How long before Apple dumps Intel from MacBook Air?

“Sooner rather than later, Apple will have the ability — and just as importantly, the incentive — to create notebook computers that run on its own custom microchips, rather than ones made by Intel,” Christopher Mims writes for Quartz.

“Intel’s chips have never been in Apple’s smartphones or tablets—the company notoriously passed on that opportunity in the earliest days of the iPhone, a mistake by then-CEO Paul Otellini that has to rank as one of the most head-smacking tech industry gaffes in the past decade,” Mims writes. “Everyone knows by now that tablets are cannibalizing sales of PCs, especially notebook PCs. And here’s the new trend: As the guts of mobile devices become ever more powerful, they are becoming more than adequate to replace the innards of even traditional ‘workhorse’ devices like notebook PCs.”

Mims writes, “There is now a popular device category — low priced but functional ultramobiles — that Apple doesn’t make. That’s historically a signal that Apple is preparing to swoop in and make its own version. It’s exactly what happened with the iPad Mini, for example… Consumers are flocking to notebooks with relatively lightweight processors, and Apple’s iPhone and iPad microchips just keep getting more powerful. If Apple created an A7-powered laptop and ditched Intel chips in the PC industry’s sole growth category, it would leave Intel with nothing but dwindling desktop PCs, niche ‘high-end’ notebooks, and the large-scale computer servers that make the internet possible.”

Read more in the full article here.

20 Comments

  1. I’m sorry, but Apple making an iPad mini does not support the idea that Apple will make a laptop lower than the MacBook Air. Yes, other companies made smaller tablets, but they were by no means popular. “low priced but functional ultramobiles” is completely the opposite of what Apple is about. All their advertising is currently about the quality of their products and how they’re designed to improve people’s lives, making something that is only functional is not something they’re going to do. All the other machines in this so called segment are basically garbage. Apple might use their own chips in a MacBook, but only when they’re as good (if not better) than the intel alternative for the function they desire. If their own chips are not good enough they’re not going to compromise and launch a low quality machine just because they can and so they can say put their own chips in them.

      1. “There is now a popular device category — low priced but functional ultramobiles — that Apple doesn’t make. That’s historically a signal that Apple is preparing to swoop in and make its own version. It’s exactly what happened with the iPad Mini, for example… Consumers are flocking to notebooks with relatively lightweight processors, and Apple’s iPhone and iPad microchips just keep getting more powerful. If Apple created an A7-powered laptop and ditched Intel chips in the PC industry’s sole growth category, it would leave Intel with nothing but dwindling desktop PCs, niche ‘high-end’ notebooks, and the large-scale computer servers that make the internet possible.”

  2. Not only would the processor cost Apple less than using an Intel processor, but we might be looking at a 24-hour battery life on an A7-powered MacBook Air.

    It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’

  3. A little simplistic considering such a laptop would be as limited as the iPad when it comes to fully fledged workload as things stand and could actually look less capable than a Win8 tablet which is a scary thought. Unless Adobe and others were willing to support it I am not sure what there is to gain in the short term while it could set the scene to establish similar Win8/Chrome success in an area where Apples product could be weak by comparison should software companies prefer to support them above Apple. As things stand a low power cheap Intel form factor would be more practical and less likely to cannibalise iPad/Air for Apple but hardly an exciting move.

  4. Mims writes, “There is now a popular device category — low priced but functional ultramobiles — that Apple doesn’t make. That’s historically a signal that Apple is preparing to swoop in and make its own version.”

    What B.S.! 😎

  5. This guy is completely ignoring architecture. Does he expect Apple to require developers to constantly build two versions of their desktop apps (one for ARM, one for X86)? Yes, Apple did it before with the transition to Intel, but that was a time-limited thing in which the entire line of Macs were switching architecture.

  6. Why should Apple do that – this idea is complete nonsense and this for multible reasons
    1. Intel developes exactly into the direction which Apple wants
    2. A custom mad chip design is extremly expensive and only a high production volume can lower the costs per chip to an competetive level. Apple sells 20 times more iOS devices than Macs and while all iOS devices are built arround one core CPU design with little variants in grafics, RAM and core numbers, the tasks for Mac notebook and desktop modells differ much more. So Apple would have to develop a own custom chip for each device and this would cost them around one billion dollar per design and if you divide this by Mac sales in the low million bandwith, you got developing costs of 250 to 500 dollar per chip. And you even dont now if theese chips are better than INTEL with their most advancend production technology.
    3. Apple would lose the compatibility to Windows and dont forget – the change to INTEL X86 brought apple the biggest boost in Mac sales in the last years.
    4. Apple would lose compatibilty to their own software base and cause a unnesseccary catch-22 problem. Without software nobody will buy an ARM based MacBook Air and without hardware sales developes will do no extra work.
    5. An ARM based Macbook Air or bringing a Touch interface to the Mac is just projecting Microsofts bad ideas to Apple. But take a look to the success of Windows 8. Most OEMs stopp producing Windows RT hardware, Microsoft is giving away more and more Surface tablets for free and die adoption rate of Windows 8 even with their expansion to the tablet market is lower than with windows vista. So Windows on ARM and Touch for Windows is a complete fail at the moment and you seriously expect, that Apple would follow Microsoft with their badest decisions in history??

  7. Makes no business sense to take on the additional risk of relying solely on their own processor. For mobile purposes, i.e., iPhone/iPad/iWhatever, it can be a differentiator in that the special purpose processor with desirable power consumption profile can set your product apart from others. But for laptop/notebooks, processors are a commodity and the real differentiation is in how its integrated rather than the processor itself. Besides, there is a x86 standard that Apple is benefitting from on Intel processors (e.g., virtualization, dual platform sw).

    Now that said, it is entirely interesting possibility to consider having a notebook with BOTH Intel x86 and Ax chips to operate in dual mode. Think of what you can do to extend low power duty functions on Ax and heavy computing tasks on x86. Further intensive on GPU… You get the idea.

    The real question is not how long before Apple dumps Intel, but how long before Apple board dumps Cook. So far he’s demonstrated that he is a highly efficient commodity, but not a differentiator for Apple…

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