Apple in advanced discussions to adopt AMD chips

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Intel has served as Apple's sole source for the microprocessors used in its notebook and desktop personal computers since the company began its transition away from PowerPC in 2006, but that may soon change given the company's recent talks with Intel's chief CPU rival Advanced Micro Devices.



Representatives for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD have recently been seen on Apple's Commuter Coach buses, and executives for the chipmaker have been spotted on their way out of meetings with members of Apple's top brass, according to people familiar with the matter.



The meetings have reportedly included briefings by AMD that have since enabled Apple to begin working with AMD processors in its labs as part of an initiative to position the chips inside some of the company's forthcoming products. While AMD offers a variety of embedded processors, Apple is believed to be investigating the chipmaker's workstation and notebook class CPUs.



It is believed that Apple is working with AMD to expand its potential sources for CPUs in order to increase its flexibility and broaden its competitive options, but also likely in response to problems it has encountered with Intel. These issues include limited availability of new processors (which is rumored to have slowed Apple's notebook refreshes) as well as new chipset designs imposed by Intel that have blocked the Mac maker's plans to continue a partnership with NVidia to deliver a standardized chipset for use with its Intel processors across all of its consumer computer offerings.



Intel has fought against Nvidia to close the market for alternative chipsets for use with its CPUs, which resulted this week in Apple being forced to use Intel's own limited integrated graphics chips inside its new MacBook Pros instead of using more capable parts from Nvidia.



Why Apple hasn't used AMD CPUs before



When Apple first announced its plans to migrate to Intel CPUs back in 2005, many observers questioned why the company wasn't also using AMD's compatible processors as a secondary option. AMD's chips at the time were considered more powerful and often cheaper than Intel's flagship offerings, including the Pentium IV. However, Apple was privy to information about Intel's roadmap, and was primarily interested in the company's new Core line of fast, yet energy efficient designs suitable for use in its notebooks.



AMD's edge in CPUs in the first half of the 2000 was blown away by Intel's new Core family, which came to market just as Apple was making its transition. AMD currently offers few advantages in terms of performance or efficiency, but does offer significantly lower component pricing than Intel. AMD also owns ATI, which produces graphics chips Apple continues to use in some of its models.. This suggests the possibility that Apple could deliver an integrated package of AMD and ATI components that delivered respectable performance and great graphics performance at a lower price than Intel's.







Having multiple sources of CPUs would enable Apple to use the best parts available from each supplier, similar to how the company has worked with both ATI and NVidia to offer competing options in Mac graphics adapters. With the dramatic growth Apple has experienced in its Mac sales over the past half decade, it may now make sense for the company to offer a wider array of competitive CPU options to target a broader range of price points and performance needs.



Reasons for new interest in AMD



Given word of the ongoing discussions and briefings, Apple may also now have access to new information about competitive products AMD has in the pipeline. The company may also have original design specifications that AMD may be more willing to adopt than Intel just to obtain Apple's high profile business. Similar to how Apple optimized the A4 ARM SoC used by iPad, Apple may be planning to develop customized x64 CPUs for its Macs that AMD could be interested in building specifically for use by Apple.



The talks with AMD could also be part of a competitive leveraging strategy to keep Intel interested in retaining Apple's core business, similar to how the company has been rumored to be discussing plans to use Microsoft's Bing search engine in preference to Google's on the iPhone.



At the same time, while AMD has historically trailed Intel's performance and efficiency in CPUs, particularly in the mobile computing space, the company's acquisition of ATI gives it far more powerful GPU technology than Intel currently has.



Both companies are rushing to fuse CPU and GPU cores into a SoC-style part for notebooks (similar to the design used by ARM SoCs in embedded applications such as the iPhone and iPad), as Intel has already done in the latest generation of MacBook Pros, pairing its integrated graphics with the Arrandale Core i5 or i7 processor.



AMD could offer very competitive options for Apple's future notebooks, particularly given the Mac maker's focus on graphics performance and its related GPU technologies, including Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL.



If AMD can deliver 80% of the CPU performance of Intel at 60% of the cost, and add significantly better GPU performance and sophistication, it would not be surprising to see Apple working to adopt the company's parts broadly across its Mac lineup within the next year or two.
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Comments

  • hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 11,873member, moderator
    I'd better buy some AMD stock this year and see if I can get a mini bonanza in a couple of years. AMD is a great option for Apple. A lot of PC vendors like HP use AMD because it keeps Intel honest and allows them to hit pricepoints that are difficult with more expensive Intel CPU and chipsets.



    Required reading:



    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2871

    AMD 2010 objectives and roadmap



    Quote:

    Final Words:

    Final WordsUnfortunately for AMD, 2010 isn’t really interesting. The company will have to rely on aggressive pricing and the continued success of its graphics teams to carry it for the next 12 - 18 months.

    Bulldozer, from what I know, appears to be a bold enough architecture to really challenge Intel if AMD can get it done properly. Bulldozer should arrive between Sandy Bridge and Intel's first 22nm CPUs. It's too early to tell how well Bulldozer's execution is going; AMD absolutely must sample in 2010.

    It's disappointing that Llano won't use Bulldozer. With 32nm Phenom II cores, Llano will be roughly one to two architecture generations behind Sandy Bridge. The GPU side should be strong though, it is ATI after all.

    AMD’s graphics strategy is much stronger. Bringing an already industry leading GPU architecture on die and then revving it every year is going to completely change the way we look at annual CPU releases. The big question here is what apps are we going to be running on these integrated GPU cores? The market has roughly two years to start finding out.






    http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/...p_update_2008/

    AMD 2010-11 Roadmap



    Recommended searches:



    Bulldozer

    Bobcat

    Leo

    Dorado



    Why it makes sense





    Offers negotiating leverage against Intel

    AMD is priced competitive

    Performance is still good (per watt is improving)

    AMD is more OpenCL compliant at this time and has superior graphics
  • icarbonicarbon Posts: 196member
    Noooooooo!!!!!



    Apple must stay clear of the Hellmouth!!!



    (yes, I know its Sunnydale)
  • min_tmin_t Posts: 74member
    Apple doesn't want to be held hostage by outsiders as they were in the past with Motorola/IBM, Adobe/Micro.... They are determined not to make the same mistake again. Wouldn't be surprised at some point, Apple buys Adobe and AMD for future-proofing their roadmap.
  • ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    I understand that Apple wants to get great deals on chips, but no way they should be satisfied with possibly getting 80% performance at 60% cost. They need to get 100% performance at all times when possible. If AMD can deliver, more power to them. I personally wouldn't buy an AMD-based Mac. I've had minor stability issues with them on the Windows side.
  • saareksaarek Posts: 974member
    Although it's true that Intel's Core CPU's do have the performance crown at the top end of the market AMD does very well in the budget to mid end segment, the Phenom II CPU's are really nice for example.



    Baring in mind that Apple tend to ship computers equipped with mid to low end CPU's this is not a bad partnership at all.
  • saareksaarek Posts: 974member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post


    I understand that Apple wants to get great deals on chips, but no way they should be satisfied with possibly getting 80% performance at 60% cost. They need to get 100% performance at all times when possible. If AMD can deliver, more power to them. I personally wouldn't buy an AMD-based Mac. I've had minor stability issues with them on the Windows side.



    I once had a MacBook that gave me no end of problems, didn't stop me taking it back and getting one that worked and sticking with Apple.



    I've built hundreds of PC's over the years with both Intel and AMD CPU's, at the end of the day there really is no difference.
  • jasonq13jasonq13 Posts: 35member
    Using AMD in MacBooks and Intel in MacBook Pros would certainly differentiate the lines...
  • freddychfreddych Posts: 266member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post


    I understand that Apple wants to get great deals on chips, but no way they should be satisfied with possibly getting 80% performance at 60% cost. They need to get 100% performance at all times when possible. If AMD can deliver, more power to them. I personally wouldn't buy an AMD-based Mac. I've had minor stability issues with them on the Windows side.



    Apple updates their product lines so slowly that this should NEVER matter. Because of their business model they will almost never be at 100% performance, and if they are, they will only be there for a few months. It doesn't make sense to pay Intel prices for performance that can be achieved using AMD chips.



    This will be a good financial move for Apple and will come at very little cost to the consumer. It's the right thing to do. The only downside is it will give Apple haters some ammo.
  • freddychfreddych Posts: 266member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JasonQ13 View Post


    Using AMD in MacBooks and Intel in MacBook Pros would certainly differentiate the lines...



    Not gonna happen. Apple will use its purchasing power to get lower prices. The best way to do it would be to implement AMD chips across all its computers.
  • macdanboymacdanboy Posts: 39member
    [QUOTE=hmurchison;1613808]I'd better buy some AMD stock this year and see if I can get a mini bonanza in a couple of years. AMD is a great option for Apple. A lot of PC vendors like HP use AMD because it keeps Intel honest and allows them to hit pricepoints that are difficult with more expensive Intel CPU and chipsets.





    I agree completely. Intel's games or blocking Nvidia is just pure bull. If is clear that if Apple was able to continued the relationship with Nvidia, other PC makers would certainly adopt the same solutions and cut into Intel's business. Intel either needs to greatly improve their graphics offerings with bleeding edge technology or allow competition.



    Its pretty simple, Intel either allows Apple to use the GPU's it wants to or it may find itself not even selling CPU's to Apple. That would not been received by investors as a wise decision. They also need to realize the high profile appearance or Apple using AMD's product line would increase investment in AMD and allow them to expand R&D. Intel has become a little to full of themselves and R&D is suffering at the expense or mega profits.



    Good decision by Apple.
  • SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 24,240member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by freddych View Post


    Not gonna happen. Apple will use its purchasing power to get lower prices. The best way to do it would be to implement AMD chips across all its computers.



    Apple will simply use these rumored meetings to force further price concessions from Intel. Unlikely they'll go with AMD, unless they use them to manufacture Apple-only chips.
  • solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JasonQ13 View Post


    Using AMD in MacBooks and Intel in MacBook Pros would certainly differentiate the lines...



    That's what I was thinking. I think Intel still kicks AMD's butt in the mobile arena where Apple sells most of its Macs. I still think a 15" plastic unibody MacBook could work.



    This might also be a tactic to get Intel to agree to lower pricing and/or giving Apple a pole position when it comes to new chips so they aren't 3 months behind every other major vendor.
  • quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,550member
    Never saw this coming. Then again, that's what everyone said before the move to Intel.
  • mclokimcloki Posts: 86member
    This has happened before and it will happen again.

    Remember Motorola?



    A Macbook that sold for $699 with an AMD processor. Yah that would be a failure of monumental proportions. Especiially if it had better graphics chips from ATI in it. /sarcasm.

    AMD wants Apples IPad graphics business and they're willing to be aggresive about getting it.

    iPads are going to be sellign like hotcakes over the next 3-4 years. 1 million by 2011, by 2014 with a price reduction how many iPads and derivatives will that be. Just think of the iPad wannabee market.



    No downside for Apple. What is Intel going to do. Stop selling chips to Apple. In this market.
  • hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 11,873member, moderator
    Apple wouldn't have any problem leaving Intel or at least adding AMD.



    They bailed on IBM when they saw a superior roadmap from Intel and frankly it's easy to see how

    Apple could bail on Intel because of the Bulldozer/Magny Cours & Sao Paolo lineup.



    Here's an AMD blogger on the "Intel Tax"



    http://blogs.amd.com/work/2010/04/16...-on-this-year/



    Quote:

    First, let?s compare Intel?s highest-end 4P processor, part of the Nehalem-EX family, with AMD?s highest-end AMD Opteron? 6100 Series processor:



    12-Core AMD Opteron? 6176 SE: $1,386

    8-Core Intel Xeon X7560: $3,692

    Price difference: $2,306 or a 166% price delta for 1ku pricing

    But, not everyone buys the high end. Let?s compare what would be considered more ?standard? power parts:



    12-Core AMD Opteron? 6174: $1,165

    8-Core Intel Xeon L7555: $3,157

    Price difference: $1,992 or a 102% price delta for 1ku pricing



    "I like money"



    Frito Pendejo
  • rufworkrufwork Posts: 108member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JasonQ13 View Post


    Using AMD in MacBooks and Intel in MacBook Pros would certainly differentiate the lines...



    Yeah, I was thinking that (and Minis) as well. There have been some windows where there's really not much differentiation between the consumer and pro models, and even if AMD gives procs about the same speed as Intel, the differentiation might help in mindshare. And AMD & Intel should each keep the other more honest.



    Still, my guess is that this is another vengeance move by Jobs, right? Make us use integrated right after we sell out to NVIDIA in our OS? We'll show ya... Wouldn't be surprised at all to see an AMD/NVIDIA pairing soon, as unlikely as it might seem.
  • thefinaleofseemthefinaleofseem Posts: 53member
    I highly doubt that Apple is eyeing any of AMD's current CPUs. Intel has their butts soundly beaten, especially in the mobile space. AMD has absolutely nothing to compete with the i3/i5/i7 mobile chips.



    This is about Bulldozer or ATI, plain and simple. Bulldozer could be one hell of a processor, and I'll wager that AMD is very interested in courting Apple for them. Hopefully it could mean that we'll finally see some bloody Radeon 5000 cards in Macs before long.
  • hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 11,873member, moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Thefinaleofseem View Post


    I highly doubt that Apple is eyeing any of AMD's current CPUs. Intel has their butts soundly beaten, especially in the mobile space. AMD has absolutely nothing to compete with the i3/i5/i7 mobile chips.



    This is about Bulldozer or ATI, plain and simple. Bulldozer could be one hell of a processor, and I'll wager that AMD is very interested in courting Apple for them. Hopefully it could mean that we'll finally see some bloody Radeon 5000 cards in Macs before long.



    +1



    AMD pricing, the Bulldozer core and superior GPU options are likely the features Apple likes the most.
  • quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,550member
    AMD/ATI = fully integrated solution that is already there.



    Apple might be moving away from the Premium pricing model and heading down the iPad road . . .
  • davegeedavegee Posts: 2,766member
    Wait we're not using PPCs anymore?!!?



    But that's really what it comes down to... Apple has never been defined by the CPU. Even when they tried to scream to us that it was... Intel, AMD, PPC, ARM, whatever... wake me up when any of this really matters... and remember its clear that Apple isn't about power, otherwise it wouldn't be (almost) exclusively using laptop chips in 90% of the computers it sells...
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