Should Intel and its investors fear Apple’s high-performance A9X chip?

“There has been plenty of talk over the last several years of Apple potentially replacing Intel inside of some, if not all, of its future Macs,” Ashraf Eassa writes for The Motley Fool. “As the performance of Apple’s processors has improved, this development has seemingly become increasingly plausible.”

“I believe that with the A9X, Apple will have a processor that offers enough performance to credibly power something like the 12-inch MacBook and even the MacBook Air,” Eassa writes. “If Apple wanted to, I could see it investing in widening the dynamic range of its mobile processors to cover the performance requirements of something like a 13-inch MacBook Pro.”

“In terms of performance, if Apple isn’t already there with the A9X, then I have no doubt that it could get there by the time it rolls out the 10-nanometer A11X chip in late 2017,” Eassa writes. “The only reason I could see Apple going through the pain of a costly architecture transition is if the iDevice maker lost confidence in Intel’s long-term product roadmap and felt that it could genuinely deliver a better product without Intel inside than with Intel inside.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Wherever possible and practical, Apple prefers to own the key technologies that make up their products.


  1. Apple is already in the process of doing a “architecture transition” of sorts. With Xcode 7 Apple introduced the ability to upload apps in bitcode. This lets Apple target an app for different iOS device processors. What’s to keep Apple from moving that technology over to Macs? Mac developers could upload their apps in bitcode and Apple would complete deployment by targeting a specific processor.

    1. If Apple did bring the bitcode technology over to OSX, I’m assuming it would apply only to the sandboxed Mac App Store apps. Not to “big” apps like Photoshop, MS Office, etc.. Doing this should allow developers to create Universal Apps for iOS, tvOS, OSX (Mac App Store apps)

      1. It is likely that if/when they release a cheaper but still great laptop with an A# processor (for those customers who dont care about Intel compatibility) ‘t will only run Mac App apps.

        While I think Apple should create its own laptop/desktop processors as soon as they can out do Intel on some worthy dimension, an App-store only Mac is a bit of a scary thought.

      2. Apple won’t transition processors in their Mac’s until the market no longer is fixated on Windows. Once the crack gets big enough in the Microsoft monopoly, then they will make their move.

    1. Yes, and Apple had the StarTrek project where they had various version of Mac System Software (as it was called back then) and Mac OS running on Intel processors more than a decade BEFORE “The Switch”. Even if Apple does have Mac OS running on Ax chips, it could easily be five years or more before Apple make a second “Switch”.

      Apple has done it twice already with the Mac (three times if you include the Apple ][ and its 6502 processor). There is no reason to assume Apple won’t do the same thing once again — once the time is right.

      However, within the next year or two the time is NOT right. Maybe late 2017 like this author says (which is the same time frame I predicted over three years ago when these rumors first started flowing and about the same time as Apple introduced its first 64-bit ARM based chip). But today I’m guessing more like late 2018 or 2019. It will be even further out if you are considering the Mac Pro line.

      1. Star Trek was separate to OS X on Intel, cos NeXT already ran on x86. They just quietly maintained an Intel version of OS X alongside the PowerPC port until the time was right to switch.

    2. Emulation is not needed. The BIG difference between then and now is that THEN people were developing solutions with whatever they had available to them. Now, the majority of developers are using Xcode. This means that Apple knows EXACTLY how most of the compiled code is being used, including performance data, so they just need to verify that, on recompile, the Ax geared code performs as well as the Intel geared code.

  2. By 2016/17 it could certainly do it but the big question is what would/could you do with an Arm based Mac, I guess the Chromebook would be the best guide as to whether such a machine was worth producing and could create some sort of market but that gives mixed signs for now. Unless Apple has some magic bullet to allow it to run true Mac software and people have conflicting views upon that, I just can’t see it operating as a true replacement and then the power of the chip would be inevitably strained by any process. So in the short term would Apple want to create a third computing platform, doesn’t seem that is would unless it opens an avenue up further down the line. We shall see.

    1. “I guess the Chromebook would be the best guide as to whether such a machine was worth producing.”
      Not really, the Chromebook is, like Android, an advertising delivery platform in the guise of an OS. It’s success is more related to how many people want to trade price for some privacy.

      “magic bullet to allow it to run true Mac software”
      For anything in the Mac App Store, you just tell developers to recompile with Xcode using the Ax enable option. For anyone NOT using Xcode, they’re on their own.

    1. How much is the Pro market actually worth now anyway? Not saying that Apple doesn’t NEED that market, but they’re not seeing enough of a return, there’s a business case for ceding that market.

    2. You’re missing the point. (and history) if Apple was to move to another processor, they would bring their pro apps with them (final cut, etc.) plus all of their consumer apps, (imovie, etc.) For the average consumer, everything would work the same and they wouldn’t see any difference other than performance.

      The rest of the Pro apps (like adobe,AutoCad, etc.) would be let in on the secret so they could present their apps at the WWDC. Granted, not all of the apps would get ported over right away, some would transition over a period of a year or two, but eventually, anything you can buy for a Mac now, you would be able to buy for a Mac in the future.

      1. Because corporations run on Windows and there are a lot of business applications that doesn’t exist on the Mac. Furthermore, it was never a priority for Apple to optimize graphic drivers, so for serious gaming you need bootcamp.

    1. I think that is the biggest reason NOT to migrate away from Intel. However, the CPU is probably the most expensive part and why send that money to someone else?

      Why can’t Apple move the A chips to the MacBook and not have the ability to run Windows on that machine. Eventually, only the higher end Intel Macs will be able to run Windows natively.

      Doesn’t have to happen overnight.

  3. I could see this for an intro level MacBook Air, but not the higher end Macs. If you just need a browser, email, iWork, Photos, and some games then this could work. Not using Intel might let Apple lower the price substantially.

  4. I think Apple will not sell AXx CPUs to third parties. The they are not in the component business. However what will happen, Apple will be less likely to buy Intel processors in the future. Consumers will migrate to superior tech on Apple’s platform. Sales on the open PC market will continue to decline. Then Intel will start to worry, but every other CPU supplier should have been working on an exit strategy, starting two years ago.

  5. I hope they continue to offer x86 as long as x86 is a widely developed for processor, even if they brought their own ARM chips into the Mac side of their business.

    I love my mbp precisely because I can run just about anything under the sun on it.

  6. Author misses the forest for the trees. The risk is not that Apple and others will move their PCs to ARM chips. The risk is that ARM-powered devices will do more and more, until they surpass PCs in number, start replacing them for many tasks, to the point that PCs start to decline.

    Oh, wait a minute, that’s been happening for years now.

    1. Bingo, and Intel has already not only been feeling the pain, but acknowledged the error, replaced the CEO and has invested a ton of resources in this area.

      Apple (and others) are going to need Intel fab technology as well as other components coming online soon.

      It’s been a big ship for Intel to turn around, but they can only go forward from here.

  7. Yes, but wouldn’t that require the user to buy all new software?
    Apple could make it easier for a programer to port their software over, but the user would still need to replace their Mac software, right?

  8. No. Just like with updates to applications on the Mac App Store, updates are handled through the App Store and are re-downloaded for free. See examples like Pixelmator. If the company wants to charge for an upgrade, they CAN, but the model has generally been free for a lot of apps.

  9. The problem is NOT Apple’s A-series chips. It is Intel’s insistent use of their x86 CISC architecture. It is NEVER going to fly on mobile devices. The Intel Atom chips were a FLOP. I don’t care who bothers to debate me on their history. They’re dead.

    Move along Intel! Get off the CISC already and stay there!

  10. How could Apple using its own processors actually hurt Intel Corp? Apple’s computer market share is relatively insignificant to Windows OS products. The way Microsoft is describing the greatness of Windows 10 is that it’s going to be even taking over more of Apple’s market share with its Surface products. Intel Corp has a whole world filled with computers that will be using Intel Corp. processors with Windows. The tiny number of Apple computers using Intel processors likely doesn’t matter at all. Apple’s desktop market share is simply pathetic being under 10%. No way Intel Corp. is going be hurt by losing that small amount.

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