Thinkpad: Far as I know, all ARM SoC’s have the GPU on die and aren’t designed to

Oct. 9, 2022, 7:18 p.m.

What do you all think about the future of the AMD64 (x86 CISC) paradigm?

It seems to have 9 lives like a cat, considering CISC architecture is from the 1970s and RISC, like ARM, came out of the 1990s.

I think it’s on its 9th life.

My hunch is that we are close to “peak AMD64”. I think ARM is the likely new paradigm and future ThinkPads, like the current MacBooks, will have ARM-based SoC’s instead of Intel or AMD and they’ll have everything integrated/soldered. Upgrading RAM or SSD post-sale will be a thing of the past. I hate to say it, but the writing is on the wall.

I’m all for more performance and double the battery life with better thermals and built-in 5G LTE of course. I will just miss the post-sale upgradabilty. I don’t see how that will continue with ARM, because its highly integrated by nature. Lenovo and other manufacturers are already making more and more of their laptops non-upgradable as we speak even on the Intel/AMD architecture.

But the upside is ARM (or RISC-V, if they go that route) still has lots of room to grow. AMD64, not so much.

Here are the reasons why I think ARM (or possibly RISC-V) surpassing AMD64/x86 as the dominant platform is inevitable:

• All of the worlds fastest supercomputers are RISC and have been for years. The fastest is a Japanese cluster with custom Fujitsu ARM SoC’s.

• Mobile is increasingly important as is energy efficiency and thermals. ARM has an inherent advantage there that Intel/AMD CISC can never hope to catch up with.

• The few advantages CISC has (like using RAM a bit less) are largely relevant to how computing *was* in the 70s and 80s, not the way it is today.

• There are already at least a dozen ARM licensees and SoC makers. There are way more foundries making ARM cores than are making Intel/AMD CISC ones.

• Microsoft wisely began work on WoA (Windows on ARM) years ago. It’s already mature technology that works well. It’s pretty much seamless at this point. We are wayyyy past the Windows RT days. That’s one of THE biggest obstacles to this paradigm shift already taken care of.

• There are very few practical obstacles to any of us moving to ARM architecture right now. Windows runs great on it as do the vast majority of a Windows apps, both 32 and 64 bit and there are ARM native Linux builds and distros too.

• We seem to be endlessly careening toward thinner and thinner laptops. ARM is going to win that game every time. They use less than half the energy and generate way less heat.

• Standardizing the world’s PC’s on the same platform as the world’s smartphones and tablets will have tremendous benefits for software development. The rest of the world will be able to leverage many of the same advantages Apple now enjoys because every device it makes uses the same processor architecture.

So that’s why I think this shift is inevitable and it’s coming sooner rather than later. I would predict that in less than 10 years, more than half of the new Windows PC’s on the market will ship with ARM (or RISC-V) processors.

The only obstacles I can see are:

1.) The upgradability thing, but the truth is the overwhelming majority of people just buy their computer and use it. Most people buy laptops now too. The percentage of the population who actually upgraded their own RAM, storage or GPU is surely in the single digits. I’m one of them, so I would miss it, but I don’t think we are enough to halt progress. It’s also possible someone designs a way to have ARM SoC’s in a computer with seperate RAM and SSD that can be upgraded. Maybe…

2.) Discrete graphics and gaming. PC gaming is a niche, but it’s significant and what PC gamers want does matter. Far as I know, all ARM SoC’s have the GPU on die and aren’t designed to use a physically separate conventional dGPU. I also know while ARM GPU performance has changed a lot in recent years.

Apple has a lot to do with that. But even Apple’s best is still not equal to dGPU solutions from Nvidia and AMD/Radeon. The gap is considerable IIRC. It’s very possible that game streaming with the server side doing most of the heavy lifting will make having super powerful graphics hardware locally unnecessary or even irrelevant. But we’re far from that now.

That’s all I got. ARM is coming. Complete transition will take ages though. It’s not like Apple changing processor architecture where they are basically the only company involved and who has a say in it. Apple can make a total transition like that in 5-6 years. Meaning the whole OS and all the apps are native to the new architecture, no lingering cruft or “legacy”support.

The Windows hegemony is nowhere near that nimble for obvious reasons. So I think it will probably take 10-15 years and even then AMD64 CPU’s will continue to exist in the wild and may even still be made by someone somewhere in 15-20 years. But I strongly believe they will not be dominant anymore and will likely be tiny part of the market only able to complete at all because of legacy hardware or software that depends on it.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk. Feel feel to discuss/share, agree/disagree. 😂

Oct. 9, 2022, 7:18 p.m.

Already past peak AMD64, future is arm64

Microsoft is shipping W11 for arm64 and the update channels are in line with AMD64. Features that made AMD64 what it was are gone already. I don't think there are any laptops shipped that support W11 with an upgradable CPU any more. < 50% of the portable space has upgradable RAM. Most manufacturers deploy some form of eMMC for storage on the lower end models and it's only a matter of time until it's the default. Upgradability is dead already, most of the portable market just runs warmer and for a shorter duration than it would with arm64.

yep, I definitely tried to be conservative in my estimates. I think all this make happen a lot faster than we suspect. I would be more okay with the idea of losing upgradability if they would be more reasonable with prices for upgrades and offer more options. I know RAM and SSD rarely fail these days, but I still hate the fact that soldering them makes a laptop basically disposable for most people.

Oct. 9, 2022, 7:18 p.m.

As much as I hate it ARM SOCs are already dominating the market. Apple was just a little ahead of the curve by bringing them to the desktop via the M1.

They tried this with PowerPC but it wasn’t as big as this shift is.

Only a matter of time before x86 is retired.

yep. Power PC development got stuck for a while with the G5. Motorola couldn’t get them energy efficient and cool enough to run in laptops. That’s why Apple jumped ship to Intel. IBM stuck with PowerPC though and they still use it (They call it POWER)

Oct. 9, 2022, 7:18 p.m.

I was watching Lenovo 2022 holiday lineup on Andrew Marc David on youtube the other day.

Noticed that many of them are Chromebooks (ARM of course).

I guess if the software are available on the platform, most users wouldn’t care what’s running underneath.

As for Windows RT, it was such a big failure back then, the few reviews I read said they couldn’t complete the review as the Surface RT keeps freezing/unrespond.

That’s probably something holding back the manufacturer for coming back to Windows on ARM.

actually Lenovo already ships Windows on ARM devices, including ThinkPads. What really jammed Windows RT up, aside from a stupid name that confused consumers, was the fact that people couldn’t get their heads around the fact that it ran *some* but not most Windows software. That problem is solved now. The freezing in that article was probably a fluke with an early model. It performed OK. Consumers just didn’t understand it, it was too limited and performance was just okay. Now Windows on ARM is already nipping at the heels of Intel and AMD with double the battery life and built in 5G LTE and it’s just getting started. 😎

Wow! Felt like I’ve been living under a rock.

I just went and have a look on lenovo website. As expected, it’s not (yet) available in my region.
Anyway, good to see lenovo still coming out with new ideas.

it’s happened pretty quickly. I didn’t know there was a Snapdragon ThinkPad until fairly recently either. I knew that Lenovo made some laptops with those processors though.

Oct. 9, 2022, 7:18 p.m.

I mostly already use ARM64 servers, Graviton AWS instances and Raspberry Pi 4. In the last couple of years Linux OS and application support for aarch64 has got to the point where it is nearly totally complete.

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