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Tech Bites: The Apple M1 Chips

by Enticio Handwear on
Tech Bites: The Apple M1 Chips

Something New

I follow technology closely but I don’t usually write about it. However, artists have always had an uneasy alliance with technology and it has never been more true than today. We can help with that, “Tech Bites” will break things down into bite-sized, easy-to-understand pieces. We will start with just a single topic, Apple’s new chips and why it will matter to you.

Technology Collision Course

Solid state chips are the magic little bits of ceramic and glass that make most of our modern world work; if a device communicates and processes data (your phone or tablet), it is probably loaded with all sorts of chips. We also know that since the chips provide much of the behavior of the device, it is also true that similar devices use similar chips. For as long as we have had portable devices, there have been two competing solutions for people who need them: the powerful but power hungry devices that tend to be heavy and hot and the weaker, light and portable solutions for people who need to be mobile (with hybrid devices in-between) .

These two different paths of evolution have been on a collision course for over thirty years and convergence appears to be getting its due this year. For the first time, we may finally have powerful performance in a chip that delicately sips battery life (think supermodel lifting a locomotive engine and you get the idea).

Apple Silicon M1 Chip


But Why Now?

Why, is too complex a question to properly address here. What we can say is that Apple has been building custom chips for a long time and they have been particularly successful with A-series of chips that they put in phones and tablets. Those chips don’t use a lot of electric charge from a battery and they have been successfully outpacing the rest of the industry - particularly when it comes to energy consumption. This didn’t matter in a world where everything is normally plugged in but for any device that relies on a battery… it’s everything. The trend that started with suitcase-sized cell phones and laptops has now given way to tablets and phones that are becoming as powerful as those desktops that some of us may still remember.

As successful as Apple’s A-series chips are, they recently announced the next generation of chip designs that represents a new path forward. Why? Because their A-series chips had gotten powerful enough that new chips could be designed to excel at two things at once, delivering a lot of computing power for very little electric power. They did this by using one chip to replace a whole handful of chips, and this beast delivers lots of computing power, while only consuming a small amount of energy. So, this year is the first year that the new high-end iPad will now use an M1 chip. Perhaps even more important is that this is the same chip that will be used in desktop Macs in various configurations going forward. This is
 no small accomplishment but it is only the beginning of something new and exciting and we will all be the beneficiaries.

The Age of Hardware Convergence

Apple is not being shy about this breakthrough but they are being careful not to confuse people or upset the market too much. What it means to all of us is that we are now in a transition period where Apple will provide products that look the same as what we know and love, however, they are likely to be very different underneath.

You do not need to do anything differently, however, new capabilities may become possible. And we can expect to see the line separating tablets and laptops continue to blur as tablets gain the power to run more demanding software packages and as laptops continue to use less power, extending the ability to work and play uninterrupted.

What Does that Future Look Like?

No one can say for sure, but technological evolution tends to become noticeable in subtle ways, if you know where to look; some of this has already begun. In a couple of years, you are likely to be able to plan a weekend getaway and leave all your chargers at home. It means that being in a meeting and seeing your battery charge at 16% and not triggering a panic attack because that is enough energy to last the day.

For people who like to work outdoors, bright screens and touch surfaces will make it convenient to simply sit by the seashore or a park, editing your next film or sketching and painting with digital devices that are connected and secure. It’s knowing that when you finally get back to your studio, the work you did while on the go, will have made it home before you did. And don’t be surprised if some people find that they no longer need a desktop at all; that is a trend that has already begun. This is a future we can all believe in and look forward to.

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