Apple, a semiconductor superpower in the making, looks to build their own ARM-based processors for Macs

“Apple is expanding efforts to develop proprietary semiconductors to better compete in artificial intelligence, reducing reliance on major suppliers such as Intel and Qualcomm, according to industry sources in Asia,” Cheng Ting-fang reports for Nikkei. “‘By designing its own chips, Apple can better differentiate itself from others. Further, depending too much on other chip suppliers in the age of artificial intelligence will deter its development,’ said Mark Li, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein.”

“Industry sources and analysts suggest that Apple is keen to expand its semiconductor capabilities further. They say the company is interested in building core processors for notebooks, modem chips for iPhones, and a chip that integrates touch, fingerprint and display driver functions,” Cheng writes. “Bernstein’s Li said that Apple has invested in research and development for baseband modem chips responsible for mobile communication. Currently, it purchase these from Qualcomm and Intel. ‘It would not be surprising that Apple develops its own [modem chip],’ he said.”

“Core processor chips for the MacBook range is another area Apple is trying to venture into. Two industry sources say that Apple is trying to cut its dependence on Intel when it comes to notebook chips and instead build those using ARM architecture, referring to the SoftBank-controlled British chip designer,” Cheng writes. “The U.S. tech giant’s efforts to turn itself into a chip powerhouse have unsettled some suppliers [Qualcomm, Imagination Technologies, Dialog Semiconductor, Intel]… Still, not all of Apple’s chip suppliers are facing a potentially grim future. Foundry service providers which make chips for Apple may actually grow on the back of its efforts to build its own chips, as the U.S. company does not plan to operate its own semiconductor production facilities, industry sources said. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, is the most obvious benefactor.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Something we’ve long expected:

Think code convergence (more so than today) with UI modifications per device. A unified underlying codebase for Intel, Apple A-series, and, in Apple’s labs, likely other chips, too (just in case). This would allow for a single App Store for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users that features a mix of apps: Some that are touch-only, some that are Mac-only, and some that are universal (can run on both traditional notebooks and desktops as well as on multi-touch computers like iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and – pretty please, Apple – Apple TV). Don’t be surprised to see Apple A-series-powered Macs, either.MacDailyNews Take, January 9, 2014

SEE ALSO:
Apple accelerates mobile processor dominance with A11 Bionic; benchmarks faster than 13-inch MacBook Pro – September 15, 2017
Apple’s A11 Bionic chip in iPhone X and iPhone 8/Plus on par with 2017 MacBook Pro – September 14, 2017
Mossberg: There’s a good chance Apple will introduce ARM-based Macs – March 1, 2017

23 Comments

  1. I have been predicting that the A11/A11X would be the tipping point for bridging Apple silicon from iOS devices into the lower-end Mac laptops in 2018. I still believe that scenario is credible.

    By the A12 and A13, the power/performance of Apple’s ARM-based silicon will likely be pushing Intel out on a wide range of Macs. If the Apple A-series silicon design is extensible to massively parallel processor architectures, then Mac Pros could soon become “hypercomputer” powerhouses.

    1. Been thinking the same what with reports recently saying that the A class chips performance is indeed compatible to Intel chips then the A11 in particular the X version seems to be up to the job on the Mac but the A12 at this rate of improvement will be crying out for such utilisation with power to spare in the bottom half of the Mac range certainly. With specialised capabilities integrated it starts to look a no brainer in the next year or two now. And if the expansion you mention is feasible then maybe the whole range is not too far off after all even though there are hurdles to overcome beyond out and out power.

      1. Apple doesn’t need to beat them across the board, they just have to have a processor that’s speedy enough to do the tasks most folks do. SOMEone needs that power, yes, but the vast majority of the computing public doesn’t. In fact many would REALLY like a 4 core speedy portable processor that can utilize lower power memory up to 32 gigs. However, that’s not where Intel makes the most of their money, so they’re pushing that chip back ANOTHER year.

        I believe Intel’s path for the future has started to diverge from Apple’s and that will push this to happen more than anything else.

      2. Frequency isn’t the end all be all of processor performance. You can only compare clock speeds with similarly architected chips, and since apple’s ARM designs aren’t the same archetecture “6.1ghz” is irrelevant. What matters is performance per watt, and instructions per cycle… if the A11 bionic is already scoring comparably to Intel mobile chips from as recent as last year in single core performance? The next generation A series would easily outpace them. Also, if you put an A11 Bionic into a larger enclosure with fans and a bunch of cooling apparatus? You’d be able to crank up the frequency and possibly double that single core score instantly… I think Apple’s chips are already where they need to be and A11 is the tipping point to future development in Macs and going into the future.
        They’ll be able to do with this what PowerPC was never able to achieve. They had superior design then, just didn’t have enough scale or control to make the leaps necessary… now they do.

  2. If Intel fails to deliver on it’s promises and Apple has the ability to create it’s own world-class chips, then Intel is making it inevitable that Apple will design it’s own chips for laptops and desktops.

    Many of us remember the days of PPC powered Macs and how Motorola failed to deliver the chips which Apple desperately wanted. As we saw, Apple doesn’t like it’s plans being held back by other manufacturers and they switched to Intel.

    It would be ironic if Apple adopted ARM for pretty well the same reason that it initially switched to Intel.

    Other computer manufacturers have no choice but to buy the chips available on the market, but Apple is in the unique position of having work-leading chip designers, who not only know how to built fast and efficient chips, but also how to optimise them for Apple’s specific needs, so that they not only work faster, but better too.

    It wouldn’t be a cheap process as Apple would have to recover the development costs over a somewhat smaller number of desktop and laptop devices compared to iPhones, but existing chips are already very expensive, so the economics might be favourable.

    1. Indeed Intel foes seem to have hit a brick wall in recent years. Would be beautiful irony if the RISC future that Apple bought into all those years ago does become the dominant force on the desk/Laptop so many claimed just 20 years late. Apple clear saw that only by owning and developing it itself however would that actually occur. If they do, indeed when they do show that move is superior to the Status Intel Quo then Intel could have a very bleak future as clearly other computer vendors would start to feel obliged to work out their own solutions and MS will be there to supply compatible OS pretty soon.

  3. How the hell did Intel let this happen. To you fools out there that keep saying “fire Tim Cook”, what about Brian Krzanich the CEO of Intel. Failing to give Apple what they need in when they need has clearly accelerated Apple’s investments in this area. When you are a critical supplier your job is to be soooo good at your job and so efficient that the customer does not even consider moving you out – BUT Intel keeps pandering to Dell and HP instead of focusing on Apple. Its clearly so just look at which machines that get the chips first. How does Krzanich keep HIS job?

      1. When Intel talks about releasing a chip, look for some specifics and I think you’ll find that the chips suitable for Macs (mid to high end) always lag their easier to produce desktop heat monsters by 8 to 12 months. This wasn’t always the case, but it has been for the last few years. It’s so bad that they sometimes don’t release the chip they SAY they’re going to release because it’s already too far into the NEXT generation of chips 🙂

        I know for MacBook Pros, for example, ignore ALL the chips except the 2 core (4 hyperthreaded). Those are the only ones that Apple would put in a MacBook Pro. Find out when those will be released and then you’ll have the actual lag time.

  4. To maintain compatibility, why doesn’t apple get an x86 license and then take its vast knowledge of ARM chips and build its own x86 cpu? That way they wouldn’t force all of their developers to once again change architecture.

    1. Thanks to Xcode, Apple’s compiler and Swift, after a lot of work on Apple’s end, most developers would just need to recompile. If there IS a transition in the future, it will be easier than probably any transition we’ve seen.

      For those developers NOT using Xcode? Yeah, they’re going to be hating life 🙂

  5. I don’t believe Apple will dump Intel anytime soon. Thunderbolt and PC /Linux are important for the pro market. Dispite what people say they have not abandoned it. They did fuck up the Mac Pro and are trying to fix it.

    What I do see in Apple chips in the Mac is more of what they are doing. Adding chips that can take away tasks from the CPU to boost performance. Like the Touch Bar. It also adds a security layer. The chips they may replace with their own are GPU’s.

  6. Read the article people. It is entirely baseless musings.

    It should be obvious by now that Cook & Co aren’t going to invest much into the Mac. Shiller revealed all when asked why Apple didn’t update its Macs more often, he said there was no timetable. It’s a hobby.

    Apple doesn’t own a chip foundry, and Samsung/TS don’t have the capacity to divert chips from the all-important iPhone. It would take billions to switch over and Apple doesn’t see any incentive to do so.

  7. > “a single App Store for Mac, iPhone, and iPad”

    Now that is what I want to see! A unified App Store, running on all Apple platforms, where I can buy for any Apple platform. When I turn to that platform my new app will be waiting there for me, ready to go.

    But Apple just nixed that idea by axing the iOS App Store from MacOS, DUH!

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