Apple’s low-cost, ARM-based business Macs would alter PC landscape

“Apple led the smartphone revolution when in 2007 it introduced the iPhone,” J. M. Manness writes for Seeking Alpha. “Along with iPads, these are now driven by Apple’s custom designed A-series processors, which have steadily increased in power.”

“To my mind, it’s clear that Apple intends to move its custom processors into its Mac line – creating new low-end options,” Manness writes. “This will be a huge disruptor in the PC industry – particularly to Microsoft.”

“This would be a direct attack on the Microsoft empire. Windows PCs have achieved domination on several factors, but a major one has always been initial cost,” Manness writes. “‘Macs are too expensive’ was the rally cry of IT pros steeped in the MS culture. With a sub $400 Mac, this could no longer be claimed.”

Read more in the full article here.

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Apple to debut A8 processor in iPhone 6, ‘B8′ processor for Macintosh, too? – September 6, 2014
Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ ultimate goal: ‘to take back the computer business from Microsoft’ – June 16, 2005

34 Comments

    1. With all due respect, My 5 year old MacBook Pro is a “low cost, high performance upper scale laptop.”

      It’s first cost was high, over $3500. Given its 5 years of use running both MacOSX and Win7, however, it’s yearly cost has been about $700 per year with no failures of consequence and it will likely continue to work for another couple years at least, as a backup machine.

      It is powerful enough up to today (even 5 years old) that I no longer use a desktop Mac.

      I venture a guess that Apple’s “Macs” are in fact a low total cost of ownership PC, regardless of the first cost.

    2. Since never. What a stupid article. Even if the chips cost $1 each, what about the cost of all the rest of the computer? Apple is not going to produce computers made out of that crap plastic and thin metal used by the low end.

    3. The problem with the “low-cost” market was the association with under-powered, compromised devices and user experiences. Think “netbooks”. If Apple is able to deliver low-cost without compromising on the user experience, then all the power to them. But I do expect that they will watch their margins carefully. At the end of the day, it’s the profit margin that enables Apple to keep doing what they do.

      1. You have it right. I have no doubt Apple is preparing to ship ARM Macs and laptops, and probably at lower price than its Intel offerings, but they will be high end quality and experience.

        What they won’t do is compete with Intel’s best chips for processing speed. But Apple could care less about competing on specs, their only question will be: Does controlling the processor technology let us design a great product at a reasonable price for a lot of people?

        The answer, given Apple’s huge and growing expertise with processor design is: Of course!

    4. Since they not only retained the iPod Shuffle, but dropped the price from over $100 initially to $35 and continued to sell it even when the far superior iPod versions were making them billions in profits.

      And also since they came out with the Mac Mini, which costs as little as any Windows PC that is actually worth having, and even almost as little as some of the better Chromebooks. In other words, do not let the facts get in the way of your bias.

  1. Oh come on, a Mac for $399? Don’t be ridiculous. Maybe if Apple just slapped it into the cheapest piece of junk shell that suppliers could provide them. However we know that such a device would bring cutting edge technology that required significant R&D investment and Apple will not sell such a system at a loss.

  2. The savings on the CPU couldn’t be more than a hundred dollars or so for a machine that would run its native software slowly, existing Mac software very very slowly, and Windows not at all. I don’t see Apple going for it until the A chips can run as fast as Intel for typical users. At that point, the whole product line can switch.

    1. Windows compatibility matters to only a small percentage of the market. Most consumers don’t need it.

      So even if Apple sold ARM Macs or only $100-200 less than Intel Macs, they would appeal to a huge market. And those that still need Intel can pay a little more to keep that.

      1. When I say Windows compatibility matters to only a small percentage of the market, I am talking about mainstream consumers – non-technical people wanting easy to use computers in their home. (Not businesses where Intel compatibility is still highly desirable).

      2. Windows compatibility may not matter in some market segments, but Mac compatibility certainly does. An Intel OSX emulator running on ARM hardware (barring speed improvements that are years off) would provide terrible performance.

        The published benchmarks, which generally use off-the-shelf (Intel) Mac software, would make the Mac Lite look like it provided less than half the performance for 80% of the price. Next stop: discount store with the Netbooks, Surface RTs, and Fire Phones.

  3. It would be interesting to see how Apple, with its expertise in managing supply chains, and creating in house chips, might be able to create a high quality Mac for as little as possible. It would be a matter of finding the balance between quality and cost.

  4. If Apple wanted to make a cheaper mac by having a lower cost chip they could just put an older intel chip into a mac mini. They don’t want to and they haven’t.

  5. I’m all for an ARM-based Mac, especially Mac mini and MacBook Air models. The problem is getting application software for it. Obviously, Apple can provide the iWork productivity suite, but some business users might insist that Microsoft Office must be available too.

    If Apple can get an x86_64 emulator running on the ARM chip with decent performance, that could bridge the gap until more native software is available.

    Also, since an ARM-based Mac would use the same instruction set as Apple’s mobile devices, perhaps iPhone/iPad software could run on that Mac.

  6. If Apple makes ARM Macs, NONE of the Intel software on Mac will run on it. Software developers will have to at the very least recompile, retest, and re-release all their software if they want it on ARM Macs, or worse case completely recode and make separate versions for the ARM platform (or possibly not even release ARM software for Mac because nobody is using it)

    So these Apple branded computers, made with cheap hardware, not only can’t run any Windows software, they can’t run any Mac software either, unless it was released after 2014 and made to support ARM Macs. And this cheap untested Apple platform with no software is supposed to appeal to businesses???? Jesus, how clueless is this analyst? Here’s another brilliant suggestion: name the new ARM Mac operating system “Windows RT.” That will totally sell, right?

  7. The ARM based devices that Apple sells cost more than the cheap crap business PCs the article is talking about. It’s an absurd notion to think that you could cheapen these devices while providing more processing and memory. This article is as dumb as all the articles were back when netbooks came out and they clamored for an Apple version. Besides, if Apple did anything like this, all the PC prices would drop. Apple never has and NEVER will compete in the low class PC market. There’s no money to be made. All the suppliers cut each others throats until some exit the business. Add to the fact that virtually all of mainstream (non-artistic) business relies on MS Office for inter-business compatibility, like another commenter said, a cheap older Intel chipset would make more sense. The only way Apple will make huge inroads into business is to dominate the software side of it’s mobile systems, and offer low support cost macs to pair with the iOS devices. They’ve already teamed with IBM to start this path. There will have to be compelling business advantages in what comes out of the partnership to supplant any PCs in business. In addition, the courts must not allow copycat software on Android to do the equivalent functions. This article is totally nonsensical.

  8. Swapping out an Intel processor for an A8 in a MacBookAir won’t drop the price $600+. How ridiculous.

    This guy doesn’t even factor into the equation the problems with processor instructions, such that Apple would have to re-code OS X for A8 processors, have developers re-code for A8 processors, and have some sort of emulation available for those who had not re-coded yet. It’s so much more complicated than swapping out the processors.

    Not to mention the fact that Apple has shown zero desire to compete in the cheap-a$$ laptop/PC market because there’s no profit in the $400-$1,000 range, at least not while building laptops Apple would be proud to call Macs.

  9. This already exists people. It is called the Mac Mini, which can be had for as little as $450. If I had known that back then, I would not have bought my last – and it will be my last – Windows computer.

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