Former Mac boss predicts PC makers will have to dump AMD and Intel to ‘go ARM’

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So, you've set aside a chunk of change to build a new gaming PC and are just waiting for AMD and Nvidia to launch their next-gen GPUs, is that it? A solid plan, except for one thing—your next build is already obsolete. That's because whatever you spec'd out is undoubtedly sitting on an AMD or Intel foundation, and didn't you hear, x86 computing is basically dead. Finished. Kaput. We're on the cusp of the end of an era, and all because Apple is dumping Intel for ARM.

Okay, maybe not, but that's essentially the case made by Jean-Louis Gassée, a former Apple executive who led the development of Mac computers in the late 1980s. In no uncertain terms, he says Apple's decision to phase out Intel CPUs in favor of its own silicon based on ARM will force "PC OEMs to reconsider their allegiance to x86 silicon...and that will have serious consequences for the old Wintel partnership."

You see, Apple is embarking on a two-year transition plan to get every Mac running on ARM-based silicon instead of Intel's x86 CPUs that it's been using for the last decade and a half. The decision has been met with skepticism—Gordon Mah Ung at PCWorld posited that Apple's move from Intel to ARM means people should stop buying Macs. Others have questioned how the Mac Pro can remain a relevant, high powered machine running on ARM.

Not Gassée, though. What he lays out in a blog post is a domino effect that will shake up the PC industry as it currently exists. Apple will get the ball rolling by switching completely over to ARM, then Microsoft will put more effort into making Windows on ARM work well, because Microsoft's only other choice is to "cede modern PCs to Apple." It's not going to do that.

"Microsoft will forge ahead...with repercussions for the rest of the Windows PC industry. Specifically, what are Dell, HP, Asus, and others going to do if Apple offers materially better laptops and desktops and Microsoft continues to improve Windows on ARM Surface devices? In order to compete, PC manufacturers will have to follow suit, they’ll 'go ARM' because, all defensive rhetoric aside, Apple and Microsoft will have made the x86 architecture feel like what it actually is: old," Gassée writes.

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He at least concedes this will not happen overnight. He's also keenly aware that Apple's share of the PC market is less than 7 percent currently. But make no mistake, Intel has a "serious problem" on its hands, and will ultimately be left with just a single option—"join them" by inking another ARM license, and build a competitive ARM chip to win back the attention of PC makers like Dell, HP, and Asus, all of which are going to leave x86 computing in the rear view mirror.

If you doubt Gassée's prediction, consider his anecdotal evidence—his MacBook Pro "gets hot...really hot." But the iPad Pro? That thing is cherry with its "significantly lower TDP" and superior Geekbench test results.

So there you have it—Intel, and by extension AMD, are in big, big trouble if they don't leave this whole x86 fad behind.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).