Published in Graphics

Apple will develop its discrete GPU

by on10 July 2020

Total hardware control

Earlier this week, there were some rumors that Apple will use its graphics IP to build the discrete graphics processors, probably starting with a notebook first, and we can assure you that these plans are real.

The initiative to make a laptop-based GPU is as old as the efforts to make its big little ARM-based notebook CPU, and Apple sure has the capacity to make this happen. The name of the game is control, as Apple wants to tighten the supply chain and maximize all the revenues by using in house parts.

Remember, it doesn't have to be as good as Radeon that Apple uses now, as there will be no way to compare these with the predecessors. Reviewers will have to compare old machines versus new ones, and the old ones will likely run an Intel CPU, versus new one running Apple in CPU and GPU department.

We, or our sources, are not sure about the time of release, as Apple has postponed its plans for notebook CPU for quite some time, as the company didn't feel ready.

Apple moving to its own GPU IP is an expected move, and AMD has known this for a while. It is hard to keep secrets in the industry where so many soldiers change companies on a regular base. AMD will partner with Apple for years to come as Apple won't have a Swiss penknife solution that solves all the different GPUs it needs for the whole notebook and desktop/workstation portfolio. The same goes for Intel CPUs. It takes years to replace one major player with its own IP.

The efforts start with CPUs, and time will tell whether Apple will feel comfortable or necessary to develop a desktop part too. Bear in mind that Apple notebooks are awful in gaming, and we don't see this changing with the metal GPU. We do, however, like the codename. It takes a lot of persuading to the game developers to optimize for yet another application programming interface (API) as they have to optimize for DirectX for PC and legacy and future consoles, let alone the mobile devices. Apple will have a quick fix to run iPad based games on notebooks and its GPU as this should not be that hard to make a reality.

Give it a few years, and Apple will have an ARM-based CPU, an Imagination Technologies - fundaments/Metal based IP in house GPU, and a 5G modem, and this helps iPhone, iPad, and iMac initiatives. We would not be surprised to see Apple going after wireless or even image sensor IP, as the more things you make in house, the better you control your supply chain. Bear in mind that not everything that you can make should be made. The research and development (R&D) cost of making complex silicon such as GPU are in billions, and it takes years to finish.  

Last modified on 10 July 2020
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