Ex-Intel engineer says "abnormally bad" Skylake QA prompted Apple switch to ARM

midian182

Posts: 5,780   +46
Staff member
A hot potato: Earlier this week, Apple confirmed what had been rumored for years: it would move away from Intel and use its own Arm-based chips in next generation Macs. According to a former Intel engineer, the company made this decision because of the “bad quality assurance of Skylake.”

It’s been a good week for Arm: Apple finally announced it is transitioning the Mac to Arm-based silicon, bringing the computers in line with iPads and iPhones, and the world’s fastest supercomputer is now the Arm-based Fugaku.

Rumors that Apple would ditch Intel in favor of designing its own custom silicon for Macs have been around since 2010’s Apple A4, which was used in the first iPad and iPhone 4. But according to former Intel principal engineer François Piednoël, it was the introduction of Skylake in 2015 and the problems Apple had with the architecture that pushed those plans forward.

"The quality assurance of Skylake was more than a problem," said Piednoël during an Xplane chat, as reported by PC Gamer. "It was abnormally bad. We were getting way too much citing for little things inside Skylake. Basically our buddies at Apple became the number one filer of problems in the architecture. And that went really, really bad."

"When your customer starts finding almost as much bugs as you found yourself, you're not leading into the right place."

Piednoël says Skylake was an inflection point for Apple; the moment when it went from contemplating a move away from Intel to actually starting the long process.

All this is just the view of one person, of course, and Apple has plenty of reasons to switch to Arm, but if what Piednoël says is true, we might have seen Intel-powered Macs for a few more years if Skylake’s QA had been better.

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0dium

Posts: 67   +63
"world’s fastest supercomputer is now the Arm-based" which arms are used? Left ones or the right ones? I might be rude, but I think if it's laziness if you can't write an architecture name properly and articles shouldn't be written like that.
 
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EEatGDL

Posts: 745   +458
Yes, that's true. I think it reached a peak of near 1,500 issues reported after PRQ (product release quality) stage. In an internal memo calling for quality, during that time, they cited Apple calling Skylake and I quote "a piece of half-baked sand". I guess that can still be found in the intranet news page "Circuit".
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 7,098   +5,453
From a business perspective I would say that Apple already had plans in the works so at best, this would have just sped up their move ......
 
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candle_86

Posts: 313   +245
Meh apple wants to fall into obscurity again that is their choice. Alot of PC programs got ported because apple ran on x86 and made the job easier, now your going to get a bunch of mobile ports that are feature limited, sure Adobe and a few others will support it with full featured programs but it will be the powerpc wasteland again for apple owners.
 

ragreeen2646

Posts: 17   +4
The two reasons I originally bought a 27-inch Imac is:
1. I got a good deal in the hardware.
2. I can run Windows natively on the hardware.
I used OSX at first when I bought the device. OSX was lacking for my needs. Bootcamp (Windows) made the device useful for me.
I guess it is just Apple trying to lock customers into their world.
I wonder how many MAC owners have Windows installed on MAC hardware.
FYI-- A Dell desktop is now my primary PC. I keep the Imac running Win7 for some special apps that I periodically use.
 

neeyik

Posts: 1,008   +971
Staff member
"world’s fastest supercomputer is now the Arm-based" which arms are used? Left ones or the right ones? I might be rude, but I think if it's laziness if you can't write an architecture name properly and articles shouldn't be written like that.
We get this all the time - Arm is the correct usage. Proof?


If anything, the news title uses Arm incorrectly :laughing:
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,320   +2,773
Meh apple wants to fall into obscurity again that is their choice. Alot of PC programs got ported because apple ran on x86 and made the job easier, now your going to get a bunch of mobile ports that are feature limited, sure Adobe and a few others will support it with full featured programs but it will be the powerpc wasteland again for apple owners.
apple already switched architectures before when they switched from the IBM Power G5 to intel in 2007, im not surprised they did it again. Their market share is big enough that software makers like adobe won't have any choice but to switch over to ARM. I also believe that x86 is on it's way out. Arm chips are cheaper and more power efficient than x86, it's only a matter of time before we switch over. However, I don't believe this will completely switch over until well into the 2030's. Emulating x86 hardware on windows 10 ARM computers is already "good enough" for most applications, a few more generations and ARM chips will have basically no performance loss over what we have today.

I'd argue that many people have already made the switch to ARM because everything they need out of a computer can be done on their phone. I know plenty of people who don't even have laptops or desktops anymore. They have a phone and a smart TV for streaming and that's all they need.
 

Axle Grease

Posts: 146   +58
I don't get it. Ryzens have been around for three years now. If what Piednoël said is true I'd figure Apple would have chosen to use AMD CPUs. Someone should've done their job and posed that as a question to Piednoël.
 
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candle_86

Posts: 313   +245
apple already switched architectures before when they switched from the IBM Power G5 to intel in 2007, im not surprised they did it again. Their market share is big enough that software makers like adobe won't have any choice but to switch over to ARM. I also believe that x86 is on it's way out. Arm chips are cheaper and more power efficient than x86, it's only a matter of time before we switch over. However, I don't believe this will completely switch over until well into the 2030's. Emulating x86 hardware on windows 10 ARM computers is already "good enough" for most applications, a few more generations and ARM chips will have basically no performance loss over what we have today.

I'd argue that many people have already made the switch to ARM because everything they need out of a computer can be done on their phone. I know plenty of people who don't even have laptops or desktops anymore. They have a phone and a smart TV for streaming and that's all they need.
But apple gained markshare because of x86. The ability to use boot camp on early x86 Macs made the transition possible, and meant people didn't have to go out and buy an entire library of software. And honestly people have been saying x86 is dead since the late 80s, first it was risc, then itanium,and now arm,it's not going to happen, emulation will always be slower than running on real hardware.
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,320   +2,773
But apple gained markshare because of x86. The ability to use boot camp on early x86 Macs made the transition possible, and meant people didn't have to go out and buy an entire library of software. And honestly people have been saying x86 is dead since the late 80s, first it was risc, then itanium,and now arm,it's not going to happen, emulation will always be slower than running on real hardware.
there are already more people using ARM more than x86. It's in our mobile devices, it's in our TV's, basically any embedded computer is ARM and it's been an option in laptops for a couple years now. With apple moving to arm, it wont be long before it's in our desktops. The biggest reason people haven't moved to arm on the desktop side is software support. Apple moving to arm will only accelerate developers movement to arm.
 
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candle_86

Posts: 313   +245
there are already more people using ARM more than x86. It's in our mobile devices, it's in our TV's, basically any embedded computer is ARM and it's been an option in laptops for a couple years now. With apple moving to arm, it wont be long before it's in our desktops. The biggest reason people haven't moved to arm on the desktop side is software support. Apple moving to arm will only accelerate developers movement to arm.
No mac doesnt have enough market share to have a significant impact,Adobe will likely and a few companies that mainly sell to the mac crowd anyway, but considering osx makes up less than 2% of traditional computers online what mac is more likely to get is feature starved mobile apps, not full flegded software, but honestly good for them, maybe we can kick Mac back out of corporate America and relegate it back to artist types, it's already a pain to support and mamage
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,320   +2,773
No mac doesnt have enough market share to have a significant impact,Adobe will likely and a few companies that mainly sell to the mac crowd anyway, but considering osx makes up less than 2% of traditional computers online what mac is more likely to get is feature starved mobile apps, not full flegded software, but honestly good for them, maybe we can kick Mac back out of corporate America and relegate it back to artist types, it's already a pain to support and mamage
Okay, well osx has closer to a 20% market share and is most often chosen by artsy types over windows so I bet the % of adobes creative if software compared to windows is much higher than that


I don't know where you got 2%
 

tom111

Posts: 20   +3
Meh apple wants to fall into obscurity again that is their choice. Alot of PC programs got ported because apple ran on x86 and made the job easier, now your going to get a bunch of mobile ports that are feature limited, sure Adobe and a few others will support it with full featured programs but it will be the powerpc wasteland again for apple owners.
The problem with PowerPC regarding software portation was, that it is big endian and x86 is little endian. The Arm processor is also little endian, so most software can be simply recompiled.
 

clrnng

Posts: 6   +7
The problem with PowerPC regarding software portation was, that it is big endian and x86 is little endian. The Arm processor is also little endian, so most software can be simply recompiled.
It's definitely not as simple as a re-compilation. Both OSes have totally different APIs. You need conditional compilation in the codes all over the place with different APIs used in different sections.
 
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clrnng

Posts: 6   +7
I don't get it. Ryzens have been around for three years now. If what Piednoël said is true I'd figure Apple would have chosen to use AMD CPUs. Someone should've done their job and posed that as a question to Piednoël.
Ryzen only became a competitive from version 2 onward. Many OEMs are now struggling to come up with new designs to take advantage of the 4900HS on mobile. Many are caught with their pants down not offering a competitive model with that CPU. I expect another generation before AMD notebooks start becoming optimized for the CPU. You can't simply swap out the CPU from an Intel model. The motherboard, socket, and esp thunderbolt controller all have to go.
 
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Jimster480

Posts: 114   +104
Wouldn‘t this also mean that there was never a chance Apple would switch to AMD if their decision to switch to ARM was already made before Ryzen‘s success?
I really do wonder about that. Since they have actually added code into their kernel for AMD chips.
 
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Jimster480

Posts: 114   +104
The problem with PowerPC regarding software portation was, that it is big endian and x86 is little endian. The Arm processor is also little endian, so most software can be simply recompiled.
The problem is also that x86 is much faster per core. So software needs to be threaded in order to be fast on ARM.
Also some logic doesn't work well on ARM just due to how the architecture works. Making it very slow on ARM.
 

Bp968

Posts: 132   +89
there are already more people using ARM more than x86. It's in our mobile devices, it's in our TV's, basically any embedded computer is ARM and it's been an option in laptops for a couple years now. With apple moving to arm, it wont be long before it's in our desktops. The biggest reason people haven't moved to arm on the desktop side is software support. Apple moving to arm will only accelerate developers movement to arm.
Except ARM isnt standardized, at least not at the level thats required for PC style hardware. What your suggesting is an entirely embedded world where every product uses what amounts to custom solutions. Thats unlikely to happen. Notice how game consoles have switched from custom solutions to mostly off the shelf ones?

ARM is likely to take some marketshare for sure, but its unlikely to cause x86 to "die". The same reasons in play that make it "good enough" also work against forcing a wholesale switch away from x86 even if it becomes more efficient and faster (since x86 will also be "good enough" but with a vastly larger installed software base).

I think people who say these types of things simply don't understand the colossal undertaking involved in moving everything a company might be using to a new architecture. Heck, its possible PC gaming is a big enough market alone to keep x86 alive in some form or another.
 
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Jimster480

Posts: 114   +104
Okay, well osx has closer to a 20% market share and is most often chosen by artsy types over windows so I bet the % of adobes creative if software compared to windows is much higher than that


I don't know where you got 2%
Where did you get 20%? Last time I looked it was at around 8%.