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Frank777
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Toronto
 
2019-03-11, 00:18

Okay, I get it. Microsoft introduced the Surface Studio in October 2016 and caught Apple's iMac team flat-footed.

Apple pushed out an iMac update in mid-2017, but it was clear to everyone that the Next Big Thing would typically take 18-24 months to show up, and that Apple would have to bring it's A-game.

We're now in March of 2019, and there's still no word on the next iMac update.
I had thought we'd see something by the end of March, and maybe we still might.

But I'm thinking that the release of the next version is either pushed back because there's a form factor change that gives away the design language of the new Mac Pro, or because somewhere deep in the caverns of Apple Park there's a chip that blows the current iMac chips away, and Apple is crazy enough to plan a Fall 2019 launch that will see the flagship Mac lead the transition.

Whatever's going on, WWDC should be a blast this year.
So I figured I'd start an early post asking for guesses on what's up with the next iMac. My guess:

• 32-inch screen with smaller bezels. Chin stays, albeit smaller.
• Increase to 6K or 8K screen (10K makes sense for 8K video editing, but I think that's still way too far out.)
• Adjustable height control
• Thunderbolt 3 with USB 3.2
• No Touch Bar on keyboard, because no-one is clamoring for that, or for significantly higher prices.
• Face ID (which will tick off people like me who keep a cover on their camera.)
• At least one USB port will be easy to reach. (I think this is actually the most unrealistic of my predictions.)

All this could have been done already, so what's the hold up?

• If it's not out by WWDC in June, it will have an A-chip.

Yes it's insane, but they've kept us waiting for almost two years.
After that long of a wait, this had better be a spectacular iMac update.
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chucker
 
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2019-03-11, 05:11

OK, so this is mostly a rant about the Surface Studio, which is a little unfair since I think your post is good, but…

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
Okay, I get it. Microsoft introduced the Surface Studio in October 2016 and caught Apple's iMac team flat-footed.
How?

Because a 28-inch tilting digital easel is interesting? Sure.

Because it has impressive specs? Uhhhh.

Because it sells well? Nooooope.

This idea that the Surface Studio competes with the iMac is silly. The iMac starts at $1,099. The Surface Studio 2 starts at $3,499. And before you go "ahhhh, but it has better specs!": you can only configure it with a laptop CPU.

Now, you might make the case that it competes with the iMac Pro. At that point, it is somewhat cheaper, though actually not by much. The iMac Pro starts at $4,999, yes, but it comes with 32 GB RAM. A 32 GB RAM Surface Studio 2 starts at $4,199. The iMac Pro will also offer you a way, way beefier CPU, while the Surface Studio 2's GPU is slightly better.

Should Apple make an "iMac Art" to compete with this? Perhaps. They're more likely to make a 28-inch iPad Pro, and maybe they're missing the forest for the trees there with their distinction between the Mac and iPad platforms.

(Incidentally, I think neither the Surface line's Windows classic + modern approach nor the iPad's iOS approach quite hits the mark. Both pieces of hardware come coupled with rather meh software.

In the Surface case, you largely end up in an environment that hasn't evolved at all since Windows 7, coupled with an environment from Windows 8 that the user base at large loudly rejected. Microsoft keeps making demos like Paint 3D here and there, but really, the big art applications mostly run in the traditional environment. Microsoft itself seems unsure what if anything to do with modern apps. Explorer still isn't one, nor is most of the Office suite, and it looks like they'll change Edge to no longer be one. Weird.

Meanwhile, on the iPad + iOS side, things aren't that great either. iOS is great for a phone, and fine on a non-Pro iPad, but on the iPad Pro, the starting point is just very constrained, and they got plenty of work to do.)

But as it currently stands, I think your implication that the Surface Studio somehow destroys the iMac is… odd.

Again, it's an interesting product. But it honestly feels more like a design/research study than an actual production machine. If anyone thinks the Mac is niche, well, this product is extremely niche.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
Apple pushed out an iMac update in mid-2017, but it was clear to everyone that the Next Big Thing would typically take 18-24 months to show up, and that Apple would have to bring it's A-game.

We're now in March of 2019, and there's still no word on the next iMac update.
I had thought we'd see something by the end of March, and maybe we still might.
It is indeed weird, and arguably just plain bad, that there was no iMac update in 2018. This was the year Intel shipped Coffee Lake and Coffee Lake Refresh. Apple could've brought the iMac to six and even eight (assuming Intel can deliver in volume) cores.

It's possible they made a questionable cannibalization calculation: if they had upgraded the iMac, the couldn't also have upgraded the iMac Pro, because a newer Xeon-W generation isn't out yet (Intel's roadmap is really stupid).

But I think you're right that it's more likely that Apple has been working on a larger iMac update, and they simply aren't done, so they skipped a year.

Which… ugh. These slow Mac schedules are stupid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
But I'm thinking that the release of the next version is either pushed back because there's a form factor change that gives away the design language of the new Mac Pro,
I think that's right.

That, or they'll just change the iMac to match the iMac Pro a little more (especially internally).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
or because somewhere deep in the caverns of Apple Park there's a chip that blows the current iMac chips away, and Apple is crazy enough to plan a Fall 2019 launch that will see the flagship Mac lead the transition.
I'm… really not feeling happy with this ARM Mac stuff. But I'm also not very happy with Intel's roadmap, so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
No Touch Bar on keyboard, because no-one is clamoring for that, or for significantly higher prices.
I'm torn on this.

They shipped the iPhone XR without 3D Touch, which they never should have done. It basically communicates, "we don't really know yet where this technology is going, so we might as well leave it out on some models". Which is its death knell. If they do the same with the Touch Bar, they might as well remove it from all models.

But on the other hand, I also don't feel they've gotten the Touch Bar right. Give it haptics, at the very least.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
At least one USB port will be easy to reach. (I think this is actually the most unrealistic of my predictions.)
Yeaaaaaah.

Every time I see a Mac desktop (I'm mostly around laptops), I'm amazed at the poor usability choice here, and that Apple hasn't fixed it in over a decade. Their laptops have nicely reachable ports (remember there was a time when laptop ports were on the back, which was much harder to reach!). But their desktops go all Jony Ive and hide what's important.

Like… throw us a bone here, Apple…

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
After that long of a wait, this had better be a spectacular iMac update.
I don't see it. I think they'll make it thinner and upgrade the internals to have the T2 (which, honestly, is hard to communicate as a selling point). Maybe sell that it has twice the cores now. Maybe add stuff like Face ID, like you mentioned…

(No, Apple isn't going to take "but some people tape over their camera" as a counter-argument to that… when the iPhone shipped, it was common for organizations to disallow camera phones altogether. That ship has sailed now. So will the ship of computers + cameras.)
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Frank777
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Toronto
 
2019-03-11, 15:48

Quote:
Originally Posted by chucker View Post
OK, so this is mostly a rant about the Surface Studio, which is a little unfair since I think your post is good, but…

But as it currently stands, I think your implication that the Surface Studio somehow destroys the iMac is… odd.

Again, it's an interesting product. But it honestly feels more like a design/research study than an actual production machine. If anyone thinks the Mac is niche, well, this product is extremely niche.
The Surface doesn't destroy the iMac at all. And it is extremely niche. But the very fact that Apple got out-innovated by Microsoft on an AIO computer that caters to creative pros has to be profoundly embarrassing to Cupertino. I know portables and wearables are the thing now, and I understand that Apple barely gives a hoot about the Mac Mini on its best day.

But the iMac is the flagship Apple computer. Redmond isn't supposed to be able to do anything but create a cheap knockoff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chucker View Post
I'm… really not feeling happy with this ARM Mac stuff. But I'm also not very happy with Intel's roadmap, so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?
At this point, I think the quiet means the transition to an A-chip Mac is all but given. Certainly, you can see Intel appearing to deal with the possibility. The question has always been whether it's consumer-level only, or if the A-chips can truly be scaled to Xeon-level performance.

I have no idea, internet prognosticators seem to say no, and Apple only keeps repeating that current A-chips outperform desktops.

Like I said, this WWDC is probably going to be a lot of fun.
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chucker
 
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2019-03-12, 05:07

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
But the very fact that Apple got out-innovated by Microsoft on an AIO computer that caters to creative pros
I mean, did it though? I'm not really sure what innovation refers to here.

The ideas? We've seen the big one — draw right on a big screen — in the Wacom Cintiq a decade before the Surface Studio.

The execution? How many creative pros do you actually see with a Surface Studio or Surface Pro, and how many do you instead see with an iMac or iPad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
has to be profoundly embarrassing to Cupertino.
I really don't know about this. It seems to be the consensus among many tech pundits who've been enjoying doomsaying Apple since the 1990s.

I have no doubt Apple's ears perked up. I don't think they're worried though (and part of that is misplaced hubris, I'm sure).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
I know portables and wearables are the thing now, and I understand that Apple barely gives a hoot about the Mac Mini on its best day.
I mean, they just gave the Mac mini a very nice upgrade. Many years too late, but hey.

And yes, it's about portables. Which… is that really such a problem? Why are we drawing on a desk at all? Isn't that more of an artifact of how it had to be, due to technological constraints?

You want them to innovate? Push them to ship a 20-inch iPad Pro. Heck, go 30-inch. Make the software better. Push for a viable pro market rather than a race to the bottom. (And please, for the love of yahvo, no camera bump?)

Then, do the post-production on an iMac. That's desk work. That's fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
But the iMac is the flagship Apple computer. Redmond isn't supposed to be able to do anything but create a cheap knockoff.
I dunno man. Hardware products from Microsoft aren't really bad. The weird thing about the Surface line-up is that, if you ask me, they could never quite figure out if they wanted to do reference designs or outright compete with their partners.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
The question has always been whether it's consumer-level only, or if the A-chips can truly be scaled to Xeon-level performance.
A partial transition poses weird problems. Not so much on the software end (these days, most software is high-level enough that arch doesn't really matter anyway), but due to performance characteristics: if they do the transition only on the high end, they need to be really confident that their A chips scale like that. Maybe they are? I wouldn't be. But if they do it on the low end, then the x86 emulation cost suddenly becomes a lot more taxing. The MacBook is already fairly slow as it is; now imagine what it's like when a third of the apps running are running in emulation.

With the x86 transition, we didn't really see that much, because frankly, the early Core chips were already a fair bit better than the G5s and G4s (which most Macs were still on!). On top of that, almost all Intel Macs were dual-core from the start, whereas almost all PowerPC Macs were single-core. You immediately got a boost so significant, even the PowerPC apps running in emulation didn't really feel slow.

Apple's ARM chips are impressive, but they do not offer this kind of significant speed bump. Over Qualcomm and Samsung chips? Yes. Over Intel chips at the same wattage? Kind of. Over Intel chips at wattages feasible in a laptop and desktop? Nope.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
I have no idea, internet prognosticators seem to say no, and Apple only keeps repeating that current A-chips outperform desktops.
Yeah, but that's a bit of a simplification. As best as I can tell, the big catch about those Geekbench comparisons is sustained load. Yes, A chips do impressive performance for a few minutes. But the Xeon-W in an iMac Pro can do it for hours on end without overheating. The A chip will throttle quickly.

Which leaves the question: given more thermal headroom, does an A chip deliver better performance (does that scale up much?), and can it do so as a sustained load? Or will it continue to serve short bursts better?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank777 View Post
Like I said, this WWDC is probably going to be a lot of fun.
I'm… worried about Marzipan. Home, etc. are not a great start.
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PB PM
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2019-03-12, 08:59

A move to ARM on anything other than entry level products and the MacBook would be a big mistake, unless Apple intends to keep Intel for the Pro models. No way ARM can compete with the 65W+ Higher end Intel and AMD 6-8 core multi-threaded high end desktop chips.

As for an iMac refresh, using older chips is a big plus for Apple since it improves margins massively, and under Cook that is all they care about (even the new Mac Mini wasn’t given the latest gem stuff when it was shipping before the Mini came out). Could be related to the chip production shortages Intel is having due to their messed up/multi-year delayed transition from 14nm nodes to 10nm.

In the end the reality is that the Mac is now just a footnote that Apple staff remembers to do something about at 3PM every Friday afternoon.
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kscherer
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
 
2019-03-12, 15:57

I think we are putting too much emphasis on emulation. Apple's switch to ARM on the Mac is already well underway, and most of the "emulation" has been replaced with a direct development environment that is both happy and profitable.

That environment is called "iOS".

Keep in mind that I am not talking about UI, here. Rather, I am talking about the development of native ARM code that is happening amongst most major applications. Microsoft, Adobe, etc. are already on board with ARM code for their major applications, (you can bank on them knowing where Apple is headed, and it isn't toward Intel's roadmap). Office (not the full suite, mind you, but a good chunk of it) is already running on ARM, and so is a good chunk of Adobe's stuff, including the full-blown desktop version of Photoshop (due later this year), new 3D modeling tools, etc. In fact, all of the world's most popular apps are already running on ARM.

In the not too distant past, when Apple switched from OS 9 to OS X, Microsoft and Adobe were conveniently absent from the game, waiting patiently to see if Apple could pull off the transition. And, again, when Apple switched from PowerPC to x86, MS Office and Adobe CS were absent. As were almost everyone else. Apple had to spend a ton of R&D money developing emulation environments, and then wait patiently as their partners drug their heals.

This time around, Apple has quietly used the iPhone and iPad as experimental development environments in which they have drug their partners forward kicking and profitably screaming. Thus, most of the development work has already been done. When they switch to ARM there will be no emulator—Marzipan will see to that. Apps will just work. Yes, some developers (Adobe and Microsoft included) will have to work on the UI, but much of the necessary code will have already been laid.

Also, the iPad Pro is the experimental Ax platform that Apple is using to provide developers with top of the line ARM chips that offer performance at least at or near the low/middle end of x86. This does several things. First, it gives developers a look at high-end ARM systems; second, it provides a profitable medium for software development and experimentation; third, with Marzipan (upcoming) it offers developers a way to reach every customer Apple has, regardless of the platform.

Basically, when Apple pushes the Mac OS-on-ARM button, the software will already be there with no need for emulation. iPad Pro's powerful architecture will see to that. Apple has very carefully lured their entire developer network into the next major transition, most of them unknowingly. Office is [mostly] ready; Adobe CS is [mostly] ready; games and social media apps are [mostly] ready.

The next transition will be [mostly] seamless, and entirely free of any emulation environment, because developers will have already done the legwork. Does this mean MacOS apps will be awesome? No, not at all. Some will suck (many suck right now). However, I do not think we have seen anything close to the beginning. A few experimental apps (Home, Stocks, etc.) do not make the system. They are only laying out the framework.

As far as high-end systems are concerned, I am guessing Apple will solve the issue simply by chucking lots of cheap Ax cores at the problem.

Since November 2016, I have tried to live my life without politics or football, and it has been the most peaceful time of my life.
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PB PM
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2019-03-12, 19:06

Throwing lots of slow cores at tasks that rely on fast clock speeds and core count won’t fix the problem. The Ax cores just don’t have the horsepower for the high end workflows. Guess it really doesn’t matter, since anyone doing any real work left Mac OS years ago. Now days all I use a Mac for is web browsing, Netflix, and iMovie. Do all my real work on a Window 10 PC.
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Frank777
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2019-03-12, 19:44

Quote:
Originally Posted by kscherer View Post
As far as high-end systems are concerned, I am guessing Apple will solve the issue simply by chucking lots of cheap Ax cores at the problem.
This is what I was thinking, but bear in mind that I know absolutely nothing about chip design.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
Guess it really doesn’t matter, since anyone doing any real work left Mac OS years ago. Now days all I use a Mac for is web browsing, Netflix, and iMovie. Do all my real work on a Window 10 PC.
This is just nonsense. I run my business on a Mac, and there are millions like me around the world. Let's hear your definition of "real work".
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PB PM
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2019-03-13, 01:04

Can you do Cuda based AI programming on a Mac? Nope, no Nvidia chips in recent models, and even when they did they only supported OpenGL/CL. Many other scenarios as well, do I need to list ever possible reasons why people with high end workflows might not find a Mac suitable for those tasks? No, I don’t need to justify myself and many other people’s reasoning to you.
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chucker
 
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2019-03-13, 10:12

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
A move to ARM on anything other than entry level products and the MacBook would be a big mistake, unless Apple intends to keep Intel for the Pro models. No way ARM can compete with the 65W+ Higher end Intel and AMD 6-8 core multi-threaded high end desktop chips.
We don't really have a basis for this assertion.

Maybe?

Maybe not?

Would you have guessed a decade ago that Apple would even be in the ballpark?

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
(even the new Mac Mini wasn’t given the latest gem stuff when it was shipping before the Mini came out)

. Could be related to the chip production shortages Intel is having due to their messed up/multi-year delayed transition from 14nm nodes to 10nm.
Well, it has Coffee Lake, but not Coffee Lake Refresh. It entirely uses 65 W parts, and the eight-core parts in Coffee Lake Refresh all require 95 W. That, and the requirement for an iGPU, leaves us with the 9400, when they currently have three different options.

So I don't think the margins argument holds water in this case. For the iMac? Sure. For the Mac mini, once Ice Lake desktop parts ship and Apple is almost inevitably a laggard in using them? Yeah, definitely.
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chucker
 
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2019-03-13, 10:19

Quote:
Originally Posted by kscherer View Post
I think we are putting too much emphasis on emulation. Apple's switch to ARM on the Mac is already well underway, and most of the "emulation" has been replaced with a direct development environment that is both happy and profitable.

That environment is called "iOS".

Keep in mind that I am not talking about UI, here. Rather, I am talking about the development of native ARM code that is happening amongst most major applications. Microsoft, Adobe, etc. are already on board with ARM code for their major applications, (you can bank on them knowing where Apple is headed, and it isn't toward Intel's roadmap). Office (not the full suite, mind you, but a good chunk of it) is already running on ARM, and so is a good chunk of Adobe's stuff, including the full-blown desktop version of Photoshop (due later this year), new 3D modeling tools, etc. In fact, all of the world's most popular apps are already running on ARM.
iOS has run on x86 from day one. Even on PowerPC, in fact.

Most apps in general don't get developed in an architecture-specific way. And for iOS in particular, the iOS Simulator has always been that: a simulator, not an emulator.

You can do architecture-specific stuff, particularly for high-performance code, but this is nowhere near the same kind of concern as it was in the 1990s.

So, yes, we have outside evidence that third parties have already started making apps work on ARM, but that isn't really a surprise nor was it likely to be a daunting task.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kscherer View Post
Also, the iPad Pro is the experimental Ax platform that Apple is using to provide developers with top of the line ARM chips that offer performance at least at or near the low/middle end of x86. This does several things. First, it gives developers a look at high-end ARM systems; second, it provides a profitable medium for software development and experimentation; third, with Marzipan (upcoming) it offers developers a way to reach every customer Apple has, regardless of the platform.
I believe you're overthinking this. Marzipan will have almost zero architecture-specific code. You can run built-in iOS apps in x86, today. You could all the way back in 10.5 Leopard. Just launch the Simulator.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kscherer View Post
Basically, when Apple pushes the Mac OS-on-ARM button, the software will already be there with no need for emulation. iPad Pro's powerful architecture will see to that. Apple has very carefully lured their entire developer network into the next major transition, most of them unknowingly. Office is [mostly] ready; Adobe CS is [mostly] ready; games and social media apps are [mostly] ready.
None of that helps me. We'll likely be thrust back to the PowerPC days where running Windows meant an emulator, and an emulator meant sluggishness. That means for my job it's almost certainly a non-starter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kscherer View Post
The next transition will be [mostly] seamless, and entirely free of any emulation environment,
If Apple does ship no affordances for emulation whatsoever, it'll be nice, I suppose, to see that their priorities are no longer aligned with mine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kscherer View Post
As far as high-end systems are concerned, I am guessing Apple will solve the issue simply by chucking lots of cheap Ax cores at the problem.
That's not how any of this works.
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chucker
 
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2019-03-13, 10:20

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
Can you do Cuda based AI programming on a Mac? Nope, no Nvidia chips in recent models, and even when they did they only supported OpenGL/CL. Many other scenarios as well, do I need to list ever possible reasons why people with high end workflows might not find a Mac suitable for those tasks? No, I don’t need to justify myself and many other people’s reasoning to you.
You don't need to do anything, but it's strange that you'd bother posting in a forum if you don't want to.
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