Analyst believes Apple will embrace ARM for some Macs as early as 2nd half 2012

“‘We believe that Apple will be the first in our sector to embrace ARM for some Macs, as early as C2H12,’ writes Barclays Capital hardware analyst Ben Reitzes [in a note to clients today], with a nod to speculation last week Apple may ditch Intel chips for ARM chips,” Tiernan Ray reports for Barron’s.

We believe that Apple is already working hard on the software to accomplish this feat within the MacBook Air line-up. Through its own development of ARM-based processors and ARM-based iOS software, this migration would be rather natural for Apple. Apple is already moving toward enhanced battery life and ultra portability with its current MacBook Air line, which uses NAND instead of HDDs. – Barclays Capital hardware analyst Ben Reitzes

Ray reports, “And since you’re probably wondering, no, there is no mention in the note of Intel’s momentous announcement last week of its ‘Tri-Gate’ process technology, which even some bears on Intel stock think could give it an edge on ARM-based chips. A curious omission, on Reitze’s part, to be sure.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple could adopt ARM for laptops, but why would they? – May 9, 2011
RUMOR: Apple to dump Intel for Apple ARM-based chips within 24-36 months – May 6, 2011

17 Comments

  1. I heard some rumor that Apple might be having Intel make their ARM-based chips… is it possible that Apple is working with Intel to combine their own ARM/Apple processor technologies with Intel’s new Tri-Gate tech?

  2. If apple is going ARM i sure hope they partner with Intel for the fab. Otherwise any cpu they put out is just going to be less than it could have been!

  3. “We believe that Apple will be the first in our sector to embrace ARM for some Macs” – well it’s not Like Dell or HP or for that matter any other company who’s name isn’t Apple are in a position to embrace ARM for a Mac now is it?

  4. One could argue that only recently has the migration for OS9 to OS X been FULLY implemented. And they’re going to go through another major migration? I don’t think so.

    Always this frothing desperation (with some people) for new.
    “If only we could have a 3D interface. Then my life would be worthwhile and my business successful.”

  5. This would make sense if Apple is doing what it needs to, to build the perfect mobile device. A Hybrid between a Macbook Air (OSX) and an iPad (iOS). That would be perfect for my needs and probably appeal to more people than either of those devices on their own.

  6. Not this again.

    Let’s be clear about a few things. Microsoft is bringing “Windows 8” to ARM because, as usual, Microsoft was ill prepared for something, namely the new generation of phones and tablets.

    WP’07 isn’t Windows 7 for phones. Nor is it Windows Mobile “7.0”. It’s a temporary platform that was used to migrate people off of Windows Mobile and was one of several mobile OS strategies that Windows had live during a very short time period…thanks Roz!

    However, Microsoft needs exactly what iOS is. That is, OS X, optimized for mobile platforms (and other devices like Apple TV). Apple realized this years ago.

    So, Microsoft will kill off WP’07 when they release Windows 8 which will also come in a mobile version WP’08.

    Microsoft, understandably, isn’t advertising this dirty little secret, that users and developers are in for yet another huge migration from WP’07 to WP’08. Huge, in terms of it being a whole new platform, not necessarily huge in terms of catching up to being a current generation mobile OS.

    Microsoft needs to develop Windows for ARM because they screwed up and the only way they can get into the tablet game at this point is by doing this.

    To be clear, this means, that by the end of 2012 (if not delayed as to be expected), Microsoft will be essentially launching their 1.0 of their version of iOS… thanks Ballmer!

    Ok, to bring this back home for what ARM means for Apple, and why so many analysts are getting this wrong…

    I can understand their confusion. After all, Apple is so far ahead of Microsoft here that they’re lapping them and some analysts can’t see this.

    It’s not Microsoft leading the way to taking computing platforms to ARM, it’s Apple who took their platform to ARM, optimized it over a number of years, and then customized the SoC architecture by releasing the A4, then the A5. Way back there…that tiny dot in the distance, that’s Microsoft taking about doing what Apple did in 2006, and saying they promise to do it by the end of 2012 with Windows.

    For Apple, they’ve got a great platform and can migrate it around easily as demonstrated several times now with OS X. However, Intel is the right architecture for notebooks and desktops. As we look at the road maps for every alternative, Intel is far in the lead here.

    Really, it’s the opposite question that should be asked. Would Apple adopt Intel architecture for mobile? Take a look at some of the recently announced technologies and the road map from Intel, and you’ll see that this makes a lot more sense for Apple. Further, Apple could take Intel architecture, wrap it up in a A6 (or A7, etc…) and have Intel also do the fab, using technology only Intel has.

    There have been a variety of comments posted elsewhere that talk about a “hybrid” where a MacBook could switch between ARM and Intel, but that really can’t happen. Keep in mind that ARM, being a different architecture, has a different set of binaries. You can’t switch binaries on the fly. Not to mention all of the other issues involved in in terms of cost, and ignoring Intel’s road map.

  7. “Apple could take Intel architecture, wrap it up in a A6 (or A7, etc…) and have Intel also do the fab, using technology only Intel has.”

    My question is, as posted above, can Apple use the patented ARM power saving technologies with Intel’s tri-gate technology? Can we have the best of both worlds? Would love to know the answer to this one.

    1. I imagine there may be roadblocks regarding combining this tech given patent issues on both sides (ARM & Intel). But, if Apple is just using Intel for the fabrication of ARM chips AND pairing it with the new .22 micron Tri-Gate tech from Intel, that could be a blessing for consumers.

  8. Would it make sense to have both an Intel CPU and an ARM cpu in the same mobile device? Could this operate similarly to some of Apple’s Macbook Pro laptops with respect to graphics – switch from the higher performance part to the integrated graphics to save power when the performance isn’t needed? Could this be how iOS makes its way onto Macs? Or that all too complicated? It doesn’t sound like the right way to go to me – just speculating…

    1. No. That doesn’t make sense to me and Apple wouldn’t do it. They MIGHT combine both Intel’s and ARM’s technologies into a processor design in order to receive the benefits from both.

  9. Whoever has a hard time believing in the possibility of Apple moving Mac OS to ARM, does not remember Apple’s history.

    1. 68k to PPC migration (1995-8)
    Firs PPC Macs appeared in 1994. Last 68k Macs were sold in late 1995. System 8.5 no longer supported 68k Macs. It appeared in 1998.

    2. System 9 to Mac OS X migration (2001-3)
    Three years after the PPC migration (in 2001), we have OS X migration. Classic mode was available until Intel migration.
    3. PPC to Intel Migration (2005)
    Rosetta environment provides support for old PPC applications until 2009 (Snow Leopard), which no longer has it, although still does support it via separate download. Lion will eliminate support for PPC code.

    Since the Intel migration, we have had the longest period on any single hardware architecture. For Apple to start moving to a better solution, it wouldn’t be out of their prior timelines.

    Apple has always looked with some minor concern at Hackintosh community, which was a bit of a pain. In addition, it has been a bit of an annoyance to defend the price discrepancy between directly comparable non-Apple computers and Macs, considering that the architecture is now almost identical. Most importantly, with the in-house development of their own ARM processors, Apple can really squeeze that last drop of performance from that hardware by writing most perfectly optimised software for it (as shown by the efficiency and performance of A4 and A5 mobile devices today).

    Finally, it also points to one other trend, and that is, the end of the Mac OS line with the Lion, and migration of the Mac hardware over to iOS (eliminating the mouse and the keyboard in the process). Since iOS is proving itself as a mighty versatile OS day by day, and its UI is showing to consistently be more intuitive, efficient, effective and economical for vast majority of computing tasks, I wouldn’t be surprised if all Macs of 2015 were running iOS (with some possible blue-box emulation solution for legacy OS X code), mice were history, and keyboards were available only as an option (for those who type a lot for a living).

    1. The biggest issue with your statement is that the ARM chips will not be sufficient for the Mac Pro line for at least 5 years — if ever. They were never designed or intended to support machines like that.

      68K was designed to support workstations (e.g., Sun, Apollo, etc.)
      PPC was designed to support workstations (e.g., IBM, Motorola, etc.)
      Intel was designed to support workstations (e.g., all the machines running Xeons)

      So if Apple keeps Intel on its “Pro” line (top of the line laptops and top of the line Mac desktops) then Apple will have three major operationg systems:
      1) iOS for mobile devices
      2) iOS/Lion for ARM on personal laptops and desktops (possibly two variants but might be just one)
      3) Lion for Intel based “Pro” line.

      I don’t see Apple supporting three different operating systems. Maybe if ARM gets to the point of being robust enough for “Pro” systems — if that ever happens — but not before. And Lion is not becoming an iOS variant. Lion has picked up some of the iOS interface nuances, but internally and for core functionality Lion is almost NOTHING like iOS.

      Also, this statement just shows you don’t know the community or Apple:
      “Apple has always looked with some minor concern at Hackintosh community, which was a bit of a pain. In addition, it has been a bit of an annoyance to defend the price discrepancy between directly comparable non-Apple computers and Macs, considering that the architecture is now almost identical.”

      Apple is truly barely annoyed by the Hackintosh community. The amount of lost sales due to that community is much less than 1%. It may be less much than 0.1%. Businesses don’t build Hackintoshes. The vast majority of home users don’t either. The vast majority of home builders of “PCs” don’t either. It is a very small subset of home builders that want Macs instead of Linux (typical for home builders) or Windows (much more typical than MacOS).

      Plus, except for home build and bottom feedng third or fourth tier vendors, the Pro lines of Macs are often with a very few dollars of the price of identical builds — and often are less expensive. Sure if you build your own and can pick and choose components at will you can buld a Hackintosh for significantly less than Apple charges, but then if anything goes wrong you personally are the only one you can call to try to fix it. You get no support from anyone.

      Finally there will not be an end to the mouse (or other pointing device) or the keyborad for at least another 10 years. No matter what Microsoft might say or propose, people will not be using touch screens as their major imput device for desktops (or high end laptops) for many, many years to come. Literally no one I have talked to since this lame idea was put forth has claimed *any intention at all* of being interested in waving their arms around all day or typing on the screen a la an iPad or iPhone.

  10. WSJ and barrons must be trying to put a wedge between intel and apple huh? The boys from Redmond must be really worried. They see the fact that apple is getting first dibs at intel’s new technologies (thunderbolt and newer processors as a big threat. The same playbook (circa the WINTEL era) is now being used against them bits from Redmond. Google mighty worried too that their partners (samsung, Acer, Dell) are not in on this.

    Those Redmond dollars go a long way.

  11. Same old stupid story as with Netbooks. Every analyst believe Apple has to release a product in this dying category only because Microsoft think, one system for all devices is a good idea.

    To say it with Steve words. You cant built a notebook computer with cheap Netbook components which will be not a piece of junk.

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