A contender against the iPhone? Well, hardware wise, we will admit this phone is rocking, but can it take on the King? And is there a 7 inch iPad coming down the pike? Rumors, speculation, innuendo. It's all around us.
Your next Mac will have a faster processor, snappier graphics, and better communication skills, right? And your next iPhone, iPad, and iWhatever will be similarly juiced, eh? Well, yeah--but don’t count on those improvements to continue forever, unless there’s a significant breakthrough in chip-making technology.
If you’ve been a Mac|Life reader for more than a month or three, you know that these few paragraphs normally prattle on about chip design, process technologies, communications protocols, or some other geeky goodness. This month will be different. Let’s talk about learning.
If you’re not getting enough battery life out of your smartphone, don’t just blame the manufacturer. There’s more to how long a phone can operate than how big its battery is or how much time you spend streaming video or playing Tiny Wings--there’s the handset’s guts, services provided by your wireless carrier, and your phone’s software.
I had an interesting conversation the other day that might interest you--one that will certainly interest Intel, the maker of the chips that power your iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro, and Mac mini. Lucian Shifren of SuVolta told me about a new type of transistor that his company has introduced. While the deep-geek details on the low-power, low-cost chips that can be built from it are fascinating, one non-techy thing he said stuck in my mind: “The market’s now moving to a point where you’re really going to be driven by the $10 chip and not the $200 chip.”
Case in point: although the Mac’s market share is rising worldwide -- thanks in no small part to the halo effect of iOS devices -- desktop Macs contributed only $6.4 billion to Apple’s 2011 net sales of $108.2 billion. (Apple’s fiscal year wraps up at the end of September.) Savvy readers will have noticed that the $6.4 billion I cited was for desktop Macs only. MacBooks brought in over $15 billion, with sales up 36 percent over the previous year. While that may sound impressive, the new kid on the block, the iPad, bested all shapes and sizes of MacBooks taken together, earning $20 billion during the year. That’s impressive.
The smartypants who design the brains inside each of Apple’s iOS devices--the iPhone, iPad, iPhone touch, and Apple TV--have announced a new processor scheme with far-reaching implications not only for Apple’s überpopular consumer lineup, but for MacBooks, as well. And those designers aren’t Cupertinians.
An AMD-led team has set a new Guinness World Record for the “Highest Frequency of a Computer Processor” by cranking up a soon-to-be-released chip to 8.429GHz. Pause for a nanosecond to let that number sink in: that’s eight billion, four hundred twenty-nine million cycles per second.
What is it about guys? Give them something fast and their immediate impulse is to make it faster.
On November 15, pause to raise a pint to the 40th birthday of the original microprocessor. On that day in 1971, Electronic News carried an ad for the Intel 4004, the precursor of all processors, including the ones running your Mac and your iPhone -- and, for that matter, your car and your coffeemaker.