Bloomberg: Apple Working on ARM Chip for Macs to Run Power Nap Features

Interesting scoop from Mark Gurman and Ian King:

Apple engineers are planning to offload the Mac’s low-power mode, a feature marketed as “Power Nap,” to the next-generation ARM-based chip. This function allows Mac laptops to retrieve e-mails, install software updates, and synchronize calendar appointments with the display shut and not in use. The feature currently uses little battery life while run on the Intel chip, but the move to ARM would conserve even more power, according to one of the people.

The current ARM-based chip for Macs is independent from the computer’s other components, focusing on the Touch Bar’s functionality itself. The new version in development would go further by connecting to other parts of a Mac’s system, including storage and wireless components, in order to take on the additional responsibilities. […]

However, Apple has no near-term plans to completely abandon Intel chips for use in its laptops and desktops, the people said.

It’s interesting to ponder how this might work from a software perspective. With the current Touch Bar, there’s a conceptual wall between the Intel side and the ARM side. The “Mac” stuff all runs on the Intel side, and there’s an iOS computer on the ARM side that only does Touch Bar-related things.

I don’t think this use-the-ARM-chip-during-Power-Nap idea would involve emulating x86 code on ARM — you’d lose the energy efficiency advantage of ARM, which is the whole point. My guess is that Mac apps (and OS services) that want to take advantage of it would do so via small extensions, compiled both for ARM (for these future MacBooks) and x86 (for all other Macs).

Wednesday, 1 February 2017