If that doesn’t seem like a fusillade across x86’s metaphorical bow, consider the issue from a different perspective: According to Apple, the M1 is the right CPU for a $699 computer, and a $999 computer, and a $1,699 computer. It’s the right chip if you want maximum battery life and the right CPU for optimal performance. Want the amazing performance of an M1 iMac, but can’t afford (or have no need) for the expensive display? Buy a $699 Mac mini, with exactly the same CPU. Apple’s M1 positioning, evaluated in its totality, claims the CPU is cheap and unremarkable enough to be sold at $699, powerful and capable enough to sell at $1699, and power-efficient enough to power both a tablet and a pair of laptops priced in-between.
No single x86 CPU is sold this way or positioned as a solution to such a broad range of use cases. There are three reasons why. First, PC customers generally expect higher-end systems in the same product family to offer faster CPUs. In the past, both Apple and x86 systems were sold in such fashion. Second, Intel and AMD both benefit from a decades-old narrative that places the CPU at the center of the consumer’s device experience and enjoyment and have designed and priced their products accordingly, even if that argument is somewhat less true today than it was in earlier eras. Third, no single x86 CPU appears to be capable of matching both the M1’s power consumption and its performance.
The iPad Pro uses a proven desktop-class processor; the MacBook Pro benefits from the efficiency of running on this same chip. It is an extraordinary statement, and this is just the first batch of products all on what is nominally the same system-on-a-chip.