Several Architosh readers and folks on our social channels were scratching their heads at this week’s Apple Event. Folks are clearly wondering about the Mac and its future given Apple’s professed belief that the iPad represents, at the moment, the best expression of what computing looks like in the future. Those are very nearly Tim Cook’s words.
Expression of What Computing Looks Like?
It is hard to decipher Apple’s words much less their moves at times. This is one of those times.
Two developments this week in the Apple news blogosphere raised eyebrows about possible futures for OS X and the Mac. One of those was the news that Apple may have been negotiating to acquire Imagination Technologies, the British provider of chips in Apple’s iPhones and iPads.
Imagination makes the PowerVR GPU, one of the top performing graphics processing units in the mobile world. Imagination actually does more than that and has a wide footprint in the graphics world. An acquisition of Imagination would be an interesting development and a continued trend by Apple to bring in-house all silicon chip development. Given the success of Apple’s CPU A-series architecture, based on the ARM licensing agreement it uniquely has, plus its many CPU-related acquisitions, it may make continued sense to acquire Imagination.
Alas, the company this week acknowledged it had discussions with Imagination but declined to make an offer at this time. So how does this connect to OS X?
It’s very simple. Apple appears to be aiming for more end-to-end control of the silicon chips in devices that power its iOS based platform; Apple’s ability to architect its proprietary microprocessors and graphics units would further enable the company to innovate ahead of its rivals. But this is in stark contrast to its Mac OS X platform.
A skeptic might say that Apple is keeping OS X around only until iOS can fully replace it outright. And this may indeed be the longer term vision.
It’s important to recognize just how much horsepower is coming into the iPad Pro devices. When Apple introduced the first iPad Pro and showed Autodesk’s mobile AutoCAD running on it, Autodesk told us in an interview on the presentation that the company was surprised just how fast the iPad Pro was as compared to all devices (mobile or desktop).
It could be too that an Imagination buy could give Apple additional GPU options for its OS X platform computers, but at this present time the interest in the British company likely is squarely centered on Apple’s iOS visions.
The Apple App Cloud and Custom Servers
The second question centers around Apple’s ambitions to develop, build and fully control its own iCloud infrastructure, including right down to building its own servers. According to reports, largely stemming from one on The Information (see, The Information, “Inside Apple’s Cloud Infrastructure Trobles,” 23 Mar 2016), Apple is involved in a multi-year effort to transition iCloud away from third-parties and develop its own servers and even its own networking hardware.
An AppleInsider report here says it is predicated by backdoor fears based on information revealed by NSA leader Edward Snowden. With the Apple vs FBI case looming larger than life over Apple’s world right now, these new story developments add even more concern and creditability to Apple’s positions.
If Apple started making its own servers could that mean it may make them for the market?
It is not clear if Apple’s iCloud server architecture ambitions would even entail OS X much less scale for selling to the market. The intent is to thwart possible snooping and inside attacks within its data centers and thus compromise Apple customer data.
So again, how does this fit into OS X futures?
Apple, based on reports, seems to be working on a comprehensive iCloud plan that would enable software developers to host their applications on iCloud. This is exciting news to hear and one at Architosh we have speculated about. Markets, like the CAD market we cover and specialize in at Architosh, are rapidly moving towards the cloud in more ways than one.
In short, we see this as quite interesting because we believe that the “Pro” as in Mac Pro may in fact be headed towards the cloud itself. High-performance computing, or computing workflows highly optimized for multi-threaded operations, are already taking up prime time in new cloud-based solutions, from companies like Amazon and Microsoft, to specialists like OTOY and Frame—the latter two serving the markets we cover here at Architosh.
In fact, we asked Frame’s CEO if they too could conceivably put up OS X cloud based solutions like their Windows solutions and the answer was a resounding yes. If Frame can do it, you bet Apple can.
If Apple’s developers could write software for anywhere, anytime, any device (AAaD) access, then Apple could use its servers in its iCloud to power what we will simply refer to as OS X Pro services embedded in those applications. This means, when a Mac user powers up a 3D program and wants to render, she has two choices: (a) render it locally on your Mac, or (b) tap the power of Apple’s iCloud servers where the software provider has iCloud-based optionality for its customers.
Everything that we have needed the “pro” for, particularly in products that largely seem quite dead now like the Mac Pro, could one day be done much better in the cloud where users can tap nearly infinite compute resources, on-demand, at scale, and for a better life-cycle cost.
These two news nuggets have interesting implications for Apple and OS X in particular. The iCloud infrastructure story news in particular excites us “pro” oriented users here at Architosh. We are constantly wondering what is going to be the answer for Apple’s poorly received Mac Pro. The cloud may in fact be the real answer to that problem.
As for Imagination Technologies? A purchase would give Apple complete CPU and GPU silicon architectural control and end-to-end solution making for its iOS platform.