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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Bloomberg: Apple silicon road map accelerates in 2021

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Ian King on the Apple silicon beat:

The current M1 chip inherits a mobile-centric design built around four high-performance processing cores to accelerate tasks like video editing and four power-saving cores that can handle less intensive jobs like web browsing. For its next generation chip targeting MacBook Pro and iMac models, Apple is working on designs with as many as 16 power cores and four efficiency cores, the people said.

No surprises here. Of course Apple’s going to scale up the core count on its higher-end computers. The question is merely by how much?

For higher-end desktop computers, planned for later in 2021 and a new half-sized Mac Pro planned to launch by 2022, Apple is testing a chip design with as many as 32 high-performance cores.

Yeah, by about that much. At this point, Apple’s demonstrated that it has the know-how to build chips that outpace performance across much of the rest of the industry. The only thing limiting them now is A) how much money it wants to throw at improving its silicon and B) the limitations of physics. Given that the company is financially well positioned and custom silicon is now the technology underlying every single product it makes, the only real limitation is B.

Other interesting tidbits from Gurman and King’s report: more powerful graphics chips with 16 and 32 core chips are in development, and those might eventually scale up as high as 128 cores, which has the possibility of providing truly impressive graphics performance. (The current M1 chips mostly have 8 cores in their GPUs.) And, of course, the above mention again of a “half-sized Mac Pro”.

Apple said it expected its transition to custom silicon to take two years, but there’s some wiggle room in there—two years from the announcement in June 2020? Two years from the launch of the first M1 Macs? Or just two calendar years? Regardless, we can clearly expect to see some significant new Apple silicon chips powering Macs next year, and those who are worried that the M1 was the height of Apple’s processor prowess should probably wait until the movie’s over before rendering a verdict.

—Linked by Dan Moren

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