Five barriers that might keep Apple from moving Macs to custom ARM chips

“Shortly after Apple introduced its first custom A4 Application Processor in 2010 to power the original iPad, rumors began to suggest the company could eventually migrate its Macs from Intel x86 processors to ARM chip designs of its own. However, there’s a series of significant hurdles the company would need to jump first,” Daniel Eran Dilger reports for AppleInsider.

“The primary reason for Apple to consider developing Macs using a non-Intel processor is cost. Intel makes its money developing advanced processors that are hard to copy or compete against, so it can charge prices padded with a steep profit margin,” Dilger reports. “IHS iSuppli estimates that… A6 chips cost Apple around $25 per iPad, but that it pays Intel somewhere around $180-300 for the Intel chips that power Macs. The tantalizing idea of Apple replacing $200 Intel processors with one or two of its own $25 chips is the primary fuel powering the Mac/ARM rumors.”

“All things considered, were Apple indeed interested in moving even a specific new Mac product (such as the oft-rumored “low cost” MacBook Air) to a custom new ARM chip, it certainly isn’t far away from being able to match Intel’s low end desktop processors at an attractive price. ARM is already beating Intel’s mobile x86 Atom chips,” Dilger reports. “While Apple is now one of the world’s leading mobile chip design firms and has $150 billion in cash to embark upon ambitious new projects, remaining a customer of Intel still makes sense for a number of reasons.”

Read more in the full article here.

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12 Comments

    1. Not specifically, but indirectly he mentions the architectural issues without diving into the technical details. The article is pretty long as is (maybe that’s why you haven’t read it).

  1. Apple paying $130 to $300 for Intel chips is most likely for the highest performing CPUs. Therefore they will not be ending this practice any time soon, regardless. There is a reason only certain companies make heave lift equipment, it’s because they are specialists in that arena.

    At the low end, I am sure Apple is getting reasonable prices for their CPUs. If price was a problem, they would have switched a long time ago.

  2. The primary reason for Apple to consider developing Macs using a non-Intel processor is cost. Reported Daniel Idiot Whats-his-name for AI.

    Come on. Anyone’s grandma could tell you that iOS uses Ax chips because Apple has the ability to specially design and tune them to the hardware needs, allowing for such things as secure fingerprint reading, secure ApplePay, and finely balanced graphics processing, among many other reasons. THOSE would be the reason Apple would consider using A~ chips in a Mac.

    Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. You know better than that.

  3. I think the reason Apple is not squashing the rumors of switching over to one of their custom ARM chips is to scare Intel into keeping the price they charge Apple low.

  4. Apple won’t port OS X to the A series for a simple reason: It is already there! Why port Mac programs when you could add more PC-like hardware to iOS devices? Take an Apple TV, attach keyboard and App store, and you’ve basically got a desktop computer.

    iOS is already Apple’s “successor” to OS X in many ways, and much development on the mac line seems to be about making it more iOS like.

  5. Apple will not abandon Intel in the foreseeable future. It may however create an ARM line with MacBookAir and small screen iMac computers for consumer and educational markets. Many do not need to run complex programs, require intensive graphics, or PC compatibility. Apple will do this at the time of its choosing; when the time is right. ‘Nuff said.

  6. No! No! No! Don’t give them competition a chance to return to the days of the GHz battle! Stay on a common platform for desktops and compete on the same playing field as everyone else.

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