Chilling out at home today and enjoying a game of Simcity 4 on my Mac although I am excited about the opportunity about giving the game ‘Cities: Skylines’ which every reviewer has noted that this is what Simcity 5/2015 should have been – single player, face, responsive, better game play etc. It is available via steam which should be fun to give a go keeping in mind that the price is pretty reasonable, $38.99 for the basic game but with all the add on’s it is something like $10-20 more but given all the positive reviews I’d be more than happy to plonk down the cash.
I’m looking forward to the WWDC 2015 this year and hopefully we’ll see some announcements along the lines of refinement rather than trying to ‘stocking stuff’ another release with a tonne of new features with parts that are broken. At this point looking back I could understand the need for a lot of what was added such as handoff and continuity not to mention the update of the iCloud service to the iCloud Drive model rather than the ‘Documents and Settings’ model which goes back to when iCloud was first made available. I’m hoping that going forward we’re going to see a greater focus on making life a lot easier for developers when it comes to fixing up bugs in the various frameworks but with that being said now that the transition from GCC to Clang/LLVM has been completed for quite some time so hopefully we’ll start to see improvements in optimisation for x86-64 and ARM.
What has been interesting is the discussion about ARM64 and the long term ‘dream’ by some in various quarters of the idea that Apple will eventually move to their own ARM design somewhere along the lines. In a certain light I can understand the rationale given that they’ll be re-using their existing core design and building upon it so in terms of developing, maintaining and furthering the basic design they have it wouldn’t exactly be an additional load other than scaling up and adding the sort of processor features that desktop, workstation and server CPU’s have. If they were ever to move I doubt they would split it between the MacBook and keep Intel for the rest in much the same way that when they moved to Intel they moved the whole line up over a period of around a year to the point that the whole line up was complete Intel based. Assuming they didn’t go down that road then it would involve pretty much the status quo design and in the case of an iMac 5K and Mac Pro the use of a discrete GPU from nVIdia (who have the best power/performance ratio) so in the end it would pretty much resemble a ‘normal’ computer but with a ARM processor.
As for whether Apple would go for it – I doubt it, why give up the ability to focus on the differentiation and let Intel focus on the drudgery where as brining the line up over to ARM will mean needing to bring all those functions in house with little in the way of any sort of benefit (one of the major benefits of moving away from PowerPC to Intel was that Intel and Foxconn made the boards, provided the chipset and Apple created the firmware with the necessary code to allow OS X to run on the device) – as for developers, there simply using the huge difference between ARM and x86 which necessitates the harmonisation to the point that even Microsoft is giving up on the ARM space beyond phones and small form factor tablets because the justification just isn’t there. Honestly, I don’t see it happening because unlike Steve Jobs, I get the impression with Tim Cook that he is a lot more conservative – the fusion drive for iMac being a good example where as Steve Jobs probably would have said, “fuck it, we’re going flash all the way!”. In the case of the Mac line up, it is working well, Intel is more or less sticking to the schedule and any problems that affect Intel will affect everyone else so they’re not in the same situation where they were before with Motorola and IBM where they were perpetually behind Intel every step of the way – Intel is the biggest player and worse case scenario Intel can put out a refreshed line up of CPU’s to deal with the demand until the new release is ready.
Regarding Intel, one of the things that annoys me is the half baked crap of people going on about Intel’s ‘unable to deliver’ and ignore the fact that Intel has been on the edge of chip product for years when it comes to the adoption and widespread use of technology which justifies Apple moving their Mac line up to their ARM design whilst ignoring that Apple is fabless and relies on third parties who are at best 1-2 steps behind Intel when it comes to die shrinkage. Intel not only has an architectural edge but they also have the manufacturing edge as well – then throw on a more sophisticated CPU design (assuming Apple went ARM) then I could imagine the sort of problems that Samsung/TSMC would have to deal with where as the exiting ARM design is pretty basic and isn’t something that has a high likelihood of being cocked up easily. For the foreseeable future Apple’s future is with Intel – the benefits of staying with Intel far outweigh the so-called ‘benefits’ that so many ‘ARM cheerleaders’ like to ramble on about whilst ignoring the larger picture which is what really dictates whether making a change is worth while.
Another updated beta build of OS X 10.10.4 has been released along with another iOS 8.4 beta as well which hopefully will mean a release before the WWDC 2015 and the conference being focused on iOS 9 and 10.11. I’m looking forward to also seeing what happens with Microsoft Office 2016 particularly around the move to 64bit for their OS X version given that they’ve put higher priority on their iOS build given that Apple has issued a deadline when applications need to be 64bit by. After that has been met it will be interesting to see what happens when it comes to Microsoft Office 2016 and when it’ll eventually happen to the OS X build – whether there is a long weight because they’ve still got a tonne of legacy code to deal with – which makes me wonder why they just don’t run the Visual Basic backend as a separate process so the it can remain 32bit and move everything else forward without too much drama but that being said I would have thought at this stage they would have at the very least moved to a point where 99% of the code is shared between Windows and OS X as to avoid these sorts of issues.