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Apple to move Macs away from Intel chips?

Written by Andre Yoskowitz (Google+) @ 06 Nov 2012 21:14 User comments (15)

Apple to move Macs away from Intel chips? The rumor shows up once every year or so, and it is back again.
Sources are claiming that Apple is looking to move Macs away from their current Intel chips to be replaced with proprietary ARM processor designs just like those used in iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad.

The report claims that engineers within Apple are confident that A-series designs will power future Macs, including the popular Macbook Pro and Macbook Air models. The most recent design is the A6X, seen in the fourth-generation iPad and featuring an efficient and powerful dual-core processor.

That being said, the sources claim the move will not be made in the "next few years" due to contracts with Intel, but the shift is "inevitable" as devices like the iPad "blur" the lines between mobile and desktop computing.

Apple CEO Tim Cook did note earlier this year that ARM chips for Macs was a possibility into the future, without saying much else.

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15 user comments

17.11.2012 1:31

I can see this happening in the far future maybe. Apple would be dumb to do away with Intel for now. I doubt any time in the near future an ARM chip will be as powerful as a dual or quad core Intel. People still use and need notebooks and desktops for there power over a Android and Apple smart phone or tablet that use ARM chips.

28.11.2012 9:13

Originally posted by Mr_Bill06:
I can see this happening in the far future maybe. Apple would be dumb to do away with Intel for now. I doubt any time in the near future an ARM chip will be as powerful as a dual or quad core Intel. People still use and need notebooks and desktops for there power over a Android and Apple smart phone or tablet that use ARM chips.
Well said! I thought the exact same thing. This move would eventually kill off Apple sales

Trin - Making Digital Waves

38.11.2012 10:54

Originally posted by Mr_Bill06:
I can see this happening in the far future maybe. Apple would be dumb to do away with Intel for now. I doubt any time in the near future an ARM chip will be as powerful as a dual or quad core Intel. People still use and need notebooks and desktops for there power over a Android and Apple smart phone or tablet that use ARM chips.
Actually they are dumb to use Intel when they can get good performance at a much less price tag and increase their profit margin dramatically. But dumb is what Apple is about so it just falls into place as it should.

If they did go to AMD I wouldn't have to screw around as much to play with OSX as I do now so I hope they do wake up.

48.11.2012 11:01

Originally posted by Mr-Movies:
Originally posted by Mr_Bill06:
I can see this happening in the far future maybe. Apple would be dumb to do away with Intel for now. I doubt any time in the near future an ARM chip will be as powerful as a dual or quad core Intel. People still use and need notebooks and desktops for there power over a Android and Apple smart phone or tablet that use ARM chips.
Actually they are dumb to use Intel when they can get good performance at a much less price tag and increase their profit margin dramatically. But dumb is what Apple is about so it just falls into place as it should.

If they did go to AMD I wouldn't have to screw around as much to play with OSX as I do now so I hope they do wake up.
But will they then dump OSX in favour of IOS only? You just never know Ha ha....

Trin - Making Digital Waves

58.11.2012 11:09

Originally posted by TrinUK:
Originally posted by Mr-Movies:
Originally posted by Mr_Bill06:
I can see this happening in the far future maybe. Apple would be dumb to do away with Intel for now. I doubt any time in the near future an ARM chip will be as powerful as a dual or quad core Intel. People still use and need notebooks and desktops for there power over a Android and Apple smart phone or tablet that use ARM chips.
Actually they are dumb to use Intel when they can get good performance at a much less price tag and increase their profit margin dramatically. But dumb is what Apple is about so it just falls into place as it should.

If they did go to AMD I wouldn't have to screw around as much to play with OSX as I do now so I hope they do wake up.
But will they then dump OSX in favour of IOS only? You just never know Ha ha....
That's a great point and you are absolutely right! :D

68.11.2012 18:31

Oh great this means Apple will once again screw their user/supplier base as they did when they stepped away from PowerPC chips. I can't imagine emulation of Intel Compatible software/OS running well on ARM. I guess if ARM made some major improvements then that is a different story but now ARM is underperforming compared to x86 technology.


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78.11.2012 22:21

MAC's are Linux based now and I'm sure they could port them to a different processor structure but it would be a headache to do so, there would be no emulation though persay unless they were really stupid with their approach.

88.11.2012 22:28

Originally posted by Mr-Movies:
MAC's are Linux based now and I'm sure they could port them to a different processor structure but it would be a headache to do so, there would be no emulation though persay unless they were really stupid with their approach.
Macs are Unix Based and yes the OS can be ported but much of the software today rely on x86 processing so simply porting the OS is not going to make the software magically compatible.

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98.11.2012 22:46

Since when did Apple EVER concern themselves with compatibility? They are and have been the least compatible OS and proprietary based system out there. So what truly is your point??

108.11.2012 22:51

Originally posted by Mr-Movies:
Since when did Apple EVER concern themselves with compatibility? They are and have been the least compatible OS and proprietary based system out there. So what truly is your point??
That all the software made right before this processor switch (if it happens) will no longer work on a new Mac unless the developers make it in 2 versions. Just like full Windows programs cannot run on WindowsRT tablets with ARM processors. So my point is that people that actually use their Mac to run full Programs will have to stick with their old Mac unless they want all their programs to be replaced. Just like Apple did when they completely switched from OS9 to OSX and they had to sell Macs with both OSes in dual boot after a customer outlash that their previous programs were broken.

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118.11.2012 23:14

Originally posted by bobiroc:
Originally posted by Mr-Movies:
Since when did Apple EVER concern themselves with compatibility? They are and have been the least compatible OS and proprietary based system out there. So what truly is your point??
That all the software made right before this processor switch (if it happens) will no longer work on a new Mac unless the developers make it in 2 versions. Just like full Windows programs cannot run on WindowsRT tablets with ARM processors. So my point is that people that actually use their Mac to run full Programs will have to stick with their old Mac unless they want all their programs to be replaced. Just like Apple did when they completely switched from OS9 to OSX and they had to sell Macs with both OSes in dual boot after a customer outlash that their previous programs were broken.
That argument doesn't and hasn't held true from day one of Apple's start so again, what's the point! Replacement never enters in with them and they actually like the idea, in fact.

129.11.2012 3:39

Originally posted by Mr-Movies:
If they did go to AMD I wouldn't have to screw around as much to play with OSX as I do now so I hope they do wake up.
I have to disagree, AMD is okay but when Apple is always charging a premium it should have an Intel chip. Intel right now is far ahead of AMD. I do hope one day AMD can compete very close like they do with there GPU's. There 8 cores are not even keeping up with some of Intels 4 core chips, not good at all.

1310.11.2012 18:32

I guarantee that's the plan. Apple backed up the money truck to establish a chip design house which is is probably second only to Intel, paid for a license to develop their own completely unique designs based on ARM technology, a license nobody else in the world has BTW, and establish Samsung's state of the art chip foundry (also probably second only to Intel) to produce them.

But you know what Apple doesn't want any more? They absolutely can't stand the idea of being dependent on Samsung for all their processors. The problem is there simply aren't that many foundries in the world capable of producing a chip like that in large enough quantities and Apple doesn't want a partnership like the one they had with Samsung that went south leaving Samsung with one of the most advanced manufacturing operations in the world and Apple forced to contract them to make their chips because of it.

They tried to buy a big stake in a Taiwanese company (TSMC) but the owners didn't want to sell (hard to blame them) and apparently they also didn't want to dedicate an entire foundry to a single customer's chips, which is a key component of Apple's deal with Samsung. Until they figure out a way to cut Samsung out of the processor manufacturing picture I suspect they will resist making the move as long as possible.

Personally I think the whole thing is stupid. I mean partly it's stupid because Apple should have realized that Samsung was probably going to get more out of the investment in the foundry. That's what Samsung does. They focus on manufacturing, establish a partnership with a company like Apple or Sony who needs their expertise, and eventually the partnership is dissolved when the partner walks away with almost nothing and Samsung laughs all the way from the factory their partner paid for at least half of to the bank.

But what's stupider is for Apple to walk away. As soon as they're gone all that chip manufacturing know how gets repurposed at least partly to compete with their products. Apple's execs need to stop whining about having one of the top foundries in the world locked up as their exclusive manufacturing partner and get on with their plan to convert everything to their own processors.

And running OS X on those chips is not at all far fetched by the way. First of all their chips are quite a bit more sophisticated than other ARM chips and I believe Samsung's foundry is (once again) second only to Intel when it comes to miniaturization (manufacturing process size). Even chips from companies like Qualcomm and nVidia are getting close to the point where they are suitable for workstations. We're already in the age of 64-bit ARM.

Besides, OS X isn't all that far off from iOS. Yeah there are more bells and whistles in the interface and a more expansive set of libraries to build software around. But deep down OS X is (semi-FreeBSD) UNIX and that's why it scaled down so well to produce iOS. The processors are getting faster and smaller and the onboard graphics more sophisticated. At this point the biggest obstacle isn't whether they can do it so much as how sure they are about when, how fast, and how much the two operating systems should converge and what sort of devices they will be making in 2 or 3 or 5 years.

That's where they really miss Steve Jobs. He was not, as a lot of people like to suggest, some visionary genius who saw the future. Actually he was something much more impressive IMO. He was the guy who could look at what you made from the average consumer's perspective and tell you if it was done or not. And more often than not he was right. If it wasn't ready he couldn't tell you what it needed or what you should do next, but he knew if it wasn't there yet.

Personally I think his secret was the fact that he didn't really love technology. He just loved what it could do and in my experience that's true of most people. Whatever it was I think they're in for some rough sledding in the next few years with the direction they've taken so if they're smart they'll make nice with Samsung and try to focus on all the competition that's catching up to them.


Rich Fiscus
@Vurbal on Twitter
AfterDawn Staff Writer

1411.11.2012 11:51

Originally posted by Mr_Bill06:
Originally posted by Mr-Movies:
If they did go to AMD I wouldn't have to screw around as much to play with OSX as I do now so I hope they do wake up.
I have to disagree, AMD is okay but when Apple is always charging a premium it should have an Intel chip. Intel right now is far ahead of AMD. I do hope one day AMD can compete very close like they do with there GPU's. There 8 cores are not even keeping up with some of Intels 4 core chips, not good at all.
Apple is charging a premium because they can...it has nothing to do with performance or capability. If they could get away with selling $10,000 desktops running on Attiny25's, they would! Yes, AMD is lagging far behind not only in performance but also in features...but it is an Apple, no one actually expects to do anything with it.


1511.11.2012 21:56

Originally posted by Mr_Bill06:
Originally posted by Mr-Movies:
If they did go to AMD I wouldn't have to screw around as much to play with OSX as I do now so I hope they do wake up.
I have to disagree, AMD is okay but when Apple is always charging a premium it should have an Intel chip. Intel right now is far ahead of AMD. I do hope one day AMD can compete very close like they do with there GPU's. There 8 cores are not even keeping up with some of Intels 4 core chips, not good at all.
We'll we will just have to disagree because I don't see Intel being that much better and I have both Intel & AMD rigs. I'll buy that Intel is somewhat better in cycles but AMD is better in for more cores and overall better for my usage and by far better for bang-for-the-buck.

But to each his own.

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