In recent weeks there have been a few stories in the Apple press about rumoured plans for Apple to switch from Intel to ARM chips in its Macintosh computers. Most refer to the (I believe) original Bloomberg piece or All Things D’s further analysis of that.

What neither of these stories delved into is that it is very, very simple to ‘predict’ when there will be a mainstream, desktop class personal computer, running an ARM CPU, that will hold its own against a contemporary Intel-powered system. In fact, I’ll do that for you in just a moment. I’ll give you a precise year.

Not only will this computer exist but it will, within two years of launch, run the world’s most advanced operating system – one which won’t be bettered, from a design standpoint, for decades.

OK, so let’s get to the ‘prediction’. Note how I always put inverted commas around ‘prediction’. That’s because technically I am not making a statement about an event yet to come true (or not).

The year was 1987.

Yes, you read that right. In 1986, Intel released the 5 MIPs 80386DX chip, which was to be found inside IBM PCs and clones thereof. Now, that 5 MIPs took a clock speed of 16MHz and consumed a whole watt of power. The ARM2, delivered in 1987, rivalled that performance, peaking at 4.8 MIPs while clocked at only 8 MHz and consuming a few hundred milliwatts of power.

In fact, the ARM architecture was developed by Acorn Computers specifically to power a new, world class range of desktop computers that would become the Acorn Archimedes. Although at launch the Archimedes came with an interim operating system, rather dubiously dubbed ‘Arthur’, it would receive, in 1989, its intended OS called RISC OS.

RISC OS had abilities and followed principles which are slowly creeping into Apple’s OS X. Appropriately modernised, I believe it would be the most user friendly and functional OS available today.

So, could or would Apple bring ARM to the personal computer world? Hell, yes. They’ll bring it back. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time and perhaps surmounting a few obstacles along the way.

As for not being able to run Windows, who cares? Certainly not the majority of Apple’s target market. The geeks will whine. The masses will buy.


Banner image Creative Commons by Binarysequence.

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