We’ve known for many years that Intel keeps making its chips more complex for increased performance and a higher price, but the Haswell architecture is a definite step towards putting the OS and its applications in silicon.
- Power management which would normally be a role for the OS and its schedulers is now going into silicon pausing unused portions of the chip to save power.
- High-level graphics functions are being placed in silicon right down to Codecs and image filters.
While these two strategies will increase performance they do so at a price. Increasing the complexity of chips this way does nothing to reduce the size of chips and the number of transistors but does the opposite. Silicon is much more costly than software so the price/performance ratio keeps getting worse for the end user/consumer. Locking in certain algorithms in silicon may lock in users to Wintel as well, something that does not benefit end users/consumers. It also guarantees that sooner or later our hardware will be subject to viruses/vulnerabilities, not just our software and data. If you want Patch Tuesday to mean changing the microcode on your CPUs this is the way to go.
No. There are benefits to integration of this kind but the costs outweigh those. There is a reason layers of abstraction work in IT. Mucking with the layers is a disaster waiting to happen. Microsoft and Intel are thrashing around trying to remain relevant but they only make things worse. Simpler is the way to go forward and ARM and */Linux have that sewed up.