimise their code to death, and increment the hardware where it can be improved upon.

Web developers make up a fairly small proportion of the developers I've ever worked with, I have worked for software houses where web just isn't a thing for us other than for our own marketing. None of these people run Mac's, they all run PCs, and these PCs don't have the same control in their hardware/software process that will bring about the kind of "excellent" result you see from an iPad. They'll be relying on Microsoft to get Windows optimised, but Microsoft will be working with dozens, even hundreds of partners, Apple works with one, itself.

I suspect, also that they'll be more expensive because of all the new development the manufacturers have to put into releasing these new ARM laptops. Microsoft will have to put extra work into Windows, which will cost money, and finally those of us that run Linux will end up with something that hasn't had the benefit of the decades of x86 development on the desktop has had, thus, worse performance, at least in the beginning.

I could imagine a laptop equivalent of big.LITTLE, where you have x86 cores for the real grunt work, and ARM cores for power saving, bit I don't see pure ARM in the workstation space.

It'll be an interesting time, but based on my own experience, I'm betting on Linus with this one and I don't see myself or my colleagues or my workplace moving to ARM anywhere outside of non-laptop-portables any time soon.

Agreed, at the last 5 software companies I've worked at, the only people without Macs were the sales people.

Yeah, well, I live in one of the ex-USSR countries. And guess what - there are no Macs here whatsoever. I'd suspect that x86 is the prevalent platform in China and India, the dominant players in the outsourcing markets. So, no, most of development is done on Intel machines.

This is true, but a huge part of that is VMs with linux or windows, and for me x86 docker workflows that go to x86 servers. It'll be years for any real transition imho.

It took 4 years of concerted effort to get most node things working right in windows.

If that happens, a lot of low level programming will be done ARM-first. A lot of Swift and Objective-C code will be built, tested and run primarily on ARM.

I don’t think that it would kill desktop, but I’m sure that unless ARM will be much faster, developers will use x86 macs for a long time.

Apple's latest iPad processors are competitive with low-end laptop x86 processors. And they have a much stricter power budget than a laptop. If Apple wants to go this route, then they probably have the capability to build the chips to support it.

The part you're discounting is just how resource intensive desktop apps are and how much optimization goes into iOS apps.

To really see the benefit of changing they would need to add a lot of cores, and then cross their fingers that 3rd party app developers know how to do true multi-core development.

I don't know about that A-series chips are competive with low-end intel in single-threaded performance. And they keep getting faster each year.

If that team were to design a bigger core aimed at laptops, then I wouldn't be surprised if they could make it competitive.

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