For years, the rumor mill has been saying that Apple is looking to ditch Intel’s processors in the Mac lineup. Since the rise of iOS, Apple’s own “A” series chips have powered products like the iPhone and the iPad. Apple is a company known for wanting complete control over every facet of product design, including the innards of its iPhones and Macs.
Apple has partnered with Intel on the Mac for the past seven years, but internal changes within the Cupertino company could see the Mac move to ARM-based processors in the near future.
According to a new report from Bloomberg:
Apple engineers have grown confident that the chip designs used for its mobile devices will one day be powerful enough to run its desktops and laptops, said three people with knowledge of the work, who asked to remain anonymous because the plans are confidential. Apple began using Intel chips for Macs in 2005.
While Apple is now committed to Intel in computers and is unlikely to switch in the next few years, some engineers say a shift to its own designs is inevitable as the features of mobile devices and PCs become more similar, two people said. Any change would be a blow to Intel, the world’s largest processor maker, which has already been hurt by a stagnating market for computers running Microsoft’s Windows software and its failure to gain a foothold in mobile gadgets.
The report frames its claims in the recent Apple executive shakeup narrative, highlighting that Bob Mansfield has been brought back to Apple to lead a new Technologies group focused on “ambitious” plans for semiconductors and wireless technologies. Reportedly, the internal thinking at Apple is that the processors powering devices like the iPhone will soon be robust enough to fuel desktop machines like the iMac.
The A6 in the iPhone 5 is fast, but it’s nowhere near as powerful as the Intel Ivy Bridge chips that power new Mac models. There’s still a huge discrepancy between mobile and desktop processor performance, but Apple obviously believes that it can close the gap in time. My colleague John Brownlee has already argued the pros and cons of ARM vs. Intel on the Mac. ARM is great for power efficiency, but there won’t be an ARM chip in the next several years that is a serious threat to the horsepower Intel wields.
Apple has definitely been building up its processor talent with aqui-hires and the new position filled by Bob Mansfield. Power efficiency, battery life, and thinness will always be at the forefront of Apple’s design choices, so don’t be surprised to see an Apple-branded chip make its way into future MacBook models before the iMac or Mac Pro.
Something is definitely up. Watch your back, Intel.