Apple's multi-core iMacs foreshadow awesome Windows PCs


Apple has a tradition of not being the first on the dancefloor. The iPod wasn't the first MP3 player. Apple does have a tradition of mastering a segment, and dominating it thereafter. That's why Apple's multi-core iMacs are an anomaly that foreshadows awesome Windows PCs.

Apple using Intel's multi-core processors

Since Apple switched to Intel processors in 2005, sales of Macs of all kinds have skyrocketed.

In late 2017, Apple announced it would produce the iMac Pro, the first Apple computer to boast more than four cores on a processor. In fact, chips would be available with 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18 cores on Intel Xeon processors in the iMac Pro.

Apple and Intel co-developed Thunderbolt

Intel began developing the Light Peak standard on its own in 2012 and 2013. Apple became interested in the project, and partnered with Intel, which fostered the switch from optical fibre to high capacity copper cabling, and a name change to Thunderbolt.

Copper was much cheaper than optical fibre, but copper was only able to maintain the speeds over short distances, typically half a meter or one meter. The original Light Peak with optical fibre would have allowed any length of cable. Thunderbolt was consumer-focussed, whereas Light Peak was enterprise focussed.

Thunderbolt now controlled by Intel

In 2016, an agreement between Apple and Intel saw Intel take control of Thunderbolt, making it available on non-Apple computers. While it took nearly two years for Thunderbolt to start appearing on Windows PCs, late 2017 and early 2017 Windows PCs now feature Thunderbolt ports.

Intel and Windows PCs

Intel has a long history of supplying processors, chips, and technologies for Windows PCs, and now that Intel has full control of Thunderbolt, we're likely to see Thunderbolt proliferate on Windows PCs.

In the same way that Apple's MacBook Pro's dumped all the other ports and switched to Thunderbolt-only, the Windows PCs coming in 2018 and 2019 will likely do the same. Some already have, such as the HP Spectre.

While other laptops, desktops, and all-in-ones are still likely to hold on to USB-A for a little longer, we have long forgotten about LPT printer ports, serial mice, serial joysticks, SCSI external ZIP drives, eSATA drives, PS/2 mice and keyboard ports, PCMCIA card slots, and the trusty VGA monitor port.

USB-A will survive a little longer on budget PCs, but we expect 2019 onwards to be a world of everything-USB-C and everything-Thunderbolt.

Everything that used to be USB-A will migrate to USB-C.

Everything else, including Ethernet, HDMI, DisplayPort, and PCI-Express, will migrate to Thunderbolt.

Awesome Windows PCs incoming

In the same way that the current entry-level iMac features only USB-A, USB-C-Thunderbolt, Ethernet, an SD card slot, and headphone jack, Windows PCs on the desktop and all-in-one will move to the same mix of ports in 2017/2018. From mid-2018 onwards, we'll see Windows PCs drop the USB-A ports and become USB-C and Thunderbolt only.

Most households have more than one laptop/desktop, and sometimes more than one printer.

If you're in a household with one computer and one printer, you'll likely connect it with a cable. Households with more than one computer will often share a printer over a wifi network, and not be plugged in to a USB-A, USB-C, or ethernet port at all.

Keyboards and mice are going wireless, and most home users have never plugged in an Ethernet cable.

We'll start to see awesome new Windows PCs from the middle of 2018 onwards, and these are predominantly going to be laptops or Surface-esque tablets.

You'll buy a new laptop with two USB-C ports and two to four Thunderbolt ports, and maybe an SD card slot and headphone jack. Just like the current MacBooks, USB-C and Thunderbolt will dominate.

For those gamers and others who want a big screen monitor with a keyboard and mouse, you'll plug your monitor in via Thunderbolt, and connect your keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth or a new USB-C wireless adapter, instead of a USB-A one.

Alternatively, leave everything plugged in to a hub, and just plug in the hub to your laptop when you get home. I predict more and more monitors will integrate the hub, enabling you to plug everything in to the back of your monitor, and then have one Thunderbolt cable from the back of your monitor to your laptop.

The best new Windows PCs

The best (and more expensive) new breed of Windows PCs from mid-2018 onwards will be laptops and Surface-esque tablets, with Thunderbolt, Bluetooth 5, 802.11ax wifi, upwards of six cores on the processor, and a bare minimum of 8GB of RAM, moving to a standardised 16GB of RAM. You'll need it for AR/VR/MR.

Gaming laptops will take over from boxy gaming desktop PCs. The laptops themselves will be more and more powerful, and the external graphics enclosures that add additional performance will connect via Thunderbolt.

All-in-ones will finally take over from consumer desktop PC boxes.

Game consoles like the Xbox and Playstation will see performance jumps with better processors and next-generation graphics processors.

Get ready for more computing power in small devices, at a lower cost.

Until next time,

Xavier Zymantas

XYZtech XYZ Media Group

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