Apple ARM-based Macs are a fantasy (for now)

“Over the past couple of days, rumors have been circling around the web that Apple (AAPL) is looking into launching new iMac, Macbook and Mac Mini models utilizing quad-core ARM (ARMH) processors,” Dan Naumov writes for Seeking Alpha.

“A couple of years ago it was revealed that a lone Apple engineer was maintaining an x86 version of MacOS X since 2000 in total secrecy, until eventually more manpower was put behind the project and Apple finally shipped its first Intel Macs in 2005,” Naumov writes. “Many people today seem to believe that history is about to repeat itself and that Apple is on the verge of starting the migration of its Mac computers away from Intel (INTC) chips. I am yet to see a single rational explanation as to ‘Why?’ and there are several things worth noting that make this scenario extremely unlikely to unfold in the near term.”

“Apple very likely learned from its past and there is little doubt in my mind that a secret ‘MacOS X on ARM’ project does in fact exist as a potential backup plan,” Naumov writes. “That’s, however, a backup plan; don’t expect ARM-based Macs to be launching any time soon.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. This begins when the base OS for both Macs and iOS mobile devices (and Apple TV) merge. One OS for all Apple computing devices, each with its own optimized user interface. So the Mac’s GUI will still look and act much like today’s OS X, with a keyboard and pointing device (cursor on screen). iPhone and iPad will still be optimized for a small handheld touchscreen (no cursor on screen). (And Apple TV will use a simplified “remote control” interface.)

    Also, I don’t think this will be a “transition” like the PowerPC to Intel transition. The Macs that benefit from power efficiency most will use ARM-based processors. The Macs that are oriented toward performance with less emphasis on saving power will continue to use Intel processors.

          1. They are related, but not the SAME. Steve Jobs said iPhone ran OS X for “marketing” reasons (to highlight iPhone’s heritage and capabilities), but they are not the SAME. They never were. And since iOS was created, it has followed a different path to where it is now, compared to the path followed by OS X.

            Now that iOS has gained a higher degree of sophistication (on its OWN development path that is separate from OS X), Apple’s job, if it chooses to do so, is to add the additional BASE components needed to make it work in Macs, which are far more complex, interactive, and flexible computers compared to iOS devices.

            1. Adding differing services to the SAME base OS, does not make it a different base OS. Regardless, they are the same base OS. both are based on Unix, in the form of BSD, in the form of Darwin.

              I’m not going to continue to argue with a nitwit like you anymore,,so make up some piffle and maybe some moron will buy into your stupidity.

            2. Yes, when you are wrong, resort in insults… Then say you are no longer responding. LOL

              What I consider the “base OS” is far more than Darwin or BSD. That would be like saying another UNIX distribution that is based on Darwin is the “same OS” as Mac OS X. That’s is obviously nonsense.

              Mac OS X and iOS are VARIANTS with some common heritage, NOT the same OS. You’re the one who sounds like a “moron.” Current development is separate for Mac OS X and iOS. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE DIFFERENT. It’s not one base OS with different components and user interfaces.

            3. Yeah, that’s right… Try to deflect the other guys point by calling him out for giving up on your repeating bullshit as yours.

              You even state that YOUR definition of a core OS is unique to you… That is fine for you, but does not change the fact that the actual core OS of OS X and iOS are the same thing. What you appear to be calling a core OS are not the core OS, but what are called frameworks, which are merely libraries of code that are shared by apps. The frameworks in iOS and those in OS X are largely different,and it should be obvious that they will remain different since the two operating systems, in total, are targeted at entirely different applications and uses. Your apparent expectation that they should be the same is ignorant and shows your lack of comprehension of the topic.

              Have a nice day.

            4. What I define as “base” (I did not say “core”) OS is perfectly logical I for the context of my original post, which was that Apple can create a common BASE for all Apple computing devices. That common “base OS” would be at a MUCH higher level than “BDS” or “Darwin.” What each device type (iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV…) adds to the base OS are the components and GUI that make it unique (and optimal).

              And that, my perfectly logical definition of a “base OS” FOR APPLE COMPUTING DEVICES, was warped into meaning the low level “core” of the OS. That make zero sense for the topic of my post. It’s like you’re having a completely different discussion in poor reading comprehension land.

    1. If by IOS and OSX share the same base code, you mean they both run the same kernel then you are correct.

      To say they are both the same base code i.e. Darwin then that’s not correct.

      Both have been optimised for its purpose. Tried excel on an iPhone ?

      It’s easy to port apps between both platforms which is the point actually.

  2. Then again he could be wrong, eh? Nothing new in these arguments.

    An ARM MB Air with two-day battery life and full iOS compatibility in the near future seems quite plausible given the 64-bit ARM “desktop class” chips Apple has been looking so well-pleased about. Maybe not for the ‘truck drivers’ who will still get the more-powerful MB Pros with Intel-inside, Windblows compatibility, etc.. Makes sense to me; my current MBA is more than quick enough for everything I do but could do with a longer-lasting battery.

  3. Here is my take.
    The Mac mini realized.
    Let the Mac mini realize what it was meant to do, which is to bring more people into the Apple ecosystem. If Apple can sell Apple TV for $99 bucks, why couldn’t it do that for the Mini for say..$199?
    Kids and people with basic computer needs could browse the web, write a report, do schoolwork …all things that are more difficult on an iPad or iPhone. Just a little box which one could plug their monitor and keyboard instead of buying a new cheap Windows rig or Chromebook.
    I for one think it would do well. Not as full Mac replacement, but as a stopgap for basic computing.

    1. You suggestion is good. Here’s my idea for a new iDevice. It would have beautiful keyboard with a built-in trackpad with a sort of built-in Apple TV. Simply set your iDevice down beside the keyboard and the monitor comes alive with performance apps delivered from the device or the web. Simple, cheap and industry changing. As the performance and apps improve it will become a great machine for email, browsing, photo editing and some creative apps already available on iOS. $250 sounds about right.

  4. AMD has already figured out how to merge x86 and Arm instruction sets, it would not be too difficult for Apple to have a motherboard that runs Arm but also has legacy x86 support. The fact that Apple is waiting is because they know they can. They want to let Microsoft wither on the vine some more.

  5. No matter how much they have diverged, there are common elements, so it would no doubt be easier to make OS X work on ARM as some (albeit small) element of the work has already been done. I would also suggest that a company of Apple’s size would be stupid not to have some tiny amount of resources devoted to it, even on a just in case basis.

    1. Technically, we already HAVE OS X running on ARM processors. It’s called iOS. At the core, it’s the same operating system.

      But all Apple would be doing by moving Mac OS X to ARM would be hobbling the Mac. NEVER going to happen. Please don’t bother ranting the contrary at me. I won’t be replying or even caring.

  6. The two advantages of arm processors are cost and battery life. Great for mobile devices.
    What they lack is power and intel compatibility. We need to remember that the transition to intel processor caused a big jump in user adoption. Why because macs could run windows without any performance hit or compatibility issues. Even though windows is on the way out for consumers, most of us still work in a windows environment. Having an intel mac means we can live in both worlds without having to carry a heavy piece of crap around or bring it home when needing to work.
    Apple will need to include win instruction sets in their arm processors to maintain the capability. The problem with that is that both intel and m$ will add new instructions to kill the comparability.

  7. Rather than go through the litany of reasons why these ARM-based Macs rumors are total nonsense, I’ll instead progress the conversation by pointing out that:

    Anyone who believes in ARM-based Macs also believes in faeries. This issue has become a litmus test for technology ignorance.

    Sadly, TechTardiness is rampant.

  8. Things Apple will do in the next 5 years that GEEKS WON’T LIKE.

    1. No Intel cpu’s
    2. No Google search
    3. No Kindle or Google apps in the Appstore
    4. Apple Search

  9. Two OSs being written in the same language is NOT the same as sharing code. Next you guys are gonna claim that Linux and OSX are the same. I don’t doubt that there is some code convergence happening between OSX and iOS, and this will increase. However, they do not run from the same code base.

  10. It would be a piece of cake for Apple to generate MacOSX on ARM (if they are not already actively doing so). Because XCode can generate both ARM and X86 code. All they need to do is run the proper libraries through XCode with different settings. You can even define a project that will generate apps that run on both OSX an iOS. Also, may frameworks are available for both OSX an iOS. The first obvious difference, of course, is that the GUI frameworks are different. These are just libraries, mind you. The other thing is different memory management. This is partly a matter of different system settings (just like OSX server IS OS client + different settings + a few utilities), but also of, again, appropriate library frameworks. The common ground between iOS and OSX is vastly more than just the underlying Darwin base OS. Yet another thing is that some software layers close to the hardware are also different.
    The fact that there doesn’t seem to be a file system in iOS is just appearance, as everybody who has jailbroken an iOS device can testify. iOS just dumbs down (disables) some OSX features.
    Frankly, I don’t understand the relentless claims in this thread that OSX and iOS are so different.

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