Apple M4 Chips & New Macs

By Patrick Moorhead - April 17, 2024

The Six Five team discusses Apple M4 Chips & New Macs

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Patrick Moorhead: Apple M4 chips and New Macs. Apple leaked to Bloomberg that they were,-

Daniel Newman: Remember when Apple didn’t leak dude? Remember when that wasn’t a thing? It feels like everything leaks now.

Patrick Moorhead: Well, the only time Apple goes early on anything is, is when they know that they have heavy duty competition or something like that. And I think investors needed some positive news after they’re getting dumped on for China, getting out of automotive and kind of the lukewarm response to a pretty good product, which is Vision Pro. So yeah, again, congrats to Bloomberg on this. So I’m going to put this in perspective. So last year I talked about a PC super cycle that would start in mid 2024 led by on-device capabilities from Qualcomm, Intel, and AMD. And Qualcomm led the way with their Snapdragon Elite X announcement last year with giant on-chip AI and ARM-based custom CPU architecture that showed, and they’re still showing benchmarks, better performance per watt than Apple’s M3. And then Intel, right, announced at CES in January, Meteor Lake that had I think around 10 TOPS in there and an improved distributed architecture.

At the event last week, like we talked in our earlier segment, Intel did what I consider a pull-in of Lunar Lake, right has, I don’t know, six X, the NPU capability is and 100 TOPS and it would be available for the holiday selling season. And obviously AMD is in the game too. I don’t want to leave them out. They were technically first with an on-chip TPU, but I don’t think that has got them much because of the software enablement is weak. So yeah, I mean I got to give Apple credit. Apple was running the tables from a performance per watt and a battery life. Now it lacked desktop overall performance because it couldn’t connect with NVIDIA, but they were really focused on PPW. So Qualcomm, Intel, AMD are challenging Apple’s notebook supremacy.

So what do I expect from these chips? I expect a big NPU baby and potentially some improvements in the way it scales its architecture. While we’ve seen some interesting thing with electron microscopes on how M3 architecture changed, I am not expecting a radical IPC improvement. I don’t think that that’s what we are going to see. And then on the desktop side, I think Dell, HP and Lenovo have an advantage with NVIDIA AI and all the RAG capabilities that NVIDIA has put into their latest and greatest.

On the plus side, again, I think Apple’s entry into the AI PC market will accelerate the category and overall this is a good thing, right? They’re completely vertically integrated, which is interesting and I’m interested to see how Microsoft Surface and it’s integrated with its new operating system, AI enabled with the applications and new chips first out with Qualcomm, Intel, and AMD are going to mean. But the great part is Apple jumping in gives credibility to AI PCs.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, listen, this is all rumor right now, but it’s not. Right. This is like it’s rumor, but it’s not rumor.

Patrick Moorhead: Right.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. And Apple one, doesn’t have its same capabilities to secrecy as it once did, but this isn’t an accidental leak anyway. This is a, hey, we need everybody to know we’re not basically doing nothing here. Now again, there was a lot of prognostication that Worldwide Developer Conference would be a moment and you would be hearing about what we’re hearing about, but I think waiting multiple weeks, months to get this out in the world we live in is too long. Now Apple’s,-

Patrick Moorhead: Clearly responsive and Intel was the clear driver.

Daniel Newman: To its credit, I mean, Intel is putting the fear of markets into Apple and the fact is, is that Apple, they haven’t been on the front end of anything for a long time. I mean, let’s be very, very clear. They’re late with VR and AR. This isn’t new. They’re out with something cooler, but it’s much later and that’s kind of become their bit of their MO, is they’re kind of a laggard in a lot of things, but then they do it a little bit better, a little bit more friendly experience wise and that’s been their thing for a long time now. It’s not Steve Jobs’s Apple anymore. Let’s just be very clear about that.

But Apple’s also suffering Pat, like let’s be really candid. They’re getting crushed in China right now. Their iPhones are down by mid-double-digit percent sales. They’re moving sales and manufacturing to India, which I think China’s somewhat punishing them for amongst also trying to punish any US-based company in general for what we’re doing from a chip control standpoint and they’re getting more nationalistic. That hurts a company like Apple that has a huge market there. Now again, this isn’t about phones, this is about Macs, but Pat, their sales dropped 27% for Mac in the last year, so that’s not good. That’s a big fall-off. So now you’ve got phones falling in their biggest market, you’ve got Macs falling off and then they didn’t have anything innovative to offer. So of course they’re going to come out and say, hold on everybody. We’re not going to go without a response here. We’re going to come up with something and it’s going to be good.

Now, I did some evaluation of the ReALM or ReALM models that they’re doing, Pat, and the stuff that Apple is doing with Gen AI on-device is actually somewhat interesting. If you looked at the stats versus I believe it was some of Mistral and they did it against GPT-3.5 Turbo, I believe, and again, I’m doing this from memory, Apple was able to show some pretty high performance on models with sub-billion parameters, some as low as like 250 million getting very, very good performance. This is going to be related to future versions of Siri and generative capabilities on-device, but Apple needs an answer for on-device AI. This is going to be the answer. Will it drive, go ahead. I can see you trying to get something in. Let me take a breath.

Patrick Moorhead: No, no, I thought you were done.

Daniel Newman: No, I’m never done. I just talk forever. I just keep going. Pat’s like, yeah, I know. Jesus, this is terrible. You know what? Let’s just move on. I’m done with this.

Patrick Moorhead: You sure?

Daniel Newman: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I said my piece. I said my piece. Apple, you got work to do. There.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, credit to Apple for stirring up PPW and resetting what you could do. It woke the entire industry up and their,-

Daniel Newman: And by the way, it’s more TV we can do. It’s more stuff for us to tweet about.

Patrick Moorhead: Exactly.

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.