Intel, more Thunderbolt 4 compatible controllers due to chip shortage?

Intel, more Thunderbolt 4 compatible controllers due to chip shortage?


According to an article published by colleagues at Igor'sLab, Intel recently had to allow its partners to use Texas Instruments' previously uncertified USB Type-C and Power Delivery controllers with its latest Tiger Lake platforms, as well as Thunderbolt 4 JHL8440 controllers. / JHL8540 "Maple Ridge".

Every personal computer nowadays uses multiple power management integrated circuits (PMICs) and if a PC manufacturer cannot get enough PMICs of a certain type, they cannot market the whole system. Only a handful of companies make USB Type-C and PD controllers, including Texas Instruments and Cypress. Intel usually requires its partners to use very specific USB Type-C and PD controllers with its TB3 and TB4 controllers to ensure full compatibility and a consistent user experience, but the chip shortage has reportedly forced the company to reconsider these requirements. Typically, Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, and USB 4 implementations include two or three key chips: a controller, retimer or redriver, and a USB Type-C and Power Delivery controller that detects cable orientation, assigns USB PD, and organizes alternate mode settings for internal and external multiplexers.

For Tiger Lake-based systems with Thunderbolt 4 ports, Intel wants its partners to use Texas Instruments' USB Type-C and Power Delivery controller TPS65994AD . However, as the chips are not currently available, Intel will temporarily certify Thunderbolt 4 implementations that use the TPS65993AC and TPS65994AC controllers. These controllers are not formally USB 4 compliant, but are compatible with USB 4. As such, Intel wants its OEM partners to communicate the benefits of "compatibility" with Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 or "exclude the mention of USB 4". according to the documents examined by Igor'sLab.

It is not clear when Texas Instruments will solve the problem of supplying its controllers. Since Intel is taking some pretty unusual action, we're probably talking weeks, if not months. Also, apparently, the Santa Clara company has another problem on their hands. In fact, according to TrendForce, the company was unable to produce enough enterprise SSDs due to a shortage of power management integrated circuits (PMICs). Since enterprise-grade SSDs have always been the company's top priority when it comes to its storage business, if Intel can't provide enterprise drives, it means it can't get enough PMIC overall for its Solid State Drives. br>
Intel has not commented on this information regarding the shortage of USB Type-C and PD controllers and PMICs for SSDs, but has admitted in the past that supplying power controllers affects its business.

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The bell is tolling for Intel Macs with the arrival of the first Apple Silicon specific features

Apple has said it will continue to support Intel Macs for years, but many of the best new macOS Monterey features will only work on Apple Silicon. And so they should.

Apple justifiably has a strong reputation for supporting older devices, and much more so than other technology firms. Tim Cook also publicly committed to supporting Intel-based Macs even after the company has completed its transition to Apple Silicon ones.

This is all right and proper. But so is this — Apple is already leaving Intel behind with new features that are exclusive to the M1 and whatever comes next.

The entire point of moving away from Intel was to create new Macs that could do what the older models couldn't.

Looking at the features of macOS Monterey that will require Apple Silicon, it does seem as if they are necessary because of hardware changes. Perhaps some are also about marketing and showing that Apple Silicon Macs are better.

But in each case we know so far, technology appears to be the reason. It's about overall performance, and it's also about sheer processing power, too.

Image and object capture

You may or may not like blurred backgrounds in FaceTime calls, but if you do like the effect, you'd better buy an Apple Silicon Mac. Only Macs with the M1 processor or later will be able to blur that background in real time.

Similarly, while Apple showed it more as aniPhone tool than a Mac one, M1 Macs will be able to use Live Text in macOS Monterey. With any image, whether it's on a website you're browsing or your own photos from five years ago, M1 Macs can read the text there.

That's intensive pattern recognition that's done on-device.

On device rendering

For the opposite of recognizing images, Apple requires you to use an M1 Mac for all the visuals that are created for the new Apple Maps features.

Doubtlessly, Intel Macs will be able to show you directions and the same level of detail we get now. But all of the tremendous extras like rendered elevations and city exploration we're getting with macOS Monterey won't be on Intel.

M1 exclusivity is not limited to updated features, either. The new Object Capture — where users can make 3D scans of items — will not be available on Intel Macs.

On-device Siri and dictation

You can currently dictate into Siri on a Mac for up to around one minute. From macOS Monterey onwards, there will be no time limit at all — so long as you're on M1 or later.

That's partly because dictation will now be done on-device instead. But as well as listening better, M1 Macs will speak better, too, in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish.

Forgetting Intel Macs

It would be good if Apple were clearer about what Intel users will and won't get. When Apple announces new features that require its latest hardware, it never stops a keynote presentation to throw in an asterisked footnote.

So this isn't a change for Apple, but it is a clear marker of just how quickly the Intel era will be no longer catered to.

That's not all that great for users who currently rely on Intel for specific workflows. It's terrible for users that rely on Boot Camp or virtualization solutions.

If you're in those groups, it's easy to be bitter about it. But the shift is beneficial to the vast majority of present Mac users, nearly all of the future switchers, and it brings visible benefits that we've not seen before.

When Apple moved the Mac to Intel, it got us faster Macs but not what you could call strikingly new or updated features. Of course, other than virtualization, or use of Windows natively on a Mac, that is.

Back to 2021, the sheer processing power of the Apple Silicon M1 is already enabling what Tim Cook promised at WWDC 2020. Cook was clear that 'when we make bold changes, it's for one simple yet powerful reason — so we can make much better products.'

Follow all the details of WWDC 2021 with the comprehensive AppleInsider coverage of the whole week-long event from June 7 through June 11, including details of all the new launches and updates.

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