Microsoft Silicon?

So you heard Apple has Silicon…

Photo by Johny Vino


The anticipation of “Apple Silicon” is growing, as the Apple event approaches. Apple Silicon is referring to Apple’s new ARM-based CPUs they are developing in house. ARM-based CPUs are typically found in mobile devices, both iOS, and Android. These chips are more efficient but less powerful than the x86 architecture chips (for now) that you would typically find in desktops and laptops. I’ve been seeing a lot of articles like “Microsoft shouldn’t follow Apple into ARM Processors”, but Microsoft did it first!

Microsoft the Pioneer

Microsoft attempted to make an ARM-based laptop with what I would call a “full” operating system with their Surface Pro X. There were other laptops with ARM chips before the Surface Pro X, but Microsoft controls the “complete package”. Meaning it is Microsoft deciding on the hardware as well as their software together, unlike someone like Dell where they still depend on Microsoft for the OS. Overall the product release was pretty underwhelming, primarily because there was next to no application support at the time of launch. Microsoft set up some emulation to make some x86 apps run, but unfortunately, that kills battery life and wastes the efficiencies that the ARM chip brings to the table.

Meet the Surface Pro X - Ultra-thin and Always Connected - Microsoft Surface…

Apple the Second Mover

Apple is the absolute best company utilizing the second mover advantage. Apple used to be a huge innovation company, but now they have such a large following, and their consumers are so locked into their ecosystem that they no longer have to innovate. Apple lets other companies test the waters with new technologies, and then they swoop in with their incredible engineers and perfect it. This is not the ideal example of the second mover advantage because I’m sure the ARM decision was made a long time ago. Apple knows that its iPad Pro is killing the tablet market, but they want to have more heavy-hitting software capable of utilizing the iPad’s power. Moving the Macbooks onto ARM means that developers will have to move their applications as well, which will most likely blend the iOS and Mac app stores.

Win or Lose

MacOS users are undoubtedly going to have a smoother transition phase onto arm chips, given Apple seems to have dedicated more developer time to flush out their ARM apps. In addition to their own dev time, they also set up impressive tools for third-party developers to convert their applications. It’s odd, but even though Microsoft made the move first it still feels like they will have to catch up to Apple’s ARM environment. The added efficiencies and dwindling dependency on native applications make the path pretty clear. ARM is going to overtake x86 for both Windows and MacOS in the general consumer space. The interesting fight still to be determined is in the tech enthusiast and PC gamer markets. The x86 architecture will continue to hit harder in these areas so long as the heavy performance is there and the compatibilities with GPUs remain the same.


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