Apple exploring switch from Intel processors for Macintosh, say sources

“Apple Inc. is exploring ways to replace Intel Corp. processors in its Mac personal computers with a version of the chip technology it uses in the iPhone and iPad, according to people familiar with the company’s research,” Adam Satariano, Peter Burrows and Ian King report for Bloomberg.

“Apple engineers have grown confident that the chip designs used for its mobile devices will one day be powerful enough to run its desktops and laptops, said three people with knowledge of the work, who asked to remain anonymous because the plans are confidential,” Satariano, Burrows and King report. “While Apple is now committed to Intel in computers and is unlikely to switch in the next few years, some engineers say a shift to its own designs is inevitable as the features of mobile devices and PCs become more similar, two people said. Any change would be a blow to Intel, the world’s largest processor maker, which has already been hurt by a stagnating market for computers running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows software and its failure to gain a foothold in mobile gadgets.”

Satariano, Burrows and King report, “Semiconductor development was part of Apple’s management overhaul announced Oct. 29. Chip research is being led by Bob Mansfield, whom Cook put in charge of a new group called Technologies. In the statement announcing the leadership changes, Apple said that its semiconductor teams have ‘ambitious plans for the future’ … To make this switch, Apple could hire a contract manufacturer such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to build the Apple-designed component based on ARM’s technology, similar to how Samsung Electronics Co. now builds the semiconductor inside the iPhone and iPad. Apple’s $121.3 billion in cash and investments would give Cook the ability to tap new suppliers.”

Apple A6 processor
Apple A6 processor

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We imagine a future in which Apple is recognized as the world’s preeminent semiconductor designer. Computing devices using Apple-designed processors already outsell Intel-based computing devices.

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Benchmarks: Apple iPad 4′s A6X beats all comers in GPU performance – November 2, 2012
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    1. This is the natural progression of things. Apple wants to control design and fabrication of the processors it wants. No more having to use what is currently available, wait for future designs, or be subject to external priorities. Go, Apple.

    2. Apple would be remiss in its responsibility to shareholders and customers if it wasn’t exploring possible new processor architectures for future product development.

      Doesn’t mean that we’ll likely see ARM-powered laptops and desktops in the near future, though.

    3. Everyone is missing the obvious, iOS programs are developed and I assume demoed on the OSX Mac computers. Apple could let the Macs run the iOS apps any time they want to. So, stripping down an OSX to iOS is easy. I also assume that someone will make a virtual iOS for the Macs just like the DOS, Windows and other OS’s have been or Apple will develop the Kernel that is the CPU translator for the ARM chip. We may see it first in the next generation AppleTV the is in something like a Mac mini box.

  1. To perform such a feat, Apple has to reach exceed the production of a critical mass of machines using its processor, in order to support R&D and mass production for lower cost. The success of the iPhone, the iPad and the Mac, might just make this possible.

  2. They would have to make sure that Windows (shudder) would run on a self-rolled chip; wouldn’t they?

    I hate and despise Window too but IMO a big part of Apples recent meteoric success came from the ability to give people a windows safety net. Though I guess you could argue that craptastic windows boxes are so cheap these days that buying a windows machine for work would be no big deal.

    1. I completely agree. It was the Intel-powered Windows compatibility that finally gave corporate IT wonks a reason to let employees pick Macs for enterprise. Further, many people (myself included) love that the Mac can run nearly any operating system for the ultimate cross-platform workstation. It’s part of what makes the extra expense for a Mac very much worth it.

      I may run OS X 95% of the time, but native Windows support is really critical for me, and no I don’t want a stupid Windows box sitting around just for the rare occasion I need it. Windows is like 4-wheel drive to me: I hardly ever need it, but if when I do, I have it, and life is good.

      Some day, I might not really need Windows. That time isn’t here. Yet.

    2. Agreed. I just sold two MacBook Pros this afternoon because of Bootcamp. Without that ability to boot into Windows, and the hyper-efficient hypervisor environments, I know many people would before forced to stay with Windows. I hope Apple sticks with Intel for desktops and laptops.

      1. I don’t see this as a problem in the future for two reasons:
        1. at the rate of shrinking chips and continued increase in computational power, within 5 years at the most, an iPad mini will be able to run a virtual Windows faster than Bootcamp today in an MBPro.
        2. Windows will probably be a niche/limited vertical market by then!

        1. I doubt it. Not cross architecture. It will be like the old Virtual PC days where you have to write an entire processor emulator upon which to run Windows. Virtual PC was so bad it did more to convince people to switch from MAC to PC than any other single source. Since the Mac currently runs on Intel, software like Parallels only has to provide a very small layer between the primary OS and the host computer, and with Bootcamp, running the OS natively can’t be beat.

      1. Yes… but Windows RT won’t run any legacy x86/x64 apps so, its totally useless to this matter.

        I my self are a switcher and, as for many people, being able to virtualize a Windows with almost native speed was the main reason to justify the expense of a Mac. If Apple takes that from us, a lot of people will be forced to switch back to PC laptops, incluiding me. 🙁

    1. I also heard a rumor that Apple was going to stop putting floppy drives in its computers! Ridiculous! Some clueless person even said that Apple was thinking about discontinuing internal support for CD’s and DVD’s! What’s wrong with those people! Why would Apple EVER do that! That would be as stupid as removing a built in ethernet port from its computers!

      Of course, you’re right, Cash. That Apple would use its own chips is a stupid rumor that’s been making the rounds among totally clueless people. Don’t expect to see it anymore than those other rumors with no foundation at all.

  3. Great, here we go again down the same road we did when they moved to one and back to another. Pick and stick for crying out loud Apple! Intel, done, now work with ’em, jeez ya greedy b@st@rds.

  4. Apple could- if Intel and Apple agreed to- let Intel fab custom silicon using ARM, x86, PPC or whatever.

    Interesting to note: ARM is a RISC chip like PPC-not CISC like x86. PPC wasn’t a bad design, it just languished under Motorola (Freescale) and IBM.

    1. i think Apple might feel too confident that the iPad market has penetrated into the business world such that; voiding anything windows would still hold interest – but not likely. Bad move for the next 5 years anyways.

    2. I switched to Mac’s when the adopted the Intel processor. If they move away from that processor, I will stop using Macs.

      As an Electrical Engineer, there are many many applications that ONLY run on a PC or Linux machine, there are NO mac versions. This includes every schematic and layout tool available that does not SUCK (don’t even mention Eagle). Also, all FPGA tools, all Verilog simulators, etc. Further, I can use a single MacPro and test web applications on Mac, Windows, *Nix. If Apple moves to ARM, then none of those will run with anything approaching native speed. I’m sure they will get it close.. maybe 80% of native, maybe 85%, but never ‘100%’.

      The only way this would make sense, is if Apple could convince a significant number of tool vendors to fully support the Mac platform, but until that happens.. I would be constrained to switch back..

      Apple’s biggest enemy… will be their own vanity.

    3. Jeebas, you merikuns! What is it with this “loose” thing. It’s LOSE… L – O – S – E — LOSE market share, LOSE your keys, LOSE your mind. “Loose” is what your pants are if you have a 34″ waist and you buy 38″ pants — or if you let something loose, as in let it go.

      lose |lo͞oz| verb
      1. be deprived of or cease to have or retain (something):

      loose |lo͞os| adjective
      1 not firmly or tightly fixed in place; detached or able to be detached:
      2 (of a garment) not fitting tightly or closely:

      1. I’m glad somebody said it. But I fear so many dimwits don’t know the difference that we will eventually reach a point where ‘loose’ becomes the accepted spelling of ‘lose’ in American English.

        1. The illiteracy seen on the interwebs is indeed troubling. I see “loose” substituted for “lose” quite a bit; there’s also a weird, increasing trend of dropping the “s” on words that are used as plural (ie., “analyst” instead of the correct “analysts”, “post” instead of “posts”, and so on).
          And assclown conservative politicians and illiterate ‘tea partiers’ are pushing to _cut_ education funding?

  5. I’d say they already know that Windows (and the Mac, for that matter) is beginning to lose relevance in the face of cloud and web-based computing.

    In the future, if they decided to change over, the majority of users will probably ask “can I use service XYZ” rather than “can I run program ABC”.

  6. I like Intel chips and I’m not wishing for them to go away. However, if Apple can design decent desktop and laptop processors that are at least competitive with Intel designs, I’d give it a shot. I just want something reliable to carry out what I want to do. I don’t give a fig about “Intel Inside”. I doubt Apple will make them any less expensive and they’d better not have the inventory problem with those chips like they do with the rest of their inventory supply. Everyone else will probably continue using Intel chips and Apple will be the odd man out. I’m sure Wall Street will figure a way to spin it bad due to poor profit margins or something.

  7. Apple is ascendant and their future is most certainly in using their own CPUs. If you look at the graph where wintel is in decline and apple is rising inexorably, the point after they cross is where apple will release its first “Ax” Macs. It won’t matter any more because the number of Mac purchasers that want to run windoze will be a mere “rounding error”.

  8. If a Mac move to a non-Intel compatible architecture, it will drive me away from the Mac. I run my business on an iMac with several VMware virtual machines. I also use Boot Camp to test native Windows performance of new software. Moving Mac away from Intel-compatible would be a deal breaker for me. I’m not alone.

  9. I think it would be far more likely that Apple would add a custom ARM (A’X’) chip to their Intel powered computers to perform some spectacular number crunching and graphics capabilities that would blow your average windoze box out of the water.

  10. This not only feels logical to me, but very necessary. When you purchase an Apple iOS product, you’re getting–from a processor and design perspective–a unique product, available only from Apple.

    Currently Apple computers have the uniqueness, durability, and beauty of they of their iOS, but brains shared with literally every computer maker out there.

    If Apple puts custom processors of their own in their computers (by which I mean both desk and laptops)–and assuming that they have class-leading performance like the A6 and A6X–they would only add to the value and uniqueness of Apple products.

    And the comparisons to PC’s would begin to stop because they would be another league, design and processor-wise.

    It goes without saying that you would have to have compatibility with all the latest software, which should (hopefully) go without saying.

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