With Apple starting to ship their own SoC based on the ARM ISA there is a growing Microsoft developing their own ARM SoCs and rumours that other big players such as AMD and Intel maybe looking at getting into developing their own range of ARM based SoCs which will licence the ARM ISA but will use their own custom architecture (much like what Apple does). The rumour regarding Microsoft, at least in my point of view, is probably off base in that I don’t see Microsoft creating their own custom ARM based chip like the following article (link) but I could imagine Microsoft teaming up with Qualcomm in much the same way that Microsoft teamed up with AMD to create the custom chipset found in Xbox.

There is a lot of potential for Microsoft but I think the ‘great undoing’ will be Microsoft’s refusal to deal with the decades of legacy and use ARM as an opportunity to jettison old technology and create a modern platform (see my post regarding the EdgeOS concept) that optimised for the ARM platform then gradually expand it beyond ChromeOS competing devices into a future ARM based Xbox, ARM based servers etc. One understands the need to maintain backwards compatibility for the short term to allow a smooth transition but the damage to the platform is a lot greater when there lacks any sort of coordinated platform to move a platform forward through having a methodical process where old technologies are deprecated then the support is removed from the SDK (but the binary can still run) and then eventually the removal of it from the platform. If there is a methodical process then companies can plan for the future – they know what is going to be removed, the replacement is either announced or Microsoft says that they’re not going to provide such a technology (they might decide that it is outside the scope of an operating system vendor due to it being very much a niche resulting in the cost vs. benefit not balancing up).

It’ll be interesting to see what Oracle ends up doing given that Fujitsu has put an end to its own SPARC range of CPUs in favour of their new ARM based CPU that powers their latest super computer (link) or whether they decide to go ‘all in’ with x86-64. When it comes to Apple’s own servers – will we see Apple make use of its own SoCs within their own servers – maybe taking macOS core and scaling it up around their own ARM based SoC then matching that with a powerful neutral processor which will help with machine modelling particularly as Apple invests into new cloud applications.

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