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Apple CPU Gains Grind to a Halt (semianalysis.substack.com)
86 points by vecio 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 44 comments





> In 2019, Nuvia was founded and later acquired by Qualcomm for $1.4B. Apple’s Chief CPU Architect, Gerard Williams, as well as over a 100 other Apple engineers left to join this firm. More recently, SemiAnalysis broke the news about Rivos Inc, a new high performance RISC V startup which includes many senior Apple engineers. The brain drain continues and impacts will be more apparent as time moves on.

Seems very shocking, a recent turn-over of about 100 engineers. I’m gonna assume these were all related to the CPU architecture teams.

Makes one wonder why these people left. Did they feel it was too hard to make progress with ARM? Was pay bad and didn’t Apple want to increase compensation? Perhaps a bad work/life balance?

What was interesting is that Apple was recently looking for a RISC V engineer in a job posting and who knows … perhaps looking for multiple. Would Apple be looking to change architecture to RISC V in the future? Maybe Apple is also worried by a possible acquisition of ARM by Nvidea of course.


> Was pay bad and didn’t Apple want to increase compensation

A frustrating feature of large silicon valley companies is that if you leave the company and come back later you will typically have better compensation than if you had stayed.

I could also imagine that the M1 team felt they weren't adequately rewarded after hitting a huge home run.

Moreover, it's probably the best time to switch jobs, because their market value is highest and at Apple they would just be expected to repeat the same success every year. Not to mention the benefit of gaining equity in a new "startup" which is almost immediately acquired at high valuation.


> A frustrating feature of large silicon valley companies is that if you leave the company and come back later you will typically have better compensation than if you had stayed.

Unfortunately, that's true of almost all large companies. It's one of the dumbest polices out there, but virtually every big corporation does it.


This basically means workers do not have any negotiating power by themselves. They only have negotiating power when they have a competing offer.

Or rather that negotiating power only has any teeth if they know you're serious.

Yup, the first company I worked for even had a name for them “retreads”. The VP of my Org was a former director hired back as a VP. It was a well known path to get a better job.

Maybe I will be a retread one day but the other practices the company does leaves a very sour taste in my mouth.


Aka boomeranging

It's worse than that. Digital design engineers get screwed at almost every company. Basically only Google, and Facebook in their WA offices, are paying digital design engineers the same or better than software engineers categorically. This is despite there existing a global shortage of digital design engineers that is becoming worse every year as graduation rates continue to decline.

Why is this the case? Looking at the posts on Blind, even Google and Facebook seem to pay their hardware engineers a bit less than their software engineers, probably because they know they can lowball them. It doesn't make any sense, unless the global shortage of software engineers is even worse.

> A frustrating feature of large silicon valley companies is that if you leave the company and come back later you will typically have better compensation than if you had stayed.

That’s just not true, especially with stock appreciation. Unless they were grossly underpaid. It might be the case for some L3-L4 but not senior engineers.


No. It's definitely true.

I got my 30% raises per hop by hopping OUT of a company and then back in. Raises were only 3%-8% staying inside.


>Seems very shocking, a recent turn-over of about 100 engineers.

Yes, you know what is more shocking? It is BS.

I mean like for Pete sake, there were more ex Qualcomm / Intel / ARM Engineers ex Apple inside Nuvia. And many from Samsung, AMD, Broadcom, Nvidia.


Aren't there some agreements that it forbids engineers to switch to a company and work on the same problem? I mean, somethink like this: Develop a cool chip with Apple (with all the help they provide), then move to a startup and build a clone, isn't this somehow forbidden? Or is it just to hard to put that into a contract? I mean guess same is somehow true for software developement.

California banning non-competes is a, if not the, primary reason the state is an innovation hotbed: https://www.vox.com/new-money/2017/2/13/14580874/google-self....

It would be good to ban them, totally, nationally: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/biden-issues-executive-...


Wow, that is cool. To be honest I don't see anything wrong with it, at least from a software-dev perspective and it may really widen the know-how and increase wealth. Just as a side note: I would see this a bit more critical if the guys would move to an other country and just take the know-how with them.

Well I mean, I'm certain Apple owns a lot of the design work they put in, so copy-pasting would certainly be illegal.

This is Apple's "Zen+" style generation: a mild refresh when you don't need anything more (and that "more" needs more time to get ready).

> These are performance gains are generally paltry despite a huge increase from 11.8B transistors to 15B.

But all of those billions went into the Neural Engine. Look, Google is doing the same thing with Tensor SoC. Shoving more neural nets into the computational photography pipeline is priority number one for the smartphone giants because better camera systems are what likely drives a lot of new smartphone sales.


Precisely. I watched the live event, and like 80% of their time on the iPhone 13 range was spent on the new camera features (cinematic mode, sensor shift stabilization, native ProRes support, etc.)

They're reaching a point of seriously competing with entry level DSLR and mirrorless offerings for beginner filmmakers.


> We believe Apple had to delay the next generation CPU core due to all the personnel turnover Apple has been experiencing

I believe Apple has delayed new architecture for CPU simply because the actual one is powerful enough and they (correctly) want to take advantage of it in terms of large scale (and due to chip shortage/fabs sufferer).

The new iPhone 13 Pro is very interesting but one thing leave me “meh”: the weight! Again has increased from the already quite heavy 12 Pro:

iPhone 12 Pro: 189 grams / iPhone 13 Pro: 204 grams

Not much but I’m sure we will feel the difference, like from 12 to 12 pro.


Pro max is up to 240 grams now. Well beyond half a pound mark. Yikes. I know it’s not apple to apple comparison but the new galaxy fold 3 only weighs 30 grams more.

It looks like they have hotten thicker again. I wonder if they could revolutionize the phone market YET AGAIN and re-introduce a 3.5mm jack.

Oof I'm quaking in my boots at the sheer bravery that would take.

Why would you want an iPhone with the headphones jack?! I dropped to the floor my iPhone two times: and both are due to the headphones jack cable!

I hope Apple will introduce a better codec for Bluetooth, way behind the actual AAC 256. But not the cable again…


Life is just so simple with a simple headphone jack.

Say you get a loaner car and you want to listen to music from your phone. You can either connect a 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm cable between your phone and the car and start playback, or you can go into the car settings, start bluetooth pairing, wait for the device to be found, pair the devices, make sure that your address book is not shared via Bluetooth and stored in the car's memory and then start playback (and probably remove the pairing from both ends at the end of it all).


This experience sucks because the car sucks, not the phone. I have a $15 Bluetooth to FM transmitter that you just need to select on your phone's Bluetooth page to start playback (assuming you haven't paired before). No passcode or complicated process. Is this worth not having a cable? I'd say so, actually.

Wait, you can pair with the transmitter with no authentication? That sounds real bad.

If someone is already paired to it then it won't let you pair so it's not really that bad. The worst that can happen is someone plays some stupid audio for the two seconds it takes me to lower the volume or pull the unit out of the power port.

Apple is currently BT 5.0 across the board (phones, iPads, macs, AirPods, etc). I was hoping for 5.2 in yesterday’s hardware. (They announced hands free calling for MFI hearing aids earlier this year, which requires 5.2, so I thought the new hardware would be ready for it).

I don’t think you’ll see an improvement before next year.


It’s not a revision trouble, is a codec trouble. You can have Bluetooth 8.2 but if Apple headphones and devices support only AAC256, there’s nothing much to do…

Because I lose my headphones about once a year, and a pair of$40 wiredheadphones delivers better audio than the apple ones. I listen to music mostly for work (I am an orchestra musician) and the extra fidelity i get from my current headphones (supra something something) is something I actually need. I have a pair of shitty BT headphones for podcasts and things like that.

The noise cancelling is nice, but I can live without it. For the record I have never dropped my phone due to the headphone jack.


I’m also an audiophile and when I want to eat well I’m using an external DAC via lightning but I would never go back to cable.

If you lose your headphones is your problem, not Apple :-) what would absolutely be implemented is a better codec for hi res BT Audio but also if there is a jack I prefer to override the internet DAC with digital exit.


I am not an audiophile. I just dont want to pay 7x for an experience that, for my use case, gives a worse result.

I lose my headphones often enough for it to be a problem, had they been $300+ (which they are, in sweden).

Me losing my head phones becomes apples problem, since other manufacturers give me better options. I want an iphone, but this shit about being "brave" and removing the 3.5mm jack makes me vomit a little in my mouth.

My colleagues that bought the airpods pro have started having battery life issues now. Changing the batteries at an apple store costs an eye-watering ~1000kr.

That is completely bollocks.


Pretty sure this is down to increased battery size.

I was so excited by the M1 despite being a linux user. I couldn't wait any longer to upgrade my old workstation, so I went for an AMD 5950X instead and couldn't he happier.

(Its extremely fast and powerful compared to an M1, at cost of greater power consumption of course.)


Were you able to find an OK graphics card? Looking to upgrade my i7-7700k to a Ryzen. The lack of GPU stock is keeping me away. I kinda regret selling my 2070 Super for $100 profit earlier this year but I expected to be able to find a newer replacement.

I got an Nvidia MSI GTX 1650 Super with 4GB - it is not the most powerful, but was much easier to come by. A nice upgrade from my older card, and the fans stop spinning when its idling in 2D desktop in Linux.

Does anyone else smell something funny here? The collection of top-lede articles all suggest a PR play by Rivos or its VC backers, e.g., anti-ARM, anti-Apple.

Yes, seems awfully soon to predict such gloom and doom.

I would hold off on assuming that Apple gave their all to the iPhone chips. They still have the MacBooks and iPad Pros to announce.

Last time the latter were very strongly based on the former.

Yep: more cpu cores, more gpu cores, more memory, more thermal room allowing for a higher clock.

Who knows if they'll call it M2 or M1X.

The really interesting question is whether Apple can meet their No-More-Intel timeline. I'd bet they don't quite make it in time.


If the A14 was based on ARMv8.5A, is the A15 based on ARMv8.6A?

Presumably it's not ARMv9, since they didn't announce new silicon features.


@dang this should be merged with https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28536704

(I'd argue that one links to the "source" article, based on the domain)


The competition in this market is quite difficult so im not too shocked by this. however I was impressed by the M1 chip they made



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