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Will Acorn End Up Winning the PC War?

We’re probably all aware by now of a certain fruity tech company has decided to jump the Intel ship for their laptop and desktop lines after pleasing results in the phone and tablet markets. Mac fans, reviewers and interested tech peeps have been receiving the first machines powered by the M1 chip and the initial reviews have been intriguing to say the least.

Remember this?

There was a lot of hype around the Apple event on November 10th, 2020 and then a lot of scepticism around the performance claims. Performance numbers were missing and comparisons were made to older Mac hardware running previous generation Intel processors. When the store went live the concern was voiced regarding memory topping out at 16GB. I understand you creative types need a lot of it. The memory and storage upgrade prices are also absolutely appalling to my delicate Wintel eyes. It costs £200 to double the storage from 256GB to 512MB or 512GB to 1TB. 2TB will set you back £800. Not a completely fair comparison but you could have yourself two 2TB NVMe SSDs for that price.

Initial reviews suggest that the hype is actually real. I’ve been skim reading reviews and Apple has apparently delivered. This news has made me happy for a number of reasons. The PC market needs a shake up and the Wintel stranglehold in both the PC and server market needs challenging. But there’s also another nostalgic reason I’m reminiscing about.

Some of you may remember the old Acorn computers at school. Back in my day we had one Acorn computer per class of around 30 kids. I don’t exactly remember what model of Acorn they were but it was the first computer I got to use. There were many crude drawings made in the paint program and there was a cool game about setting sail as Christopher Columbus to try and find America which nobody beat mostly due to crew mutinies and inclement weather leading to a sinking (should anyone remember the name of the game and have a link please comment as I would love to play it again).

Eventually by the time I reached year six (age 10) someone found some spare pennies in the budget and so the venerable Acorns were replaced by Intel powered Windows 98 machines at my school. Acorn computers eventually disappeared from the market but their ARM Holdings subsidiary lived on to become the dominant designer of CPU architectures in the world. Although not owned by a UK shareholder any more I am thrilled that a home grown company has reached the top in the tech world.

The long term question will be how this affects the PC from this week. I have had doubts about the Microsoft ecosystem both consumer and business when it became apparent that the mobile strategy was being abandoned and eventually when the “next” Windows (i.e: Windows 10) was sold to the market as a service and not a product. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in the store and UWP is met with arguable hostility as well. Microsoft’s focus under Satya Nadella has been cloud and Windows is looking very much vulnerable to a changing world. People’s main drivers aren’t their PCs or laptops any longer. It’s their phones and Microsoft decided to abandon that race long ago.

I was considering a new Ryzen based PC build to replace my ageing Intel Core i7 6800K, GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition, 32GB DDR4-2400 RAM, 1.75TB SATA SSD system but current events conspire against me as things seem to be in short supply. With Apple bringing ARMageddon (sorry) however what does that mean for PC Gaming builds anyway? There’s a cool video been posted* with someone testing editing a 144 track Billie Ellish song in Logic Pro fully loaded with plug-ins on both a basic M1 Mac Mini with 8GB RAM and a 10-core i9 iMac with 64GB RAM. I don’t fully understand what I’m looking at but apparently it’s surprising that the M1 Mac Mini can handle it at all. If Apple gear can also deliver similar value for gaming well what do I need this tower for?

There’s not a lot of sense in jumping to conclusions about all this yet but the shake-up appears to have happened and it would appear that Acorn is going to win the PC war after all.

*I won’t post the link as it’s hosted by a company I don’t like for tax evasion, privacy, lobbying and many other reasons.