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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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.

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