What Apple dumping Intel could mean

“If Apple Inc. really dumps Intel Corp. as its provider of chips for the Macintosh family of computers, the move could be a harbinger of things to come for the PC industry and bad news for the semiconductor giant,” Therese Poletti reports for MarketWatch. “To make the switch Apple would develop its own custom designs based on ARM Holdings Inc. technology and have a contract manufacturer like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. make them. If Apple starts to design its own chips for the Mac, others could follow. Intel’s shares were hit by the news.”

Poletti reports, “Such a move by Apple would be a huge undertaking, since switching a core processor as the heart of hardware is not merely an instance of popping one semiconductor out for a replacement chip, or a supply chain switch for Apple. The company would also have to rewrite its Mac operating system to run with the ARM architecture, as it did when it moved from the PowerPC chip family to Intel. Apple’s recent management shakeup and the discussion of more collaboration between hardware and software units, has also fueled some of this speculation.”

Poletti reports, “Sergis Mushell, an analyst with Gartner Inc., does not believe that Apple would convert the entire Macintosh line to an ARM-based design. ‘I don’t see a world where they would discontinue a product line just to produce their own chip,’ Mushell said. ‘They would do it where and when it makes sense.'”

Read more in the full article here.

19 Comments

  1. “Sergis Mushell, an analyst with Gartner Inc., does not believe that Apple would convert the entire Macintosh line to an ARM-based design. ‘I don’t see a world where they would discontinue a product line just to produce their own chip,’ Mushell said. ‘They would do it where and when it makes sense.’”

    So he believes the Mac mini, iMacs, MacBooks (Pro, Air and otherwise) would be ARM based but MacPros would still be Intel? Or… all desktop Macs would be Intel and all portables would be ARM? Or… all Pro versions are Intel and all non Pro versions are ARM? Any way you look at it Apple would have to support two extremely different versions of Mac OS. Developers would have to come up with and support two different versions of their applications.

    This is the dumbest concept of this ARM based Mac idea I’ve heard yet!

    That is not going to happen. IF Apple ever makes the switch for Macs away from Intel they will do it all and within a year or so for the ENTIRE product line just like the switch from PPC to Intel.

    1. Then we would see fat binaries with 68k code, PPC code, Intel code AND ARM code.
      AND yet another Rosetta-like emulator for Intel code on ARM (maybe even one that runs PPC code directly on ARM).
      Just daydreaming…

      But, seriously now, something that worries me is that Apple introduces a lot of fragmentation of the platform, everything they pull a trick like this.
      They can’t even have Facetime support on ALL their iOS/MacOS machines.

    2. “That is not going to happen.”

      Followed by a really big uppercase IF that explains how.

      The Macintosh started life as a portable but as it became more powerful we tied it down with cords and cables of every stripe until it became a caged animal needing room to move.

      The Macintosh is not the defining principle here, it’s the work that needs done, is what drives the industry, and if the difficulty of processing the work suddenly became simplified, then wouldn’t our machines follow suit?

      In other words, if film editing software is developed expressly for ARM architecture and proves to be not only cost effective and cheaper to deploy, but usefully good in anyone’s hands, we begin to marginalize the desktop PC, ergo the Macintosh.

      A Catch-22. Just as it was with the Industry waiting on Microsoft to ship a 64-bit compliant OS and them refusing to do so, until 64-bit computing is more widely accepted, was comical and sad.

      Macintosh suffers none of that because the OS and hardware are developed together.

      Is there Macintosh running ARM architecture in our future? I say yes, or something like it is inevitable, because that is the nature of Apple; they’re always looking at ways of eliminating third-parties by replicating those services in-house.

      I’ll go out on a limb and state Apple will eventually open its own fabrication plant in order to achieve even greater security going forward in the war against data mining.

      How long before Apple launches a satellite or five, to deploy the iTunes and App Stores and further extended the reach of their walled garden approach to consumption?

  2. Steve Jobs said he likes having options. That’s why they did the skunk-works project to have OSX on Intel processors. I would be more shocked if Apple wasn’t looking at putting a full-blown OSX on ARM processors. They already have a lot of their software running on ARM through it’s iOS hardware. It’s simply a blurring of the distinction between OSX and iOS devices.

  3. Can’t see it happening. Not in the next 10 years. Not ever. ARM chips are appropriate for mobile devices. They’re a far cry for computing intensive tasks performed on the laptop and desktop.

    Besides why the hell would Apple want to instantly make the library of Mac OS X apps developed by third parties instantly obsolete without re-compilation. An idea without merit.

    1. Your premise is flawed. Your premise is based on your assumptions on today’s ARM chips. There is absolutely nothing that would stop Apple, ARM or anyone else from developing chips that are suitable for both future mobile and desktop devices, or at least looking into it. In fact, given the amount of money Apple spends on R&D every year, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Apple had something working in they’re labs right now.

    2. Perhaps not ARM as we know it. I would personally like to see Apple use its own chips. BUT I want them to handle the problem you raise with supporting our library of aps, whether Ap Store or otherwise, and to see that running Windows is not impacted (for those who must) since that has been a big selling point for those needing Windows. If Apple can solve those issues (and I don’t think we should be arbitrarily assuming they can’t), then I think running Apple chips would be great!

    1. “”Future ARMv8 cores will undoubtedly be found in Apple’s iPhone and iPad, along with Android devices from TI, Samsung, and others. The real question is whether ARMv8 will enable ARM’s partners to move up the value chain to servers and notebooks. However, that requires competing with Intel, which has a massive advantage in process technology over the rest of the industry,” he added.”

  4. iOS is OSX, at least a subset. Both are versions of the same basic UNIX core. So, in fact, the OS is already running on ARM chips. UNIX is very portable and this change would be very easy for Apple.

    There are also lots of choice for transition supporting emulators for coding that makes direct calls to the processor.

    When Apple has the chip they want to use ready to go, they will not hesitate.

  5. Ah, the Ghost of Project Marklar. Given that it’s common knowledge that Apple’s semiconductor folks have “some very ambitious plans” up their sleeve, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see ARM architecture, together with Apple’s secret blend of eleven herbs and spices, ending up in future desktop hardware.

    Interesting times ahead, that’s for sure!

    =:~)

  6. What if Apple were to produce a complete iOS desktop system, that would run all of the iOS apps. How about a new iPad that was dock-able, but it isn’t an iPad? It would be a truck version, that, on the one hand, could be used like the iPad, but is 15mm thick, has 60+MAh battery, 4GB RAM and 500GB SSD? Maybe slightly under 1kg. It would fit in your back pack, but when you get home, you drop it on the dock and get 27″ 2K/4K resolution display.

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