Designing chips is the logical extension to this model. The chips are designed with the end product in mind, and everything works together to deliver the product's value proposition.
Other manufacturers end up hostage to whatever chips Intel and AMD feel like selling to everyone. They are hostage to whatever OS features Google feels like adding to Android, whether I integrates with the chips or not.
It's not a given that Apple will necessarily succeed with this strategy, it requires an ability to juggle multiple balls at once, a very rare trait. There's a reason most businesses try to do just one thing well and commoditize everything else.
But it is certainly beautiful to watch them try to sail the opposite tack.
Apple obviously subcontracts a lot of its manufacturing, and that is very similar to what most automobile companies do with parts: The parts are manufactured for them, but they are specific to that car and not sold to other manufacturers. OTOH, a tyre is a tyre is a trye in most cases, just as most of Intel’s chips are sold to anybody who is prepared to place an order.
I’m not making any specific point, just suggesting we be clear about what we mean when drawing comparisons between designing CPUs and outsourcing part or all of the manufacture of an automobile.
It's still made of standard components like the webcam and processor, but beyond some electronics it's all designed in-house. And the electronics may not stay standard on the low end, though I don't see them competing with Intel's chips in the Pro lineup.
Ever owned a Japanese car? Heard of (Nippon-)Denso?
You would be astonished how many bits of a car is subcontracted. What the auto manufacturer typically focuses on is engine design (at the mechanical level), chassis design and suspension topology. Most things that "bolt on" are made by somebody else.
For good or bad, this is no longer how it works. Entire subassemblys are outsourced.
I had a chance to visit it before they stopped the tours. The most impressive part was the plant where they took in a huge chunk of steel and heated it red hot, then repeatedly rolled it until it was thin, then rolled it up.
Now, Jobs has brought even more technical capability in-house, figuring that he had never needed to have the technical knowhow himself, but what he needs is ability to manage people, and recruit the best and then give them the opportunity to do something beyond what they would have been capable of on their own.
To be more than anecdotal, the iPhone 4S site lists the "Dual-core A5 processor" as both the first bullet item, and later as its own slide.
Surprising given that tech specs are said to be obsolete. But I think it's more about the dual-core, and it doesn't mention that it's an Apple processor.
Samsung is pretty explicit about what their SoC contains: http://www.samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/product... - well they have to, opposed to Apple they're selling the chip seperately.
But the PA Semi team is way larger than 20 engineers, that's for sure. Even before the acquisition by Apple, they had way more engineers than 20. I'm the guy who filmed their product launch at the Power Conference.
1,000 has to be wrong for two reasons. 1) That's an explosion in staff which your organization can't handle 2) 1,000 people on one chip is ridiculous and only something Intel gets away with.
A good estimate for a SoC would top out at around 200 people for the design, implementation and a 100% NIH syndrome.
It's techcrunch so of course the number was pulled out of the author's backside.
(We already know Apple is more than capable of executing CPU transitions on the Mac. I suppose the only other question is how much people value Parallels and Boot Camp.)
Here's what I think will happen - the Macbook Pro line will be slimmed down to Air specs, the Air that exists today gets discontinued to make way for an all-ARM version.
The Air brand will be the ARM laptop line, the Macbook Pro's will be x86 for a few years before they too switch.
Wow, I hope not. Right now I use MBP as a desktop replacement. I've been able to get away with that so far because the iMac isn't normally dramatically far ahead of the 17".
And unlike the transition from Power chips to x86, ARM won't be so much faster that something like Rosetta will be a workable transition solution for real applications -- effectively everything will have to be ported, or it won't work.
The epic volumes of ARM chips make it possible to overcome the manufacturing and scale issues, but doing complex super-custom ARM chips for PCs drops the chips back out of the mass market again unless an enormous number of PCs get converted all at once -- though this is something Apple is capable of.
Overall, there are enough logistic issues involved that I'm not convinced that ARM is the future of PCs unless the current ARM devices like iPads and Android tablets grow up to be our PCs of the future.
the 1000 number might be large, but definitely in the ball park. Designing a microprocessor is not that easy. Besides the ARM core(s), you have the graphics cores, custom DSPs (I heard they have Siri-specific cores in the A5), power control logic, various IO macros and other random stuff. You need an architecture team to figure out what needs to go there and how things interact, a micro architecture team to develop the RTL, a test team to make sure the RTL behaves as planned, a physical implementation team to transform all this mess into polygons that run at desired speeds, various tool/methodology support teams to develop internal flows, evaluate tools and make sure everybody is following the rules and nobody forgot anything, plus various levels of management.
note that most probably they are working on a couple of different designs at the same time.
And that's before you start picking apart the system-on-a-chip stuff, which involves design and verification for all the components that the processor talks to, and tooling, layout, &c.
It's not inconceivable that Apple would have many teams working on many different ideas and designs that compete with each other. Apple is brilliant at understanding you need to disrupt yourself, before other companies disrupt you.
As for "how can you have 1000 people involved", well, a modern chip can have a billion transistors on it. The MOSTek 6502 design team was nine people, although maybe you could argue that only five of them were design engineers. The chip contained about 3500 transistors, about 700 per design engineer.
If a modern design team applied the same amount of attention per transistor as the 6502 team, it would need to contain 1.3 million people.
None of their big successes, from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad, were anything brand new. They were better execution on an existing concept. We had portable music players, we had mobile phones, we had tablet computers... Jobs and Apple just out-executed everyone else in the market at identifying and delivering a better implementation.
Here they are apparently talking about really new stuff. Stuff we've never had before. Stuff that's "mind blowing." Last time I remember something like that from Apple it was called Newton.
They're known for their high quality displays and they already have a lot of the other technology that would be coupled with it - FaceTime, Siri, iCloud/iTunes, App store.
In fact, I think Siri and Facetime are both the key parts here. If you can get your TV to do things for you (eg book flights) and also use it as a simple communication point (FaceTime) - its in the realm of "future technology" that people think of when they imagine what's coming.
Smartphones are obviously wearable computers and they already exist.
Occasional fantasies of computers built into actual clothes are the domain of people who don't understand clothes very well.
Eventually every surface will turn in to an ad. And animated ads after that. The animated t-shirt can't be all that far into our future.
"The post PC era" is meant to refer to a world where (except in some specific professional contexts) people largely stop buying PCs because of a new class of mobile devices that takes over their workload entirely.
If I say "the mobile era" to people, that means something very different than "the post PC era". This is what language is for. We create new words so we can talk about new things, even when they're small changes.
Larry Ellison whines about the word "cloud" and insists it's just "servers". But "cloud" is about instantaneous provisioning and other infrastructure that lets you target an undifferentiated set of servers, rather than having to administer each server one by one. And unlike a "cluster" you don't generally own the whole thing. What word should we use, if not "cloud"?
Yes, it's still servers. Yes, the iPad is a mobile device. Yes servers and mobile devices are old. But whats your problem with using new words for the parts of these phenomena which are new?
Then I think we're a long way from seeing this era, simply because anything that requires more than a couple lines of text isn't just better on a keyboard than other input devices—it's vastly, insanely better (at the moment), a problem I don't see being solved in the nearish future. Rather, I suspect many if not most people will have one PC-esque device for keyboard heavy things and one or more "mobile" devices, using your definition.
This also assumes you're not counting laptops under your "mobile" rubric, which I don't think you are.
Anyway. I don't even see desktops going away all that soon because of one thing that gets lost on HN discussion: they're cheap: http://jseliger.com/2008/12/26/computer-post-desktop-or-lapt... .
Agreed, but we're just starting, maybe in a few years, who knows...
IMO, the term post-PC is a nice way to differentiate Android/iOS/WebOS/etc tablets from previous generation tablets that ran Windows or some Desktop version of Linux.
That doesn't necessarily mean that the laptops of the future will have a full-featured OS rather than a locked-down iOS-style OS. I mean, I'm sure yours will, and mine will, but will your mother's?
And maybe open/closed OSs will eventually converge. Look at Lion and Windows 8... I just hope they remain open!!!