Intel Corp. and Apple: Why 3D XPoint in the MacBook Would Be Great – Motley Fool


A wafer of 3D XPoint chips. Image source: Intel. 

Last year, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and memory maker Micron (NASDAQ:MU) announced a brand-new generation of memory technology known as 3D XPoint (pronounced “3D cross point”). The technology itself is pretty compelling, promising to serve as a “middle ground” between regular NAND flash and DRAM in terms of performance and cost.

A couple of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)-centric websites — namely MacRumors and Apple Insider — increase the interesting opportunity of Apple potentially using Intel’s 3D XPoint-based drives at some point in the future.

Here’s why a 3D XPoint succeed inside the MacBook could be practical to the 2 Intel and Apple.

Apple cares regarding storage performance; 3D XPoint is ridiculously fast
Apple has actually earned it crystal clear that it cares regarding the storage performance of every one of its devices, from iPhone to MacBook Pro. This makes a great deal of sense because of the straightforward reality that the faster that data can easily be moved from a storage device to main memory so that the CPU can easily usage it, the snappier the overall system performance is going to be.

The transition from hard disk drives to a lot faster NAND flash based drives was arguably one of the essential transitions in recent computing history. Despite the fact that I doubt that the transition to 3D XPoint transition has actually the potential to be as transformative in consumer PCs (in data centers, it’s a whole various ballgame), it need to still be great for computing performance.

The introduction of 3D XPoint in to some MacBook models (I would certainly expect that it would certainly be the MacBook Pro units first, along with the mainstream MacBook/MacBook Air obtaining the technology later once it is a lot more cost effective), could be a win/succeed for the 2 Apple and Intel.

Apple would certainly succeed by offering customers a massive performance improvement that it could conceivably charge a fat premium for and Intel, which currently does not supply the storage solutions in to Apple’s Mac product line, would certainly get extra content share in Apple’s Macs.

How could Apple pull this off?
The severe problem along with 3D XPoint in the Mac is, no doubt, going to be cost. It’s not clear Exactly how a lot Intel plans to charge for the technology, however on a per-gigabyte basis, 3D XPoint is quite most likely going to be even more expensive compared to NAND flash (however cheaper compared to DRAM).

If Apple were to just swap out NAND flash for an equivalent quantity of 3D XPoint memory, this would certainly lead to one of two things:

  • Apple’s per-device margins would certainly go down if it tried to maintain fee points flat; or
  • Apple would certainly charge customers (substantially) a lot more to sustain margins

The initial choice would certainly just be poor for shareholders and the second would certainly probably lead to a decline in MacBook Pro unit shipments. Apple could conceivably offer up variants of its units along with and free of 3D XPoint, however it would certainly be quite hard to convince the standard customer to buy up the stack for a reward that he/she probably won’t know the true value of.

Such units would certainly become niches within niches and not be worth the bother for the Mac maker.

What Apple could do, though, is to apply the exact same fundamental tip that it uses along with its Fusion drives: combine a small quantity of 3D XPoint along with a fairly large quantity of NAND flash — Apple’s take on a hybrid drive.

According to AnandTech’s guide on the Fusion Drive, OS X functions to maintain regularly used files/programs on the fast NAND flash section of the drive while much less regularly used/essential applications are moved to the hard disk drive.

Apple could do the exact same thing along with 3D XPoint and NAND flash taking the locations of NAND flash and a regular hard disk drive. This would certainly be fairly cost efficient and most likely deliver a much better experience compared to merely NAND flash alone.

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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. attempt any kind of of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools might not every one of hold the exact same opinions, however we every one of believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us much better investors. The Motley Fool has actually a disclosure policy.

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