Yesterday's publication on the Bloomberg media empire website on the topic “Macs are switching to ARM” divided the world into “before” and “after”. Since February 2017, fading and flaring up again, the dream of “beautiful far away” has caused fierce debate. Disputes on the topic of “cross or not cross” are already in the past. The questions on the agenda are “when, how it will be, and whether Apple will survive this transition.” On April 23, 2020, Bloomberg answered the first two of them. By the way, the topic “Macs are switching to ARM”, in February 2017, was opened by a publication on the website of the same Bloomberg. And now, “names” have already been named, the details have been communicated, and there is no doubt that the times of change are just around the corner. Will the transition be announced at WWDC?
When the Kalamata project was launched (a system-on-a-chip with ARM processors for Mac), it is not known who initiated it and what goals the developers set in the early stages of its existence - an absolute mystery. According to one version (the source is a former employee of the micro-electronic division of Apple), the assumption that someday in the future the Mac will have to save native and friendly Intel from processors was expressed by Steve Jobs in 2010 or 2011. In any case, in circles close to the apple emperor (but not so close as to have access to the source), such a rumor circulated. Then, starting in 2016, this project appeared several times in our reality, most often going unnoticed.
On April 23, some of the secrets of the Kalamata project were revealed. Ajar. Even when the serial Macs on ARM appear on our desks, we only find out about their chips that Apple deems necessary to report.
Will Apple A14 appear on Mac?
The processors of the first ARM-Mac’s will be three modifications of the Apple A14. The same system-on-a-chip as in the iPhone 12. Apple A14 is already produced at TSMC factories in limited editions. A month ago, on the Pakistani website Research Sniper, the results of its testing in Geekbench 5 appeared. It is not known which modification of the new SoC is in question. Most likely, the “basic” version was tested, for the iPhone 12 and for the iPad easier.
But this is not the most interesting: Pakistani snipers managed to find out that the clock frequency of the productive Apple A14 cores is 3.1 GHz. This is the world's first serial ARM processor, whose clock frequency exceeds 3 GHz. In the single core performance tests, the Apple A14 scored 1,658 points (25% more than the Apple A13), in multi-core tests, 4,612 points (33% more than the Apple A13). Research Sniper’s message was not noticed by anyone; nobody confirmed the reliability of the data provided by Pakistanis, but it’s plausible.
One of the computer modifications of the Apple A14 will be “more powerful than the others.” Bloomberg talked about it with amazing details: in the central processor of the system-on-chip there are 8 Firestorm productive cores and “up to 4 economical” Icestorm. What it means to four is unknown. 12 cores. This is not the limit, Apple told (Bloomberg reporters?) That the number of cores could be multiplied in the future. This modification of the Apple A14 will appear in the first (or first) ARM-Mac’e, possibly in the first half of 2021. Some time ago, Min Chi-ko predicted the appearance of the first ARM-Mac “at the end of 2020 or at the beginning of 2021”. It seems that he really has access to someone's secrets.
The two other modifications of the Apple A14 for computers only know what they are, and that they are “weaker” than the 12-core one. Nothing was said about the NPU, GPU, and other interior items of these processors, but most likely they are, cooler and more powerful than their counterparts in A13.
Compared to Intel's 14nm and even 10nm, TSMC seems to be from another world. TSMC is already experimenting with the 3-nm process, and everything is going “normally”, in 2022-23 the world's first 3-nm chips should appear in commercial devices. Mac and Apple’s mobile devices may be the first mass-produced products with chips manufactured using this technology.
Apple Kalamata Project
In October 2016, Apple introduced the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar instead of function keys. The touch-button virtual button strip was controlled by the Apple T1 system-on-chip. In addition, this chip took care of security, and in open documentation it was sometimes called the “security enclave”.
The on-chip system actively participated in the life of the computer, interacted with macOS, but was itself controlled by the bridgeOS operating system, a derivative of watchOS. It was assumed that users would never know about her, but in macOS crash logs, when Apple T2 was introduced, her name was met too often. Apple T1 was the first public flare of the Kalamata project.
The T1 had a “sister” secret from the world - the T310 system-on-chip, which became the heart of an unknown number of experimental laptops. The code names of the chips, starting with the letter “T”, are used in Apple to denote trial versions (prototypes) of future products. Whether the T310 was the first such processor is unknown. About T1 (at an unexpected angle) and about T310 in 2017, in early February, an article was published on the Bloomberg website in which for the first time for most of the inhabitants of the Earth it was reported that “Macs are switching to ARM”.
In 2018, Taiwanese “analysts” noticed the shipment of about a hundred laptops to Cupertino, about which they knew from somewhere that they used an Apple-on-a-chip system with an ARM processor. We could not find out more about this case, there were even doubts that this really happened. It happened. Those laptops used the Apple A12X system-on-chip, the same as the iPad Pro. It would be interesting to know more about this, but alas.