Apple’s ‘Kalamata’ project will move Macs from Intel to Apple A-series processors

“Apple Inc. is planning to use its own chips in Mac computers beginning as early as 2020, replacing processors from Intel Corp., according to people familiar with the plans,” Ian King and Mark Gurman report for Bloomberg. “The initiative, code named Kalamata, is still in the early developmental stages, but comes as part of a larger strategy to make all of Apple’s devices — including Macs, iPhones, and iPads — work more similarly and seamlessly together, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The project, which executives have approved, will likely result in a multi-step transition.”

“Apple could still theoretically abandon or delay the switch,” King and Gurman report. “For Apple, the change would be a defining moment. Intel chips remain some of the only major processor components designed by others inside Apple’s product portfolio. Currently, all iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and Apple TVs use main processors designed by Apple and based on technology from Arm Holdings Plc.”

“The shift would also allow Cupertino, California-based Apple to more quickly bring new features to all of its products and stand out from the competition. Using its own main chips would make Apple the only major PC maker to use its own processor,” King and Gurman report. “As part of the larger initiative to make Macs work more like iPhones, Apple is working on a new software platform, internally dubbed Marzipan, for release as early as this year that would allow users to run iPhone and iPad apps on Macs, Bloomberg News reported last year.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Bring it on!

As we wrote back in January 2015:

There is no reason why Apple could not offer both A-series-powered Macs and Intel-based Macs. The two are not mutually exclusive…

iOS devices and OS X Macs inevitably are going to grow closer over time, not just in hardware, but in software, too:

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

I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do.Steve Jobs, October 12, 2004

• In order to build the best products, you have to own the primary technologies. Steve felt that if Apple could do that — make great products and great tools for people — they in turn would do great things. He felt strongly that this would be his contribution to the world at large. We still very much believe that. That’s still the core of this company.Apple CEO Tim Cook, March 18, 2015

SEE ALSO:
Apple plans on dumping Intel for its own chips in Macs as early as 2020 – April 2, 2018
Apple is working to unite iOS and macOS; will they standardize their chip platform next? – December 21, 2017
Why Apple would want to unify iOS and Mac apps in 2018 – December 20, 2017
Apple to provide tool for developers build cross-platform apps that run on iOS and macOS in 2018 – December 20, 2017
The once and future OS for Apple – December 8, 2017
Apple ships more microprocessors than Intel – October 2, 2017
Apple embarrasses Intel – June 14, 2017
Apple developing new chip for Macintosh in test of Intel independence – February 1, 2017
Apple’s A10 Fusion chip ‘blows away the competition,’ could easily power MacBook Air – Linley Group – October 21, 2016
Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple to unveil new 13-inch MacBook, 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros at ‘hello again’ special event – October 22, 2016
What to expect from Apple’s ‘hello again’ special Mac event – October 21, 2016
What Apple’s new MacBook Pro might have learned from iPhones and iPads – October 21, 2016
It’s official: Apple sends invitations for ‘hello again’ event on October 27th – October 19, 2016
Get ready, Apple’s new Macs are finally set to arrive! – October 19, 2016
All-new MacBook Pro, refreshed MacBook Air and iMac, and more coming at Apple’s October 27th special event – October 19, 2016
Apple plans to launch new Macs at special event on October 27th – October 18, 2016
macOS Sierra code suggests Apple could dump Intel processors in Macs for Apple A-series chips – September 30, 2016
Apple’s A10 Fusion chip miracle – September 20, 2016
The iPhone’s new A10 Fusion chip should worry Intel – September 16, 2016
Apple’s remarkable new A10, S2, W1 chips alter the semiconductor landscape – September 15, 2016

37 Comments

  1. ” “As part of the larger initiative to make Macs work more like iPhones…”

    I do NOT want my Mac to work like an iPhone. I want a real computer that allows me to work the way I desire, not the way Apple thinks I should work. I’ve been a Mac user since 1985 but the convergence of the desktop with the phone is going the wrong direction.

    1. Comparing what is available for software on Mac vs iOS and the relative quality between the two, why would anyone want to copy an iOS app?

      referring to 3rd party Mac apps vs the Apple apps on Mac, 99 % of my usage is 3rd party apps.

      1. Have to agree with you on the 3rd party Mac apps. There was a time where nothing could beat Apple’s 1st party Mac apps. I use 3rd party apps for so much now. Airmail and Fantastical; just to name a few.

    2. Correction:

      “Once they do … there will be even fewer software choices”

      Which makesApple’s Macintosh product line even less useful, less relevant, and thus: less valued by customers to be bothered to buy.

      Yay! Way to go Apple! /S

  2. If they do that, they’ll need a Rosetta type way to run legacy intel apps. For that, it would be very helpful if they’d only have to care about 64 bit code. So I guess they would like to deprecate all 32 bit code as soon as possible, like in the next version of macOS. Ummmmh…

    1. No, not like Rosetta. Getting CISC CPU based software to run on RISC CPUs is much more complicated. We’d be back to using an emulation system that licensed Intel APIs. They’re slow relative to native software. Have fun with that. The loss of virtualization would be painful.

      1. I don’t think so, with the LLVM support in A series processors a Rosetta solution could work. That was the issue with the PowerPC line of chips, they didn’t support that, hence having to use emulators. If they could have an A series chip that performed better relative to Intel, like the core duo performed relative to the G4, it would work. But the A series processor would have to have raw performance about 20% better than an i7 in a mobile system while using 1/10 of the energy (which is possible given current trajectory). There is no reason Apple couldn’t have both or have A series chips inside lacs to run the system while the Xeon/i5/i7 does the heavy lifting for other apps (the iMac Pro does this and its very interesting).

    2. Hopefully Microsoft can dust off the old VirtualPC code that ran Windows on PPC.

      VirtualPC ran reasonably well considering the code emulation running under the hood.

    1. Well and if you think about it those buying like an expensive Mac Pro 2018 that should last a good 7-10 years won’t want major architectural changes in software that would abort the value of an expensive Macs in only a couple of years. Also those who want to also run Windows will be left out in the cold. Not a great plan for a certain market segment as in pros & business.

      1. Did you not notice in the article that the authors project the next Mac Pro won’t ship until 2019? If this is correct, there will be no Mac Pro 2018.

        If Apple shifts to A-series processors for its Mac line up we can kiss the true Mac Pro goodbye, forever. Apple is never going to develop a specific, very high end variant of the A-series chips for a true Mac Pro.

        1. Do you not notice that someone’s frivolous guess at when Apple will ship something can be fraught with accuracy peril?

          If what you say is true then it will be the final death knell goodbye for the Mac in the Pro market and hello Windows! I can hardly think this is what Apple wants to accomplish.

            1. Which many have amply stated here. At the same time Tim, Craig and Phil have talked out of the other sides of their mouths saying how important the pro market is to them. We will see. Actions speak louder than words.

  3. many of us old farts remember the problems and issues when apple was on Motorola… and then on IBM chips… Apple really started to gain in windows when they went intel.. an people could run both equally… Apple won… but to switch away now is too early for mainstream desktops and laptops.. emulation is always too slow.. many people have entrenched workflows and software based on windows… this would be a bad move for apple.. they can continue to increase the A chips speed and capabilities .. people will adapt and convert when the value is there.. it isn’t there yet! Having said that.. Intel appears to be dying. their chips are in evolution not revolution mode… Moore is dead at intel !

    1. “You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat
      Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
      Ain’t it hard when you discovered that
      He really wasn’t where it’s at
      After he took from you everything he could steal” – Bob Dylan

  4. I’m in Information Security and the mac is pretty much the standard in this industry.

    I like that I can work with multiple operating systems on one piece of hardware. I guess technically I could rely on VMs and cloud based VMs but dang, if they bail on intel its going to make me really re-evaluate things.

    1. Just my guess, I could see Apple using A series CPUs for things like the MacBook Air and keeping Intel chips for the MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac Pro. At least for quite a few more years. An A series laptop would be fine for home and school.

      1. With the LLVM support, I think it’s possible. But my PowerBook G4 and PowerMac G5 both ran virtual PC back then very quickly (granted it was windows XP), that didn’t become dog slow until Microsoft bought it and crippled it. They’ll be able to figure this out, at least on the Mac side with a Rosetta type solution given enough of a performance gap. Everyone said the same thing about the risc to cisc transition in 2005 too, but then Rosetta magically appeared. Also the current x86-64 chips aren’t really cisc in the same sense that the old pentiums were when they were on netburst, they share a lot of common instructions with IA-64 & RISC routines (that’s how AMD got the -64 to work in the first place), idk, it seems possible if there’s enough performance out of the A series.

        1. No no no. Going CISC to RISC is an ENTIRELY different situation. That’s specifically why a Rosetta solution isn’t even in the discussion. There’s no such thing.

          Sorry folks, but this is apparently a subject that only people who’ve taken Computing 101 are going to comprehend. I’ve explained it here too many times to bother any further. Go do homework on CISC vs RISC CPU technology, specifically how they are profoundly different from each other. Note how going from RISC to CISC coding is relatively easy compared to going from CISC to RISC is fraught with numerous problems of extreme difficulty. Note WHY this is the case.

          And no, getting into how much RISC is in Intel CISC chips does not change the problem. The CISC factor remains. Intel’s proprietary APIs aren’t going to ravel along to Apple RISC chips. Not gonna happen. That’s why I no longer have patience with these vacuous conversations.

          1. Derek, this is my entire point, LLVM mitigates a lot of the translation layer issues inherent in the move from CISC to RISC and vice versa, it’s how Microsoft was able to get Windows 10 onto Arm processors. And with the IA-64 instruction set that Xeon’s understand it wouldn’t be that difficult for a company like Apple to figure out low level support for a dual OS environment and keep virtualisation alive and well. Yes, the code itself may be more complex, but it doesn’t mean they can’t do it. It’s just a performance gap; let’s say the A series chip runs 2x faster than a comparable i7 at the time of introduction : all they would need to do is have 50% efficient code for the system to run normally under emulation let alone virtualzation. This is why Rosetta worked, the universal binary effectively emulated the ppc code onto Core Duo hardware (and Xeon later in 06), but due to the near double performance gap (due to multiple cores) it wasn’t noticed. If an A series has this type of leap, a similar solution would work regardless of complexity.

  5. What “new features” would running on A series processors make possible? I don’t recall the PowerPC macs being able to do anything that Intel PCs couldn’t. It all became a matter of speed and support. The biggest problem back then was that developers would ignore any feature on the mac that didn’t have a windows version, thus making those features less valuable.

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