After 15 years, Apple prepares to dump Intel from the Mac

Signaling both the end of one of the tech industry’s most influential partnerships and Apple’s determination to control the primary technologies inside their products, Apple is set to announce the long-expected removal of Intel CPUs from the Mac.

Steve Jobs and Intel's Paul Otellini, January 10, 2006 (photo credit: AP/Paul Sakuma)
Steve Jobs and Intel’s Paul Otellini, January 10, 2006 (photo credit: AP/Paul Sakuma)

Don Clark and Jack Nicas for The New York Times:

Apple has been working for years on designing chips to replace the Intel microprocessors used in Mac computers, according to five people with knowledge of the effort, who weren’t authorized to speak about it. They say Apple could announce its plans as soon as a company conference for developers on Monday, with computers based on the new chips arriving next year.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the partner Apple uses to build similar components it designs for iPhones and iPads, is expected to make the Mac chips in factories in Asia…

Since 2005, Macs have used effectively the same Intel chips that most PCs do. Making its own processors would give Apple even more control over how Mac computers work. Apple has always designed the chips used in iPhones and iPads, adding features to customize designs licensed by Arm, a semiconductor firm owned by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank. Apple’s forthcoming Mac chips are also expected to rely on Arm technology, improving compatibility with its mobile devices…

Intel sells Apple about $3.4 billion in chips for Macs each year, according to C.J. Muse, an Evercore analyst. That is less than 5 percent of Intel’s annual sales, and Mr. Muse forecast that the blow would be closer to half that since Apple might change the chips on only some Mac models. Apple sells nearly 20 million Macs a year.

But the long-term effects could still be serious for Intel. The chipmaker’s lofty profit margins have long been linked to its track record of delivering the most powerful computing engines on the market, particularly for laptops and computer servers.

MacDailyNews Take: Intel no longer leads. They haven’t for years now. This move by Apple will merely spotlight that obvious fact.

Intel is well-past its glory days. Today, Intel’s claim to fame – besides not being able to make modem chips very well – is peddling inefficient, embarrassing, fatally-flawed junk. — MacDailyNews, May 15, 2019

Apple-designed ARM-based Macs will trounce Intel in benchmarks and real world performance and battery life.

MacBook
Apple’s MacBook
We just might find out on Monday if the MacBook is the first to go Apple-powered!

Conveniently, the MacBook makes its triumphant return as the first Mac powered by an Apple-designed ARM processor.MacDailyNews, February 28, 2020

We’ve been anticipating ARM-powered Macs for quite a long time now and we can’t for the the process to begin!

Apple has been, for years, building strength in the enterprise via BYOD and the rise of mobile which Apple ushered in with iPhone and iPad. “Compatibility with Windows” is not nearly as important today as it was even a few years ago… We expect to see Apple begin the ARM-based Mac transition with products like the MacBook and work their way up from there as the apps are brought over to ARM via Xcode and as the rest of the world continues to throw off the Microsoft Windows shackles into which they stupidly climbed so many years ago, lured, wrongly, solely by Windows PC sticker prices.MacDailyNews, June 19, 2019

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

30 Comments

  1. I dunno, shades of Power PC. Having native Windows support was a huge advantage. If they can’t offer this via fast emulation, I’m probably going Wintel next time. And that is after 30 years of supporting Apple. I guess we’ll see.

    1. I’m with you. I switched to Mac with Intel, but as a computer gamer for 33 years I will not give up compatibility with games. It’s bad enough that apple actively pushes away game companies, but no Intel compatibility is a deal breaker.

    2. The chip is never why I have used a platform. I’ve used Apple’s Mac’s “back in the day” when there were – literally – nothing close on PC’s for color accuracy, graphics, reliability in printing press compatibility, on and on. Then video took over and again Apple was far out in front with FireWire and softer solutions that just worked.

      Today I use Apple for it’s seamless iCloud integration between the iPhone and Mac. Apple Watch and AirPod Pro’s everything just works seamlessly together, but it is their security, their privacy that is tops outside of going full-on Linux and VPN and then I lose seamless integration and must go big-time geek mode making things play. Uh, no.

      AMD has been crushing Intel for a few years now on most mainstream laptop or desktop processor platforms. Intel’s graphics also suck.

      With Apple using their own chips, FaceID in every Mac can arrive whenever Apple chooses. Touchscreen integration can come along seamlessly as can software development between Mac and iPad OS.

      Battery life should absolutely rock, as well as graphics and raw processing power to put Core i3, i5 and even i7 variants underwater.

      MacBook options may come with versions that include cellular right out of the box. No more insecure wifi or hot spotting.

      This will be a very good thing overall.

    3. Look at it TOTALLY from a user and consumer perspective.

      Apple makes its own chips and saves over three billion back in the bank yearly. That’s a good thing.

      Does Apple lower the cost of Macs with their chips for the consumer or raise the Apple TAX? If not, that’s a bad thing.

      Does Apple chips whatever the cost outperform Intel chips? If yes, that’s a good thing. If not, that’s a bad thing.

      Does Apple chips work with my thousands of dollars of software or do we have to wait, freezing daily productivity, for upgrades to software OR buying software all over again?

      If so, that is a VERY, VERY BAD THING…

    4. Sigh. You DO know that Microsoft also sells Windows for ARM?

      And that there is Linux running on ARM too?

      I know facts are considered inconvenient in the “Age of Trump”, but maybe a bit less complaining and more emphasis on facts might have health benefits for you?

  2. “Apple having more control” would be a good thing if they were still the good guys who empower “the rest of us”. But as they have gained power in the last few years, they have lost that status and become just as abusive as anyone else. I’m sick of loosing software that I depend on, and having to jump through ridiculous hoops to do things that used to be so easy.

  3. If this can drive down the cost of macs I’m all for it. If not then there better be a monumental difference in speed performance. Tim Cook does not have the gravitas to sell macs like Jobs and convince people about using Motorola then jump to Intel.

  4. My guess is that Apple would not go this route unless they were pretty confident in a good emulation fix for Windows Software. They left Motorola because that company was not able to keep up with Intel. Now Intel can’t seem to keep up with their competitors.

  5. I’ve been using Macs since the G4 days, but now that I have the ability to switch to Windows for Gaming/Work purposes, I don’t know if I’ll be willing to give that up. Hopefully they always keep a high end Macbook with some sort of ability to dual boot and efficiently run games on the Windows side. I’ll definitely buy the last Intel Macbook Pro so I have a few years to really decide on a course of action.

  6. There’s an application called Bootcamp that is pre-installed on the Mac. It lets you load a retail copy of Windows on your Mac so you can dual boot between the two systems. Bootcamp walks you through it step-by-step.

    There’s also emulation software like Parallels that will let you run Windows just like any other program on your Mac OS, but that’s only good if you’re not doing anything too CPU/GPU intensive. If you’re gaming you’ll want to go the Bootcamp route.

    1. “If you’re gaming you’ll want to go the Bootcamp route.”
      If you’re gaming, you’ll want to go the PC route, actually.

      Can’t wait till Monday!

    2. There’s also emulation software like Parallels that will let you run Windows just like any other program on your Mac OS

      Actually this is virtualization. Parallels, VirtualBox, VMWare run environments on like-hardware so they are “virtually” the same, with minimal speed loss.

      Emulation is when a computer system mimics the instruction set of an entirely different architecture. Back in the day, VirtualPC allowed PowerPC Macs to emulate Intel CPUs and run Windows, but much slower than a real PC because there are massive speed penalties when emulating competing architectures of the same generation. Emulating much older hardware is fine though; Basilisk is a classic-Mac emulator that emulates a 68K-series and PowerPC CPUs, the first Intel Macs emulated the PowerPC to allow classic Mac apps to run, and the first PowerPC Macs emulated 68K.

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