Stratelight #1: Why ARM is overtaking Intel's x86

Quick insight into the current state of CPUs


Apple’s mobile CPU A13 is only 15% behind the top of the line desktop CPUs - Intel’s Core I9-9900K and AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X.

Anandtech benchmarks showing the A13 is as fast as a desktop Intel chip

Bang for the Buck

While the performance is levelling out, there is a huge gap in costs. Apple’s A13 has a price tag of $50 while Intel’s Core I9-9900K launched for $1,000. That’s a 20x difference.

Technology Leadership

Apple, with its ARM-based chips produced by TSMC has overtaken Intel, because Intel didn’t see the opportunity in 2005 when asked by Apple to produce an energy-efficient, ARM-based chip for the - then unknown - iPhone. Intel stayed with pushing performance focused, energy-hungry ARM chips and asked Apple to take it or leave it.

What now

Developers like to develop on similar chipsets their production code is running on. This is simply because you want to avoid as many traps as possible when pushing code from development to production.

What gets interesting now is if Apple, with pushing ARM chips to developers, will also influence the server ecosystem to adopt ARM, or if Apple’s move to ARM chips will lead to developers shying away from their devices in favour of Microsoft’s x86 devices, the dominant chip architecture on servers right now.

What’s clear is that Intel can only stand by and watch what is going to happen to their biggest market of server CPUs.

🕵️For the full picture, read Apple, ARM, and Intel published in Stratechery by Ben Thompson.

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