Analysts sees Apple designed ARM-based Macs as ‘inevitable,’ eventually

“It’s ‘inevitable’ that Apple will merge its Mac and iOS devices at some point, but such a change is not expected to happen for years, in the eyes of one industry watcher,” Neil Hughes reports for AppleInsider.

“Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee said in a note to investors on Tuesday that he believes it will take Apple some time to optimize its Mac OS X operating system for the ARM processors currently found in the iPad and iPhone,” Hughes reports. “In his view, making Apple’s entire product line based on custom-built ARM-based processors would simplify the architecture of its devices, and also help to create a more seamless experience for users.”

Hughes reports, “Monday’s report also suggested a change to ARM processors is not likely to take place ‘in the next few years.’ But it also portrayed a [shift] to proprietary chip designs as an ‘inevitable’ shift for the company in the future.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related article:
Apple exploring switch from Intel processors for Macintosh, say sources – November 5, 2012

29 Comments

  1. maybe, unless they don’t, and in that case they wouldn’t, so it may be something else entirely, so it’ll be exactly the same except for completely different… eventually

  2. It’s not inevitable that such a move be made. Non-mobile devices have different hardware requirements than mobile ones do. Would you settle for a more powerful computer that didn’t handle floating points or multi-tasking?

    Extrapolating is a dangerous sport.

    1. Why? Just because its been true doesn’t mean it still is. Floating point can be added with an external unit (it’s not like it’d be impossible to bake in, just saying) and multitasking (in the desktop sense) is possible on current mobile chips, it just eats up the battery. Plug it into the wall (desktop) or put in a huge battery (laptop) and you no longer care about how much power it requires.

      What makes you think that a sufficiently advanced processor couldn’t run what’s currently known as a desktop or laptop?

  3. Wow! Apple should hop to it now that Shaw Wu has made this declaration. Apple really should enlist Wu to manage and guide the process, I’m sure he has a handle on all the issues involved, I mean, its just a matter of “optimizing” which will simply take “some time”. Wu is a genius.

    1. LOL.
      yeah, using the same processor architecture is exactly what will finally remove all our endless struggles with exchanging files between iPads, current Macs, and PPC Macs…

  4. They will. The seeds for this were planted when Apple in coordination with Nvidia, came up with an impressive new way to support an Intel chip with a non-Intel chipset. Memory bandwidth was impressive and the integrated graphics were better than Intel by a longshot. So, what did Intel do? They change their licensing such that if you were using an Intel CPU you HAD to use integrated Intel GPU. This meant their portable products, which didn’t have enough space for a discrete and integrated graphics chip, had to go with the weak Intel solution.

    This was probably quite familiar territory to Apple, as they had similarly been forced to provide an underpowered offering due to PowerPC shortfalls. It was clear to me at that point, that if Apple wanted to be able to offer the products they wanted to offer in the way they wanted to offer them, they would have to leave other chipmakers behind.

    Add to that the fact that the Intel processor could be more efficient if it wasn’t so focused on maintaining compatibility with old Windows cruft, and you see an opening for Apple whereby they lose Windows compatibility (via Boot Camp), but they gain high-performance. They also gain the ability to design products that meet their specific requirements. And you see how far that put them on the right path with their hand – tooled A6 chip.

    Apple has shown that they have the ability to create a competitive CPU that can execute many of the commands they would need for an OSX variant. At this point, it’s just a matter of time.

    1. Whether Apple does or not isn’t quite the point.

      Mr. Wu-bee makes the great, grand, glorious statement that Its inevitable that Apple will switch to home grown custom CPUs, doesn’t back it up with anything other than nothing, then waffles so bad with maybe, but it will take years it not decades, possibly not even in our lifetime, blah blah blah…….. The article loses any credibility.

      Most innocent tech bystanders could have been more accurate and articulate just by citing prior Apple History…. Apple, never been afraid to switch CPUs when it made sense, Moto to AIM, to Intel, in the future seems likely given their investment into ARM and their chip design foundry that Apple may attempt custom CPUs for their Macintosh line of computers. That kind of thing.

  5. Apple has more chip design talent in-house now than Sun had when they started the SPARC project, than DEC had when they did the Alpha project, etc, etc.

    I would not expect the Mac to ever go back to a 32-bit architecture, so if Apple went to ARM for the Mac, it would be a 64-bit variant. I’m not sure that ARM is the right way to go for future Macs, though.

    An entirely new CPU architecture designed with an eye towards easily adding huge numbers of cores for desktop machines, and very low power draw for portables, is entirely within Apple’s current capabilities. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

    -jcr

  6. Agreed this will probably happen but there are some serious hurdles to overcome:
    1. Windoze compatibility – Macs took off in a big way once they switched to Intel chips. It removed a significant barrier for anyone who needs to work in an windoze environment.
    2. I/O support – for connectivity such as Thunderbolt, sATA etc.
    3. API support. The # of APIs in OSX must be significantly greater than in iOS and it would all need to work out of the box.
    4. Speed / Bandwidth – the chips need to be able to handle everything a Mac has to do. iOS is a slimmed down OSX so adding back those functionalities will tax the processor more.

    My guess is that Apple already have a prototype OS and chipset. At some point there will be 2 parallel versions of OSX – one for Intel and one for ARM.

    1. My guess, this wouldn’t happen for at least 5 years but probably closer to 7 or 10. Do you really think windows compatibility will be an issue by then? I have serious doubt that windows will be very important in 10 years; it possibly not very important in 5 years either.

      As for all the other tech related stuff, that means nothing. If Apple is designing the chips, they can design them to do anything they want.

    2. Your #1 point is too narrow. It wasn’t just Windows compatibility, it was x86 compatibility. A lot of Intel-based UNIX- and Linux-based open source stuff like MPlayer, VLC, and many other libraries, were now available on Macs with relatively minor tweaks to code and UI (minor compared to porting x86 code to PPC code, anyway).

      Not to say porting it to ARM-architecture isn’t feasible–VLC was available on iOS for awhile, after all. But iOS is a huge player in the mobile space. The Mac is nowhere near that number in marketshare or installed base (installed base for Mac: 66 million; iOS: between 250 and 360 million).

  7. ARM will have it’s day and will be supplanted in turn. The ARM also happens to be a RISC type chip like the old PPC instead of a CISC chip (x86).

    It all comes down to where power efficiency and heat are best suited- not something somebody pulled out of their backside.

    PS- Go vote today- whomever you support- it’s the American thing to do. People have died, been beaten, have went to jail and more so that you have the right to vote. If some self styled poll watcher with no authority (True the Vote comes to mind) challenges your right to vote, give them the finger for me.

  8. using ARM or Intel is not a bid deal. Period. And would not be a big boon to Apple’s bottom line either way. They will likely stick with Intel for desktops/notebooks for the foreseeable future. All this other talk is obnoxious and unfounded.

    1. Actually, not having to pay Intel’s markup would be quite a significant savings for Apple. Certainly in the billions, possibly in the tens of billions per year.

      -jcr

      1. Apple sells approximately 10-12 million macs per year. I’m sure Apple gets a better price than $1000 per CPU. The 10s of Billions per year is a little high, a few hundred million, maybe.

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