Apple developing ARM chip for Mac to handle low-power functionality

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited February 1
As it looks to lessen reliance on outside chip manufacturers, Apple is developing an ARM-based Mac processor designed to take some of the burden off primary Intel silicon, a report said on Wednesday.




Dubbed T310, the rumored component has been in development since last year and is similar to the T1 chip powering Apple's MacBook Pro Touch Bar, Bloomberg reports, citing inside sources.

Unlike the T1, which is limited to Touch Bar operation and Touch ID security authentication, the next-generation ARM chip would facilitate certain low-power Mac functions offloaded from the main Intel CPU. Specifically, Apple is looking to dedicate the ARM processor to handle Mac's Power Nap feature.

Introduced with OS X Mountain Lion in 2012, Power Nap allows Mac to stay up to date while the machine sleeps. The feature automatically downloads software updates in the background, syncs iCloud data and performs other functions without activating Mac's screen.

Currently, macOS hands off Power Nap control to the onboard Intel CPU, which operates in low-power mode, but a dedicated ARM chip would make the process even more efficient, sources said. Handling Power Nap, the rumored chip will have access to a range of Mac hardware like storage components, wireless communication suites and other vital equipment. If implemented, it will be the first ARM-based chip to gain wide access to Mac hardware and could pave the way to an all-ARM architecture.

While a definitive launch timeline went unreported, Apple's advanced ARM chip could find its way into a MacBook Pro revision slated for release later this year, sources said. Considering the relatively low-key introduction of Apple's T1 chip last year, the company might not throw a spotlight on the upgraded component when it does see integration.

The T1 chip landed in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar as Apple's first ARM component to see integration in a Mac, a major step in the company's supposed plans to move to custom silicon.

For its mobile products like iPhone and iPad, Apple chose to design and engineer its own processors to work seamlessly with iOS software, a project that resulted in today's A-series chips. The company has for years been rumored to do the same for Mac.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 87
    And so it begins.
    1983bdkennedyMetriacanthosauruslkruppleavingthebiggMisterKittmaybadmonkstanthemanlevi
  • Reply 2 of 87
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,562member
    But but but Apple doesn't care about the Mac¡
    StrangeDaysSpamSandwichwatto_cobracornchip
  • Reply 3 of 87
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,219member
    billrey said:
    And so it begins.
    I'd be surprised if there wasn't already an ARM based Mac running in their labs. Linux already runs on ARM and Windows sort of does. Surely Apple is not going to be left behind. It really all depends on the power of the machine. For me it has to be as powerful as any Intel Mac. Conceivably they could use hundreds of ARM cores if necessary.

    Likewise, I'd be surprised if Adobe wasn't preparing ARM versions of CC.
    edited February 1 tmaybadmonkwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 87
    Yeah, I can see ARM + Intel hybrids being the first step. I'm sure 80% of daily tasks could be powered by ARM, extending battery life dramatically. Intel proc could kick in when CPU demand gets to a certain point.

    Much like they've been doing for years with Integrated + Discrete GPUs.
    brakkenMisterKitbadmonkwatto_cobraeriamjham8449cornchip
  • Reply 5 of 87
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,562member
    volcan said:
    For me it has to be as powerful as any Intel Mac.
    That's not the right way to look at it. To say it's not feasible until it's as powerful as Apple most powerful Intel-based Mac is not how this will happen. Their ARM designs already outperform the lower-end Macs, and they do it using much less power whilst generating less heat. That's where this still start. There is no all-or-nothing with an ARM-based Mac that will force Apple to forego coming to market if they can't best Intel's fastest chips that could be in the next Mac Pro or iMac. You start with the low-end notebook where cost, size, and weight are important. These are customers that aren't likely to get a MBP, iMac or Mac Pro that they need to run larger, resource-hungry apps for a particular industry. You get those that need a basic email and internet machine and the handful of apps that they can get from the Mac App Store. With the latest advances in how apps are written, their Xcode IDE, and their App Stores titles will be appear quickly. From there Apple can slowly move ARM-based Macs into more Macs if Intel continues to drop the ball in the future.
    tmaybrucemcSpamSandwichrandominternetpersonwatto_cobracaliGeorgeBMacjdgazcornchip
  • Reply 6 of 87
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,562member
    Yeah, I can see ARM + Intel hybrids being the first step. I'm sure 80% of daily tasks could be powered by ARM, extending battery life dramatically. Intel proc could kick in when CPU demand gets to a certain point.

    Much like they've been doing for years with Integrated + Discrete GPUs.
    The New MBPs are already Intel+ARM hybrids. Every single of the the new MBPs with a Touch Bar runs two discreet versions of OS X that work seamlessly together.
    tmayStrangeDayspscooter63palominecornchip
  • Reply 7 of 87
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,472member
    Bloomberg article mentions: The people asked not to be identified talking about private product development.

    Nice to know there are still honest people in this world. /s
    watto_cobracornchip
  • Reply 8 of 87
    Intel hasn't been able to keep pace, just like PowerPC and before them M68k, with Apple's developments. The x86 architecture is a huge bag of legacy workarounds, and ARM has provided a much-needed basis for playform development. Great work, Apple!
    repressthiswatto_cobraGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 9 of 87
    irelandireland Posts: 16,455member
    Calling it now: Arm Mac Pro :wink: 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 87
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 4,606member
    I’d bet my pension check that macOS is already running on ARM in Apple’s labs and has been for some time.
    MisterKittmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 87
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,092member
    So maybe a waypoint is macOS and bundled apps running off a highly optimised ARM chip, that has some iOS parity, with third party apps running off an Intel chip that can also maintain a Windows partition?

    Ballsy, for sure.
    watto_cobrawelshdog
  • Reply 12 of 87
    ireland said:
    Calling it now: Arm Mac Pro :wink: 
    No, I agree with the statement above that Apple will first focus on medium-powered, lightweight devices like Laptops. Add in the capability to run MacOS and iOS Apps on a lower-cost machine, and this could be the start of something wonderful.
    Solirepressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 87
    netroxnetrox Posts: 385member
    It looks like Apple has a great strategic move ahead... first develop ARM chips for simple tasks like TouchID and touch bar... and then add power nap features.. and then what's next? take more and more processing features to the point that Intel chips are no needed. And they can do it by programming the OS to run on ARM chip and use extremely cheap Intel processors when needed to run legacy apps. 



    repressthiswatto_cobracali
  • Reply 14 of 87
    tmaytmay Posts: 1,688member
    netrox said:
    It looks like Apple has a great strategic move ahead... first develop ARM chips for simple tasks like TouchID and touch bar... and then add power nap features.. and then what's next? take more and more processing features to the point that Intel chips are no needed. And they can do it by programming the OS to run on ARM chip and use extremely cheap Intel processors when needed to run legacy apps. 



    When you think about use cases for a laptop, much of it, for most users, could seamlessly be taken over by iOS, such as browsing, and even a great many apps that are now Intel bound, but have iOS counterparts such as Pages. The trick is to make it seamless.

    I see this as giving developers an initial market for iOS on laptops, along with what surely must be a product on Apple's roadmap, an iOS Laptop.
    damn_its_hotwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 87
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,219member
    Soli said:
    volcan said:
    For me it has to be as powerful as any Intel Mac.
    That's not the right way to look at it. To say it's not feasible until it's as powerful as Apple most powerful Intel-based Mac is not how this will happen. Their ARM designs already outperform the lower-end Macs, and they do it using much less power whilst generating less heat. That's where this still start. There is no all-or-nothing with an ARM-based Mac
    I don't disagree that will be a gradual transformation. I just said "for me" it has to be as powerful as an Intel based Mac for it to be useful "for me" because I use Adobe CC all day long.
    edited February 1 watto_cobracali
  • Reply 16 of 87
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,562member
    volcan said:
    Soli said:
    volcan said:
    For me it has to be as powerful as any Intel Mac.
    That's not the right way to look at it. To say it's not feasible until it's as powerful as Apple most powerful Intel-based Mac is not how this will happen. Their ARM designs already outperform the lower-end Macs, and they do it using much less power whilst generating less heat. That's where this still start. There is no all-or-nothing with an ARM-based Mac
    I don't disagree that will be a gradual transformation. I just said "for me" it has to be as powerful as an Intel based Mac for it to be useful "for me" because I use Adobe CC all day long.
    In that case, you, myself, and the majority of AI commenters will be at the end of Operation Dump Intel transition.
    repressthiswatto_cobracali
  • Reply 17 of 87
    Maybe OS X has been leading yet another secret life....  This is one of the reasons I love AI.  We have some brilliant people.  So, is it possible to rewrite and run OS X on ARM?  Software folks?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 87
    dr. xdr. x Posts: 110member
    What about running Windows on a Mac with an ARM chip, how will Apple figure out the best of both. If Apple switches to ARM Windows users who use Macs will be pissed if one can't run Windows anymore.
    watto_cobracali
  • Reply 19 of 87
    plovellplovell Posts: 717member
    kamilton said:
    Maybe OS X has been leading yet another secret life....  This is one of the reasons I love AI.  We have some brilliant people.  So, is it possible to rewrite and run OS X on ARM?  Software folks?
    That's just about what iOS is. It's OS X, or Mac OS as it is now known, somewhat adjusted and compiled for ARM. Underneath the covers, it's the same. Same kernel, same lots-of-other-stuff. 

    There is absolutely no reason that Apple couldn't build an ARM-based MacBook. As others have said, I expect that they have them running in the lab. 

    For people who use lots of x86-specific apps, a switch to ARM would be problematic. But for folks who use mostly apps from Apple (Safari, Mail, Pages etc) it would be a no-brainer. Many of the other popular apps would come quickly - it'll just be a recompile and fat-binary. That solution space has been well explored with other transitions (680x0 -> PPC -> x86). 

    One big question is whether or not there will be a "Rosetta" to allow x86 binaries to run on ARM, the way PPC ones did on x86. Apple certainly has the ability to do this - it's a question of whether or not the investment is worth it.
    kamiltonrepressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 87
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,562member
    plovell said:
    kamilton said:
    Maybe OS X has been leading yet another secret life....  This is one of the reasons I love AI.  We have some brilliant people.  So, is it possible to rewrite and run OS X on ARM?  Software folks?
    That's just about what iOS is. It's OS X, or Mac OS as it is now known, somewhat adjusted and compiled for ARM. Underneath the covers, it's the same. Same kernel, same lots-of-other-stuff. 

    There is absolutely no reason that Apple couldn't build an ARM-based MacBook. As others have said, I expect that they have them running in the lab. 

    For people who use lots of x86-specific apps, a switch to ARM would be problematic. But for folks who use mostly apps from Apple (Safari, Mail, Pages etc) it would be a no-brainer. Many of the other popular apps would come quickly - it'll just be a recompile and fat-binary. That solution space has been well explored with other transitions (680x0 -> PPC -> x86). 

    One big question is whether or not there will be a "Rosetta" to allow x86 binaries to run on ARM, the way PPC ones did on x86. Apple certainly has the ability to do this - it's a question of whether or not the investment is worth it.
    macOS, iOS for iPhone, iOS for iPad, tvOS, watchOS, and touchbarOS are all flavors of a core version of OS X. OS X is itself a core version Darwin OS with many additional frameworks, drivers, and various UI layers, like Cocoa and CocoaTouch, added to it that best suits the needs of the HW and how the user interacts with the system.

    This is Apple at its finest with both vertical and horizontal integration. We not only have macOS being stripped and then built up into iOS, and iOS being stripped and built up into watchOS, but we now also have watchOS being stripped and built up into an even more efficient OS X-based system that utilizes both Touch ID nad Apple Pay from the iPhone and iPad and then puts them into a Mac, not to mention the many other frameworks and apps that were made efficient for the more power efficient HW that has also come back to the more capable HW, like Quicktime X.

    No one else can compete with this. No one.
    edited February 1 pscooter63watto_cobracali
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