Ex-Apple engineer says “abnormally bad” Skylake QA prompted switch to ARM


A hot potato: At the end of its WWDC 2020 keynote earlier this week, Apple confirmed what had been rumored for years: it would move away from Intel and use its own Arm-based chips in the next generation of Macs. According to a former Intel engineer, the company made this decision because of the “bad quality assurance of Skylake.”

It’s been a good week for Arm: Apple finally announced it is transitioning the Mac to Arm silicon, bringing the computers in line with the iPads and iPhones, and the world’s fastest supercomputer is now the Arm-based Fugaku.

Rumors that Apple would ditch Intel in favor of designing its own custom silicon for Macs have been around since 2010’s Apple A4, which was used in the first iPad and iPhone 4, but according to former Intel principal engineer François Piednoël, it was the introduction of Skylake in 2015 and the problems Apple had with the architecture that pushed its plans forward.

“The quality assurance of Skylake was more than a problem, ” said Piednoël during a Xplane chat, as reported by PC Gamer. “It was abnormally bad. We were getting way too much citing for little things inside Skylake. Basically our buddies at Apple became the number one filer of problems in the architecture. And that went really, really bad. “

“When your customer starts finding almost as much bugs as you found yourself, you’re not leading into the right place.”

Piednoël says Skylake was an inflection point for Apple; the moment when it went from contemplating a move away from Intel to actually starting the long process.

All this is just the view of one person, of course, and Apple has plenty of reasons to switch to Arm, but if what Piednoël says is true, we might have seen Intel-powered Macs for a few more years if Skylake’s QA had been better.



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