Intel: Apple Switching MacBooks To ARM Is A Very Real And Scary Threat For Us

Intel: Apple Switching MacBooks To ARM Is A Very Real And Scary Threat For Us

It’s been a long-standing rumor that Apple will switch to its own, proprietary ‘A’ series of ARM-based chips in its MacBook and desktop machines. Currently, Apple relies heavily on Intel to provide processors for its computers — the MacBook specifically.

In terms of the MacBook, a recent interview with the director of Intel’s Ultrabook group shows that Intel sees Apple switching to ARM processors as a very real threat. There could very well be a day when all Apple products run on the same series of chips — and that series will be exclusively made by Apple.

If Apple were to move Macs to ARM-based architecture right now, it would be a total disaster. The processing power is just not there for a MacBook or iMac. Apple has relied on the A series for its mobile devices, like the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. But in the future, when ARM chips get better? It’s very possible.

Intel sees the possibility of Apple moving to ARM on the desktop as a very real possibility, and the head of Intel’s new Ultrabook division (a project created to combat the form factor and market that the MacBook Air currently dominates), told CNET that, “We endeavor to innovate so they’ll continue to look to us as a supplier.”

The Q&A reads:

“What about the threat of ARM and Apple’s potential use of its A series of ARM processors in future MacBooks?
Welch: We hear the same rumors and it would be remiss of us to be dismissive. We endeavor to innovate so they’ll continue to look to us as a supplier.”

Apple’s use of the A4 in the iPhone 4 and A5 in the iPad 2 demonstrates the most recent examples of how integrated software and hardware work so well together. If Apple were to use its own chips in its internally designed hardware on its own software, the MacBook (and possibly iMac) would have a huge upper hand.

Apple wouldn’t need to compete for parts deals, competitors wouldn’t be able to copy innovations so easily, and more proprietary tech would give Apple extra control over its product release schedule.

Let’s not forget the recent report that Apple threatened to drop Intel over its power-hungry chips. Intel is clearly feeling the heat from Apple, and the looming threat of ARM is becoming more real than ever.

The A6 chip is expected to drop next year in one of Apple’s upcoming products. It could very well be a long time before ARM architecture arrives on the Mac, and we’re sure that Intel is hoping for that more than anyone right now.

(via AppleInsider)

  • sarahadam6969870

    I just p a i d $21.87 for an i P a d 2-64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasonîc Lumîx GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS.I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.
    Here is the website we use to get it all from, http://bit.ly/CentBid

  • supertino

    It may be smart to switch to internally designed processors in the near future but I fear that one day, Intel will catch up and be better and the competition will again overtake Apple (just like the pre-intel Mac era).

  • Dan Knight

    I can’t see this happening until there’s a 64-bit ARM chip with power equivalent to at least a 2.0 GHz i5 CPU. All current Macs are 64-bit machines, and Lion it a 64-bit operating system. Stepping back to the 32-bit world would make no sense.

  • chipmason

    Frankly, Apple going to A processors will help Apple, and no one else. Moving to Intel launched Mac sales into the stratosphere, as it reduced the migration for Windows users to zero: the Mac can run Windows natively, either vai Bootcamp or VM. Replace the Intel chip and both of these absolutely critical features goes away. 

    While longtime Mac users may not care, the vast bulk of Windows users, do, and they are who Apple must convince in order to sell them a Mac. Apple’s squabbles with Intel won’t be anything they ever care about, until they can’t fire up Windows to run that needlepoint app they must have.

    I can see running Mac OSX on an A chip as a nice hybrid iOS/Mac OSX machine, but not as the mainline power Mac or even the Mac you buy your folks.

  • sarahadam6969875

    I just paíd $20.82 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.
    Here is the website we use to get it all from, http://bit.ly/CentBid

  • prof_peabody

    The world is moving towards virtualised OS’s though and the rules aren’t the same as they were previously.  The OS is being slowly but steadily abstracted away from the hardware and very soon it won’t make any difference what chips are underneath as long as they are fast enough.  

    We are also talking about stuff that’s years away.  This isn’t going to happen overnight. Windows will be less and less of an issue as time goes by and it can be virtualised easily enough even today.  

  • sarahadam6969885

    I just paíd $21.87 for an íPad 2-64GB and my boyfriend loves his Pánasoníc Lümíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.75 there arriving tomorrow by UPS.I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch L E D T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.
    Here is the website we use to get it all from, http://bit.ly/CentBid

  • thomin

    Microsoft announced that Windows 8 will be able to run on ARM chips. So maybe there won’t be much of a Problem…

    Anyway, I don’t see this happening any time soon. As has been pointed out before, 64 bit is absolutely necessary, as is a massive boost in performance. Plus, the lack of ARM compatible Software is critical, so there needs to be enough power to emulate an Intel processor.

    Or does anybody know how exactly the AppStore works…who compiles the Apps, the producers or Apple? If it’s Apple, they could just write some smart compiler that makes the apps ARM-executable and set up an identical ARM-AppStore which would make the transition seamless…

  • Ashley3Simpsons

    ..I just paíd $20.82 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.
    Here is the website we use to get it all from, bit.ly/BidShop

  • Ashley3Simpsons

    ./I just paíd $20.82 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.
    Here is the website we use to get it all from, bit.ly/BidShop

  • Deocliciano Okssipin Vieira

    Intel = whiners.

    Apple is competing with two cartels, Windows’ vendors + android vendors, WHY would Apple wait for you Intel.
    Now that you wanna be part of those two cartels with yr own PC. 

  • Cold_dead_fingers

    Right now it makes no sense. Apple probably has a lot up their sleeve regarding OS and what devices run it. At the end of the day, Apple runs it’s own business. They pay little attention to what you ask for.

  • Cold_dead_fingers

    How could it be better? Apple would have the upper hand in quality control. That’s like saying Android has better quality control over Apple. It most certainly does not, but Android is more popular based on the number of devices it supports.

  • imajoebob

    If you really think ARM/Apple are not already hard at work on 64- (or even 128-) bit processors, I’ve got a warehouse full of G5 chips to sell you.

  • Mystakill

    I think users will be a bit more leery of another drastic CPU change.  PPC users whose next OS will require both new hardware and new software will surely remember, as will anybody who remembers Apple unceremoniously killing off Rosetta, even if they weren’t personally affected this time around.

  • lals47
  • Obi_Juan

    Sigh, another possible cpu change, like i really want a damn smartphone processor in my mac.

  • berianlowe

    By the time Apple move to back to their own chips, we won’t be calling it a threat. Boom! We’ll be calling it magic, unbelievable and revolutionary!

  • Daibidh

    There have been lots of chip transitions over the course of personal computing.  Apple chip designs are no where near closing the performance gap with the Intel i-series.  Intel knows that but they’re also prudent to understand the competition will not stand idly by and to remain competitive Intel must continually push the envelope in both performance and power consumption.  That’s all they said.

    The iPad is amazing but iOS is tailored explicitly for the limitations of the A4/5/6.  Try to slap OS X 10.7 on that and Windows tablets will look really good!  An ARM transition for the Air in the near future is absolutely laughable!

  • A Giggen

    Losing BootCamp/VM capability would be a huge blow.

    I’d drop the platform immediately. 

  • Morialkar

    it’s not apple who’s compiling, but it is compiled with apple’s tool, therefore, they can make an ad-on to their own tools (xCode) and make it compile to both ARM and Xx86, or ARM only, all devs would have to do is recompile the app and resend it as update. Anyway, those who care about the ARM version will all have a new mac, so new apps installation…

  • Morialkar

    the thing is, the next version of windows is already on it’s way to support ARM, wich make both of those, VM and Bootcamp, viable in an ARM environment. that’s the main difference with ARM against the old PPC era, windows’ going to support it.

  • lals47
  • davester13

    And I’m sure it just thrills Apple that Intel is giving $300million+ to it’s competitors to copy the MacBookAir…

  • lsla500
  • renowden

    I can’t see it happening. Prof talks about virtualisation being the thing but that relies on the bottom level of hardware being the same. Without that it is emulation and the speed hit that gives. I rely on VMware and/or Crossover for some of my key apps and neither of those would work on ARM.

  • gareth edwards

    The end game is for Apple to own the whole widget. From the chip all the way up. They are nearer to doing this that anyone else but I think it’s a big risk / reward game. Not that Apple is scared by risk. Most of their greatest successes have been seen by most watchers as being at the very least crazy. The thing is, they have made these giant leaps where others have feared to go and they have been proved to be the right choice (and importantly the right choice at the right time).

    Personally I think it’s not going to happen within the next couple of years. They will want a super efficient chip offering that not only makes batteries last much longer but has, critically, more firepower than is available from the current gen. In 3-5 years – who knows?

  • alxlr8

    I’d like to know how you know Apple chip designs are nowhere near closing the performance gap…. The fact is that no one really has a clue – even – of the actual performance target of ARM’s A15, and it was announced last year. 

  • baby_Twitty

    You think Apple will be held ransom by Intel’s chips’ ability to load virtual windows? Just like that? No way sorry, as history shows times and again, Apple is not a company that will bake a cake that itself cannot eat.

    Future Apple computers will feature their OWN chips, as they continue to make substantial progress with their in-house chips development unit. Their future products will continue to improve and benefit from their own hardwares/softwares/designs air-tight-integration; and like it or not, nothing will change their course.  Get over it.

  • SarahAdam0101

    I just paíd $20.82 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.
    Here is the website we use to get it all from, http://bit.ly/CentBid

  • GDal

    VMS, VMWare and such have catered to that dream for many years. I have used VMWare since its first version. Loved it. But, it was Intel only. I don’t think virtualization will have as much need in the future as the OS is not the issue. It’s the ability to run the software needed.

    Virt helps in centralization. Centralizing Windows systems is a major benefit. It centralizes and eliminates many Windows operational and deployment problems. Which really don’t exist for other server platforms.

    But, this is all on a single CPU platform – Intel. No cross-platform virt is really used today due to performance issues. Native software will always be the preferred choice.

  • lsl73
  • GDal

    ARM Neon instructions may help produce 64 and 128-bit ARM chips soon.

  • MacGoo

    Let’s be real: Apple’s primary goal is NOT to have the highest-end chips possible. It’s to control the experience, just like they do on iOS devices. All things being equal, Apple will always choose their own hardware over others’. All things being less than equal (like the “underpowered” A-series chips) Apple will still choose their own hardware. They are sold on the idea of custom-built silicon, and Intel really has no control over that. They can make new, faster hardware and Apple will still eventually switch to an A Chip.

  • Stuart Otterson

    Need to think further and bigger. OX 11.

  • Daibidh

    Should I have capped “near” in “near future?

    From a prosumer perspective, Apple best differentiate their product line and offer more than just ARM processors should they make the switch in the NEAR future because the CURRENT designs aren’t up to snuff in the race to overtake i-series processors.  For an ARM powered Mac to run as effectively as an iPad, OS X 11 would need to be stripped down, optimized, and reduced to just a handful of background processes… huh… maybe we should just call it like it is… iOS 6? 

    I have no doubt ARM designs will continue to evolve.  The architecture has HUGE advantages over the aging x86 designs but Intel still holds the upper hand in terms of performance… albeit a sloppy upper hand.  Atom is currently the best comparison to Apple’s A-series and Intel clearly has a problem.  Eventually, the A-series will afford true desktop and workstation performance at lower clock speeds and power consumption.  Intel best be on their a-game in terms of innovation because in the coming years, ARM could very well clean their clock.  But not today… probably not in the next 3 to 5 years.

    And now we’re into the length of time that another transition might just be in order anyways.  Only time will tell.

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a staff writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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