Monday, September 16, 2013

64 bit iPhone and the future of the iOS

The iPhone 5S has brought about a lot of disinformation on the internet. Everyone seems to have an opinion and I'll throw in my two cents.

See the picture above? That is a 1990s era Silicon Graphics Octane Irix Workstation that I used to work with in the 1990s. It has a total RAM configuration of 2 GB. Yep, 2 Gigs of RAM. All the MIPs based RISC workstations I worked on were all less than 4GB of RAM and ran 64 bit. DEC, SGI, Sun Solaris. What does it prove?

You don't need more than 4GB of RAM to realize the benefits of 64 bit computing. I don't profess to be an expert on 32/64 bit but I do know that there are many more advantages to 64 bit besides addressing more than 4GB of RAM.  Addressing more than 4GB of RAM does not require 64 bit hardware/OS as we've seen with PAE extensions. 

Now that we have that of the way, what are my thoughts?

Well, I do agree that the move to 64 bit will have very little material impact on consumers today. There will be some specific use cases but I think this is more about laying the ground work for the future.

A few scenarios. AppleTV and future iPads will benefit. I see Apple will venture into gaming in a big way. The original XBOX, Playstation all had 256-512MB of RAM. The newest forthcoming XBOX, PS4 now support 8GB of RAM. The AppleTV, in my opinion, may be a next platform gaming platform. IOS7 now has built in APIs for game controllers. iOS7 now supports OpenGL 3.0.

Next scenario is a hybridization of iOS and OSX. We may well see a Macbook AIR with ARM in 3-4 years. It is inevitable when all the pieces of the puzzle are in place.

In the near immediate future, the move to 64 bit iOS will allow OSX developers to easily port their great apps to iOS with the new improve Toolchain in XCode. I am thinking of ultra cool apps like Hype HTML5 animation and Pixelmator will be easier to port to iOS. To me, this is the biggest draw.

So what about everybody else? 64 bit in the mobile space is an will spread across all the platforms but for now, Apple does have the marketing and the rights to claim the first 64 bit smartphone. As for those who claim the Motorola Razor I with the ATOM z2480, they're completely wrong. The Z2480 SoC is a 32-bit SOC.

Android may go 64 bit. The GCC compiler was recently updated this May of 2013 to support 64 bit ARM so I don't expect we will see a 64bit OS on Android until version 5.

I doubt I will be getting a 5s. I carry two phones (Android and iPhone) and tick-tock updates every year. This year, I will probably get a Note 3 (from work) to compliment my iPhone 5. I will definitely be getting the next A7x powered iPad. The next year, I'll get the iPhone 6.

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