OS X/iOS programmer Mike Ash, in an excellent post on the meaning of the A7's 64-bitness, summarized the results: "The 64-bit' A7 is not just a marketing gimmick, but neither is it an amazing breakthrough that enables a new class of applications. The truth, as happens often, lies in between. The simple fact of moving to 64-bit does little. It makes for slightly faster computations in some cases, somewhat higher memory usage for most programs, and makes certain programming techniques more viable. Overall, it's not hugely significant."
What is significant is the increased number of registers, and a revised, streamlined instruction set, "for a nice performance gain over 32-bit ARM," he writes. Apple's own changes are highly technical but have to do with 1) allowing Objective-C code to create and destroy objects twice as fast as before and 2) the use of "tagged pointers" which "make for a nice performance win as well as reduced memory use."
So what's next? CNET's Brook Crothers was refreshingly, and accurately, direct in posting about Kuo's A8 prediction: "Little is known about the A8 processor, but it would be logical to expect that Apple will take its desktop-class' 64-bit computing strategy to the next level with the A8," he wrote.
It's a comment that just about covers all the bases given the current state of the iOSphere's non-knowledge. Crothers did link to one of his earlier posts about a report issued earlier this month by JP Morgan (and initially covered by Barron's Tech Trader Daily), arguing that Apple, in effect, ought to use the expected gains in the A8 to create a new category of product: a laptop-table hybrid running iOS. According to JP Morgan Rod Hall, such a device would make Apple a player in a $63 billion market opportunity, for laptops in the $500-1,000 price range.
Hall apparently doesn't have much to say about the A8 itself, but he does claim that it "likely to surpass the computing power of current [Intel] i5-based MacBook Airs...If our calculations are roughly correct, we would see no reason for Apple not to begin using the A8 in its laptops or — as we are arguing in this report — just make its tablet behave as a laptop."
Hall doesn't expand on what it means to "make the iPad behave like a laptop."
Probably because no one seems to know what that would mean. The dilemma was highlighted by former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée, in his MondayNote blog this past week. He was writing in expectation that Apple would likely report that iPad sales, for the first time, had decreased in absolute numbers in FY Q2 compared to the year-before-quarter, which in fact did happen as Apple disclosed yesterday in its Q2 2014 earnings.
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