From Intel to Apple silicon, here’s the success story of the M1 Mac

With the two-year transition from Intel to its own silicon complete, Apple has just revealed all of its M1 family chips to its flagship Macs. In doing so, the company is now preparing the next wave of computers with its second generation of processors.

In a new story from The Wall Street Journalthe post writes a profile of Apple’s Johnny Srouji, a former Intel engineer and IBM CEO who led Apple’s semiconductor division to ditch Intel for its silicon.

After years of stagnating Mac sales and the company having to apologize for the disappointing reception of the 2013 Mac Pro, Apple finds itself in a very different situation thanks to the M1 chipset on its Mac.

But it didn’t happen overnight that the company revolutionized its Macs again. It has been 14 years of behind-the-scenes work for Mr. Srouji, who, according to the WSJ, has built a chip team from 45 people to several thousand from all over the world, including his native Israel.

“What I’ve learned in life: You think about all the things that you can control and then you have to be flexible, tough, and robust enough to move around when things don’t go as planned,” said Mr. Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, in Rare interview. “Covid was for example.”

In the story, the publication interviews Mike Demer, an independent analyst who has followed the semiconductor industry for nearly 50 years:

“It seemed a little crazy, at first, that they might actually consider firing Intel, but that made them a more dominant platform overall.”

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To produce its own silicon, Apple also had to worry about this Intel transition, as the company struggled in 2006 to transition from PowerPC.

This transition necessitated several last-minute revisions to the laptop’s main circuit board, according to a person involved in the effort. “A lot of people were afraid we would have the same problem,” said this person. Mr. Al-Srouji acknowledged that the change in strategy faced heated debate within the company (…) that the slip would be embarrassing and costly.

“First of all, if we do that, can we make better products?” Mr. Al-Srouji said about the debate. “That is question #1. It is not about the chip. Apple is not a chip company.”

By the time the pandemic began, she told the Wall Street Journal, “One of the biggest concerns came with the arrival of Covid-19, which threatened to derail years of preparation before M1 chips debuted in the fall of 2020.” Since it was not an option, Mr. Srouji quickly worked to design a new test process.

People familiar with the work said the team has set up cameras throughout the labs so engineers can remotely inspect the chips. It was the kind of change that was once hard to imagine from Apple, where confidentiality and control are paramount.

In part, the operation was able to pivot seamlessly because Mr. Srouji’s team is spread across the globe, and he’s already used to conducting business through video calls and working across time zones as they coordinate work in remote locations such as San Diego and Munich Germany.

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