On September 9, during Apple's San Francisco special event, Apple’s Sr. Vice President, worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, took to the stage and introduced the iPad Pro. The latest and largest tablet of its kind from Apple delivers an incredible 12.9", 5.6 million pixel display, and weighs only 1.5 lbs. Accompanying the iPad Pro is a versatile accessory called Apple Pencil along with an optional Smart Keyboard. While the iPad Pro left the audience quite pleased, Schiller made one comment that was likely to have left Intel speechless.
When describing the iPad Pro A9X processor, Schiller declared it as having desktop-class performance. That statement is nothing new. However, Schiller continued, “But here’s another way to think about how fast iPad Pro is. It is faster than 80% of the portable PCs that have shipped over the last 12 months.” While Schiller’s comments were not a direct shot at Intel’s engine room, it was certainly Apple’s last warning shot across their bow. Schiller went on to explain that the 80% faster comment was only in reference to CPU specific tasks, and that with graphic tasks, the iPad Pro was 90% faster than portable PCs.
If the iPad Pro, powered with the latest and greatest ARM-based A9X processor is faster than 80% of all portable PCs that have shipped over the last year, then why is this chip not sitting in the heart of Apple’s new MacBook lineup, or MacBook Air laptops?
Schiller’s statements may require a bit of explaining. What did he mean, exactly, within the term portable PCs? If Schiller is talking only tablets and 2-in-1’s, then Apple's A9X processor besting Intel’s ultra low-power Core-M processors seems reasonable. But if he is also speaking to Intel’s Core i3 or i5 powered PCs, then it is an entirely different scenario.
Could Apple’s latest chipset, coupled with lightweight iOS and hardware, best Core i3 and i5 Windows laptops? Granted, iOS has a clear advantage over PCs having to slog through decades of old Windows code. Thus, if Schiller is including PC laptops with higher-end Intel processors, then his comments are going to shake the entire PC industry. There would also be few reasons for Apple to continue sticking with Intel across its entire Mac platform.
Once Apple releases an OS X device running atop its own ARM-based processor, it will signal to the rest of the PC industry they can do the same, if not be forced to follow suit. There are simply tens of billions of dollars, in terms of cost savings, for PC vendors to ditch Intel for ARM. Apple is the only company that has the position to be the first to lay down the hammer to Intel’s 85% gross margin processors. Once Apple goes ARM for OS X, Windows hardware makers will pile up like a log jam in front of Microsoft’s doors demanding, pushing, begging Microsoft to release a Windows 10 version that fully supports ARM's latest architecture.
The advantages for Apple to move Macs to an A-series processor are obvious, but it would cause a great panic amongst the ranks at Intel, and not just due to a loss of sales to Apple. A tidal wave of pressure from Microsoft's hardware vendors to follow Apple’s lead, delivering them an ARM compatible Windows OS will be tremendous. This is the true panic that will strike Intel down to it's very core. Watching Intel and Microsoft play politics with one another, while Lenovo, HP, Dell and Acer pound on Microsoft’s doors like World War Z zombies will be to Apple’s advantage and also quite quite entertaining to watch unfold.
Apple's been planning and working hard at this move for years. With the release of iPad Pro and it's A9X processor, the floodgates look to be opening very soon.
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