” I’ve learned one thing in life: you think about all the things you can control, and at the same time, you have to be flexible, flexible, and tough enough to keep going when the plan doesn’t go as planned. foreseen “, explains Johny Srouji, the head of hardware technologies at Apple, in an interview with the wall street journal.
And in 2020, for Apple, one of those contingencies was Covid-19. The pandemic hit and paralyzed industrial activity around the world, just as Apple was finalizing testing of its first family of in-house processors. M1 which was to embark in no less than three new Mac ranges the following fall.
But before this last-minute hurdle, a host of other issues had to be ironed out to make the transition from Intel processors as seamless as possible for the user. Many late changes were made to the motherboards, always with the threat that something would eventually derail the train.
Apple had no right to fail since itself had railed about the problems encountered with Intel chips. François Piednoël, a former foundryman from Santa Clara, who has been working for Mercedes R&D for three years, confirms comments he made in 2020. He described an extremely delicate situation between Apple and Intel which had been worsening for years: ” Our buddies at Apple had become the first contributors in discovering problems in our architecture. And it went really, really badly. When your client starts finding almost as many bugs as you do, things don’t really go in the right direction. “.
Within Apple, the debate on abandoning Intel in favor of processors based on the successes encountered with those designed for the iPhone, has not been easy, however, tempers Jony Srouji. No PC manufacturer designs the main processor for their machines. It was a huge risk and failure would have been resounding, costly financially and in terms of image.
Apple had to be sure that it could manufacture chips capable of powering consumer laptops and workstations. It was necessary to cover all the ranges. ” First of all, if we decide to do it, can we then make better products with it? “, such was the substance of the debate, recalls Jony Srouji. ” This is question number 1. It’s not so much about the processor. Apple is not a processor manufacturer “. But this one must make it possible to offer new performances and skills to future Macs.
Another absolutely crucial question followed. Could Apple transform the testing of the first processors and continue to invent and produce new ones that are ever more efficient? And would it be able to decide wisely in which direction and towards which uses to direct its improvement efforts for the following chips: ” It’s not something you do once and then it’s over. You have to do it year after year after year. It’s a gigantic challenge “.
Starting from a team of 45 people, when Apple began to offer its own iPhone processors in 2010, Jony Srouji now manages several thousand of them around the world. A boss that the article presents as more interested – during meetings – in what does not work rather than congratulating himself on successes.
The explosion of the pandemic almost derailed Apple’s schedule, since the health crisis broke out when engineers were analyzing samples of the first M1s to ensure their quality before entering production. in volume. Tasks that require being present on site and in particular spending time on the microscopes for detailed observations.
A new test procedure has been devised with the help of cameras controlled remotely in the labs by confined engineers. Normally, Apple would never have proceeded in this way, but the stakes required much more flexibility in the working methods.
In the end, the launch of the M1 was done with the success that we know. Apple has freed itself from the tutelage of Intel on this key element of its products, both on the technological side since it can trace its path on its own, and on the financial side since it certainly saves a nice sum in n no longer having to pay anything to Intel.
Apple will telecommute and use augmented reality until summer 2021