apple’s rumoured T310 chip

functionality of rumoured T310 seems too low ... must be more than the original rumour suggests

The original Bloomberg article was out on February 1st.  I know I am a bit late with this post, but sometimes one has to hold onto thoughts for a bit.  This article, and the secondary pieces that followed, presented a rumour that Apple was working on a new chip, codenamed T310, for their Mac computers.  In a nutshell the chip is said to be ARM-based, big surprise, and will perform housekeeping operations when the computer is sleeping.  Apple’s “Power Nap” functionality was specifically mentioned.

why the new chip?

According to the hypothesis the ARM-based T310 will consume less power than the current Intel chip, which in turn provides a longer battery life for laptops.  Initially, the hypothesis sounds good, but it does not sit well after a bit.

why doesn’t it sit well?

How much power would actually be saved?  This is unclear as one might anticipate tasks that occur during sleep would not use that much power.  The heavier tasks of downloading a software update, music or even a large email do not seem common.  One must remember that any new chip requires design, fabrication and board space, which all cost money.  It is not clear the purported power savings would justify these costs.

If I run with the above hypotheses there appear to be two options.  First, the functionality of the T310 would actually be provided by the T1.  In this case one might anticipate that the functionality is already operative.  This though does not seem to be the case.  Further we know the T1 is designed to handle graphics, which is not needed during sleep.

Another hypothesis would have the T310 doing more, and I do mean replace the Intel CPU.  Like the T1 there has to be an initial reason that is compelling enough for inclusion of another chip.  I think the current rumour falls short here.  There has to be more to it.  The T310 would have to take on further functionality.  There may well be other applications a.k.a. design wins for the T310 or any new chip, but its original inclusion in the Mac line has to be compelling, adding or improving enough functionality to increase sales, and justify the costs.

other stuff

The last sentence of the sixth paragraph of the Bloomberg article jumped out at me.  It reads, in part “ …much like it (Apple) has not marketed the significance of its current Mac chip …”.  This has to refer to the T1 that drives the TouchBar of the new MacBook Pros.  I too think that the T1 has plenty of room in Apple products and wrote as much last fall.  Its ability to interface with another chip, manipulate graphics, provide Touch ID functionality and drive a small display are all of interest.  However, I might not have appreciated the full significance of the T1.

In the end, there is something missing in the reported rumour.  It is incomplete.  I come back to the notion that a chip becomes economical when its benefits to the end product outweigh all of its costs.  It can also become economical if the development work is ported to and distributed over other products.  We do not have much information yet on this thread.  However, it is another clue as to how Apple is leveraging its chip design capabilities to create particular functionality, which it hopes differentiates its end products.