Apple Executives Discuss How Apple Silicon Achieves Steve Jobs' Goal of 'Making the Whole Widget'

In a new interview with Om Malik, Apple's software engineering chief Craig Federighi, marketing chief Greg Joswiak, and chipmaking chief Johny Srouji discussed the motivations behind Apple Silicon, how Apple is able to differentiate itself from its competitors, and why chip specifications are becoming irrelevant.

new m1 chip

Joswiak explained that ‌Apple Silicon‌ represents the completion of Steve Jobs' vision to make "the whole widget" for the Mac:

Steve used to say that we make the whole widget. We've been making the whole widget for all of our products, from the iPhone, to the iPads, to the watch. This was the final element to making the whole widget on the Mac.

When asked about how Apple views the technical specifications of its custom silicon, Srouji remarked, "It's not about the gigahertz and megahertz, but about what the customers are getting out of it." He went on to explain that specifications cannot represent how custom silicon can be "perfectly fit for the product and how the software will use it."

Federighi concurred, offering an example of how specifications cannot always indicate real-world performance:

The specs that are typically bandied about in the industry have stopped being a good predictor of actual task-level performance for a long time. Architecturally, how many streams of 4k or 8k video can you process simultaneously while performing certain effects? That is the question video professionals want an answer to. No spec on the chip is going to answer that question for them.

Srouji pointed out how Apple is in a unique position to engineer hardware and software symbiotically for a better overall result:

I believe the Apple model is unique and the best model. We're developing a custom silicon that is perfectly fit for the product and how the software will use it. When we design our chips, which are like three or four years ahead of time, Craig and I are sitting in the same room defining what we want to deliver, and then we work hand in hand. You cannot do this as an Intel or AMD or anyone else.

Federighi then elaborated on how close hardware and software integration can remedy some of the inherent physical limitations of hardware and resolve specific problems:

It is difficult to put more transistors on a piece of silicon. It starts to be more important to integrate more of those components closely together and to build purpose-built silicon to solve the specific problems for a system. Being in a position for us to define together the right chip to build the computer we want to build and then build that exact chip at scale is a profound thing.

As Srouji sees it, just as the clock speed of the chip inside an iPhone is unimportant, the same will be true for the Macs of the future. Instead, it will all be about "how many tasks you can finish on a single battery life," for example.

Federighi assured that for customers who do not yet have an Apple Silicon-powered Mac appropriate for their purposes, "their day will come. But for now, the systems we're building are, in every way I can consider, superior to the ones they've replaced."

See the full interview for more information.

Top Rated Comments

MacFather Avatar
9 months ago
Deleted.
Score: 49 Votes (Like | Disagree)
coredev Avatar
9 months ago

What a bunch of bull. Apple is increasing removing the differentiators and making, at least, the macOS line nothing more than a much marketed, hobbled PC. Removed MagSafe. Removed lighted Apple logo from laptops. Removed enough ports so that it cannot connect to any standard hardware. Removed reliability. Removed software flexibility. Etc.
What a negative view on things. I can't believe some people aren't still over the whole ports thing. USB-C is the future, it's used for a lot of "standard hardware" now, so what's your point?
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GLS Avatar
9 months ago

What a bunch of bull. Apple is increasing removing the differentiators and making, at least, the macOS line nothing more than a much marketed, hobbled PC. Removed MagSafe. Removed lighted Apple logo from laptops. Removed enough ports so that it cannot connect to any standard hardware. Removed reliability. Removed software flexibility. Etc.

Apple has become the Microsoft of the 90s in both hardware and software.
It's pretty simple. Spend your money elsewhere.

The rest of the world is going to move on.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
magbarn Avatar
9 months ago
Playing around my son's M1 MBA has me blown away. MUCH MUCH more responsive and much cooler than my wife's 2020 i5 MBA while getting superior battery life with an integrated GPU that is actually good.

I haven't been blown away in a CPU performance leap like this since Core2Duo that killed pretty much everything in the market 14 or so years ago.

Yes, AMD is close, but consuming 5X the power to get there.

I'm definitely a believer. I'm pretty sure Apple is going to wow us again with the higher end M1 variants with decent I/O and even better GPU.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
adamw Avatar
9 months ago
Great thoughtful interview. It really explains much of Apple's philosophy.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
justiny Avatar
9 months ago
The thought of upgrading my MBP 16” in two or three years to a machine that can potentially double performance and battery life makes me damn giddy. I don’t even care if it’s redesigned or not.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

m2 feature

Apple Silicon M2 Chip Coming to Wave of New Macs

Monday May 24, 2021 2:27 am PDT by
Apple's more powerful "M2" chip is set to come to a wave of new Macs, bringing significant performance and efficiency improvements to a range of new models, according to recent reports. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman previously said that Apple is working on higher-end Apple silicon chips that are expected to "significantly outpace" the performance of the latest Macs that still contain Intel chips,...
intel manufactured m1

After Anti-M1 Ads, Intel Wants to Make Future Apple Silicon Chips

Tuesday March 23, 2021 3:30 pm PDT by
Apple in November started releasing Macs with Apple-designed M1 chips, and the Apple silicon technology will eventually replace all the Intel chips that Apple has used in its Mac lineup for years. Intel appears to be having a difficult time with Apple's transition. Last week, the company launched an anti-M1 Mac ad campaign starring Justin Long, and now, Intel is pinning its hopes on...
m1 mac family

Apple Now Selling More M1 Macs Than Intel-Based Models, Says Tim Cook

Wednesday April 21, 2021 4:34 am PDT by
Despite only being released in November, sales of the M1-powered MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini now represent the majority of Mac sales, outperforming Mac computers powered by Intel processors, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Cook made the remarks during Apple's "Spring Loaded" event yesterday, where it introduced a completely redesigned 24-inch iMac powered by the M1 Apple silicon...
Illustrator apple silicon beta

Adobe Illustrator Now Available for Apple Silicon in Beta

Sunday April 4, 2021 12:58 pm PDT by
Less than a month after releasing Adobe Photoshop for Apple silicon, and more than three months after releasing Adobe Premiere Pro, Premiere Rush, and Audition for Apple silicon in beta, Adobe has begun testing Illustrator on Apple's latest chip architecture. Adobe released the first beta for Illustrator for Apple silicon late last week, saying that many "core features" of Illustrator are...
Mac Pro M series feature 1

Bloomberg: Apple Silicon Mac Pro May Feature Up to 32 High Performance Cores, 128 Core Option for Graphics

Tuesday May 18, 2021 5:57 am PDT by
Apple is working on an updated model of its Mac Pro that may feature an Apple silicon chip with as many as 32 high performance cores, and a 128 core option for graphics, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Bloomberg has reported in the past that Apple is working on an updated Mac Pro that will feature an Apple silicon chip rather than an Intel processor. Today's new...
macOS universal download

Microsoft Visual Studio Code Updated With Official Apple Silicon Support

Friday March 5, 2021 2:03 am PST by
Microsoft has updated Visual Studio Code with official support for M1 Apple Silicon Macs, offering developers the ability to use the software without the need for emulation on Rosetta. The support is coming to the web and cloud app code editor as part of its February 2021 1.54 build, which alongside Apple Silicon support, includes several improvements and updates. Microsoft says that with...
m2 feature

Apple's 'M2' Next-Gen Mac Chip Enters Mass Production, Expected to Debut in Redesigned MacBooks Later This Year

Tuesday April 27, 2021 1:38 am PDT by
Apple's custom next-generation Mac processor entered mass production this month, claims a new report today from Nikkei Asia. Tentatively dubbed the "M2" after Apple's M1 chip, the processors take at least three months to produce and could begin shipping as early as July in time for incorporation in Apple's next line of MacBooks, according to the paper's sources. The next generation of Mac...
docker for mac

Docker Desktop for Mac Updated With Apple Silicon Support

Thursday April 15, 2021 9:00 am PDT by
Docker today announced that it has launched a new version of Docker Desktop for Mac with Apple silicon support, allowing developers to use the Docker software on the M1 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini. Prior to launching, the version of Docker Desktop for Mac with M1 compatibility has been available as a technical preview, and Docker says that testers have found the software to be...
m2 feature purple

Apple Preparing Faster M2 Chip for Next-Gen MacBook Pro

Tuesday June 1, 2021 3:04 am PDT by
Apple is readying its more powerful, next-generation "M2" chip for redesigned MacBook Pro models, according to recent reports. According to Nikkei Asia, Apple's next-generation custom silicon chip for the Mac, tentatively dubbed the "M2" chip, entered production in April. The processors take at least three months to produce and could begin shipping to Apple as early as July, in time for...
mac pro 2019 roundup header b

Last Intel-Based Mac Pro Refresh Likely Referenced in macOS 11.4 RC

Tuesday May 18, 2021 4:52 am PDT by
Bloomberg reported in January that Apple is working on a successor to the current Mac Pro that will feature an Intel processor rather than an Apple silicon chip. Now, a reference to an unreleased 10-core Intel i9 processor has been discovered by MacRumors contributor Steve Moser in the latest macOS Big Sur 11.4 RC update, released yesterday. A 10-core Intel chip appeared in Geekbench scores...