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Apple reportedly prepped AMD-powered MacBook Air, dropped it at last minute

post #1 of 36
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Apple is said to have developed a MacBook Air running Advanced Micro Devices' Fusion Llano processor last spring, but scrapped it at the last minute because of production issues, according to an unverified report.

SemiAccurate claims that the current iteration of Apple's thin-and-light MacBook Air is actually the company's "plan B," while the original "plan A" was a notebook running AMD's low-power Llano chip. According to report author Charlie Demerjian, the machine would have lost some CPU power in exchange for "many times the GPU power."

The mid-2011 MacBook Air sports Intel's current-generation Sandy Bridge i5 and i7 processors with integrated graphics. The notebooks also feature a backlit keyboard and Intel's new Thunderbolt I/O.

Demerjian went on to suggest that AMD had "dropped the ball" on its end, even after Apple had a notebook "on the verge of production." Apple ultimately went with Intel because AMD was having trouble producing enough of the "premium" parts to meet demand for a refreshed MacBook Air, though multiple sources reportedly told the publication that supply was "only one of the reasons" that Apple decided not to release move forward with the machine.

However, Apple is said to still be very interested in working with AMD. "Sources indicate that ARM CPUs are still on tap as soon as the 64-bit chips show up," Demerjian wrote.



AppleInsider exclusively reported last year that Apple's top executives had been meeting with AMD representatives to discuss adopting its chips into Apple's Macs. The talks arose out of Apple's discontent with Intel's limited availability of new processors and the chipmaker's efforts to promote its own limited integrated graphics chips.

After Apple confirmed its plans to transition the Mac to Intel CPUs in 2005, some industry watchers wondered why Apple hadn't chosen to use AMD's processors as well. However, the Cupertino, Calif., company had foreknowledge of Intel's Core family of processors that would surpass AMD's advantages at the time. But, given Intel's current weakness in the graphics department, Apple could begin adopting AMD's processors within the next few years.
post #2 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

SemiAccurate claims

I think that says it all, doesn't it?

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post #3 of 36
I'm not convinced of the whole Plan A, Plan B, Planet 9 From Outer Space thing, but I am convinced Apple has plenty of prototypes running various HW configurations in their labs.
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post #4 of 36
Musta been very fragile.
post #5 of 36
I believe that since the Mac's shift to Intel (or maybe even before), Apple has wisely chosen to develop parallel versions of the Mac OS that run on different CPU architectures. That way they're less susceptible to the kind of problems they had with PowerPC. Hell, they might even have a copy of Lion running on PowerPC hardware in one of their labs. Just in case.
post #6 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

I think that says it all, doesn't it?

Yes! They should rename it to BarelyAccurate instead. SemiAccurate if they were talking about the A5 chip...
post #7 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

I think that says it all, doesn't it?

Recall when Apple switched to Intel initially? They mentioned later AMD was also a consideration, but that they had concerns regarding manufacturing capacity of the required parts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Demerjian went on to suggest that AMD had "dropped the ball" on its end, even after Apple had a notebook "on the verge of production." Apple ultimately went with Intel because AMD was having trouble producing enough of the "premium" parts to meet demand for a refreshed MacBook Air, though multiple sources reportedly told the publication that supply was "only one of the reasons" that Apple decided not to release move forward with the machine.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. Apple tried to use Nvidia chipsets before simply because the integrated Intel gpus sucked. I doubt the AMD version was their primary choice, but it shouldn't be surprising that hearing that they worked on one.


Quote:
Originally Posted by scott523 View Post

Yes! They should rename it to BarelyAccurate instead. SemiAccurate if they were talking about the A5 chip...

That would actually make less sense present day. The appeal in the macbook air is that it's a really snappy machine for its size. ARM isn't at that level yet.
post #8 of 36
As far as the Apple using AMD CPU rumors go, all I can say is thank God! If you read anything about the Fusion or Llano (I like to call "Llame") processors they're junk. Their CPU or power consumption benchmarks are nowhere near as good as Intel's. The only thing they have going for them is the GPU performance but starting with Ivy Bridge Intel will start to have decent integrated GPU performance as well, on par at least with AMD.

As far as the ARM rumors go, I believe this one actually. Apple didn't buy PA Semi or Intrynsity for nothing. Apple dreams big and I wouldn't doubt if they want their entire consumer line of machines to be all ARM. The 64-BIT ARM processors are only 2 to 3 years away. This would be a great move; have all their "consumer" Macs running ARM & their "pro" Macs running Intel for the real high performance stuff.
post #9 of 36
How useful would it be for Apple to simply buy AMD and cut Intel out of the equation entirely? They're flush with cash, and are already designing their own chips for the iPhone, iPad and AppleTV. Bring the Mac's chipset in-house as well, and customize it for low power personal computing applications, not the commoditized product Intel makes, designed to run in everything from servers to clusters to gaming PCs.

Might also assist with the transition to ARM - they could build custom ARM chips with minimal hardware onboard to speed the emulation of x86 code. And then market those chips to PC manufacturers who want to make low-power laptops and tablets that are compatible with Windows 8.

Embrace and extend...
post #10 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunspot42 View Post

How useful would it be for Apple to simply buy AMD and cut Intel out of the equation entirely?

I haven't heard an idea that daft since Google bought Motorola.

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post #11 of 36
AMD still has a small niche in some gaming mother boards but personally I like the Xeons for high end computing. The rumors abound that Macs will have ARM cpus too but all of that is low end consumer crap. I'm only interested in the high end market.

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post #12 of 36
Apple likes to control every aspect of their products. Buying AMD would let them own the chip at the heart of future Macs.

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post #13 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunspot42 View Post

How useful would it be for Apple to simply buy AMD and cut Intel out of the equation entirely?

That would only be useful if AMD were to have a great design team that could be kept together.

Also, EU competition law would require your hypothetical Apple/AMD to sell CPUs to PeeCee makers at competitive practices, which is a hassle that Apple probably don't want.

Anyway, I hope this will be the end of the tiring comments in every thread suggesting that Apple should have used AMD. Apple tried AMD and found AMD unworthy. End of story.
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post #14 of 36
I don't buy this either. If you're Apple, you look at two things when you want to buy chips. First, the quality of the chips themselves (performance, power, features, etc.), and second, what is the chip maker's ability to actually manufacture those chips.

AMD may have some great ideas around graphics, but they still haven't been able to produce these in high volume with Global Foundries. In order to plan and release products, Apple needs to be able to rely on chip makers to release their products on time. If Apple had gone with AMD, they would still be waiting for enough chips to release the MacBook Airs.

Intel is successful because they are able to produce high-quality products (okay, graphics is getting better) and manufacture them in high volume.

Apple likely only wants one graphics solution in their products, so it's possible they looked at AMD to see what it could deliver. In the end, Intel's complete solution must have been better since that's what they went with.
post #15 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post

Apple likes to control every aspect of their products. Buying AMD would let them own the chip at the heart of future Macs.

Buying AMD would be a long-term huge expense for Apple. Looking at AMD's financials, it cost ~$6 billion in 2010 to run the company. That would be a huge expense for Apple since I would assume they wouldn't sell the AMD-based chips to anyone else (just as they do not sell the A4 or A5 to anyone else).

Apple differentiates itself on user experience, software, and product design. It would only switch if the HW wouldn't allow it to deliver the experience it wanted to (like PowerPC to Intel switch).

Same goes for the ARM-based rumors too. The Ultrabook chips Intel is creating will likely meet Apple's HW needs for awhile, so the motivation to change isn't there. Apple is better off spending its time (and money) in other areas where it's really good at (design, software, experience).
post #16 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post

Apple likes to control every aspect of their products. Buying AMD would let them own the chip at the heart of future Macs.

AMD has been hemorrhaging cash for ages. Apple has no desire or need to buy AMD. Remember AMD makes chips for PCs. Can you imagine Apple making chips for the competition? lol

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post #17 of 36
I wouldn't think that AMD could hold it's end when it comes to supplying Apple with enough CPU's and GPU's. Intel is way larger and has more supply capability. But if they did have AMD MacBook Air prototype's running OS X I wonder then if OS X secretly has the AMD support?

Yes ATI is part of Apple witch is actually AMD now. But thats as far as Apple is willing to take it. Supply and demand is the key.
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post #18 of 36
The ignorance on AMD in this thread is truly pathetic. AMD has stopped hemorrhaging cash for well over a year and a half.

They are owning the GPGPU markets. The new Opteron 16 cores will once more dominate server markets and I won't even discuss Bulldozer and how Apple's OS is designed from the ground up to scale with the more cores you throw at it the merrier.

Apple has moved all Nvidia based GPU solutions for Macs to AMD. When the AMD 7000 cores arrive their relationship will only expand.

Re-visit this thread in 12 months.

The only implausible nature of this concept is very simple: Hyper Transport.

GlobalFoundries 28nm/32nm and this year 22nm High Gate solutions has a group collaboration between TSMC, IBM, GlobalFoundriess and Samsung.

In 12 months when all the Fab expansion in New York, Germany and Asia meets their goals the options for Apple really expands.
post #19 of 36
Wasn't Apple considering on developing an A6 Dual and Quad core processor and sticking one of those into a future Mac Book Air?
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post #20 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

The ignorance on AMD in this thread is truly pathetic. AMD has stopped hemorrhaging cash for well over a year and a half.

They are owning the GPGPU markets. The new Opteron 16 cores will once more dominate server markets and I won't even discuss Bulldozer and how Apple's OS is designed from the ground up to scale with the more cores you throw at it the merrier.

Apple has moved all Nvidia based GPU solutions for Macs to AMD. When the AMD 7000 cores arrive their relationship will only expand.

Re-visit this thread in 12 months.

The only implausible nature of this concept is very simple: Hyper Transport.

GlobalFoundries 28nm/32nm and this year 22nm High Gate solutions has a group collaboration between TSMC, IBM, GlobalFoundriess and Samsung.

In 12 months when all the Fab expansion in New York, Germany and Asia meets their goals the options for Apple really expands.

AMD may be posting small profits, but it's not something that would make Apple want to buy them. AMD costs too much to run for Apple to make money on the operation by keeping the designs in house.

Regarding AMD products themselves, they are for most part all behind schedule and not on a predictable cadence like Intel. They can have the best-designed products in the world, but it's meaningless if they can't manufacture them in high volume. Even if they build new factories, they need to be able to get the process technology right. The most recent press release from AMD was that Global Foundries was struggling to manufacture enough of the APUs that are built using high-k metal gate transistors on 32 nm. I think talk of 22nm for GF is a bit premature, but I could be wrong.

Until someone can demonstrate that they can compete with Intel on manufacturing, I think Intel will continue their spot in the market.

As a consumer, competition is good though, so I do hope AMD sticks around to keep Intel on their toes.
post #21 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by tru_canuk View Post


As far as the ARM rumors go, I believe this one actually. Apple didn't buy PA Semi or Intrynsity for nothing. Apple dreams big and I wouldn't doubt if they want their entire consumer line of machines to be all ARM. The 64-BIT ARM processors are only 2 to 3 years away. This would be a great move; have all their "consumer" Macs running ARM & their "pro" Macs running Intel for the real high performance stuff.

Segmentation is dumb for this kind of stuff. You must remember Apple has pulled away from the power computing markets to a degree. "If" they went for ARM outside of tablets/phones I'd expect them to go all the way and eventually EOL any products that are not switched over.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

I haven't heard an idea that daft since Google bought Motorola.

I would agree. Apple usually buys up small companies with talented design teams. AMD at the moment has been relying heavily on what they got from ATI.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post

Apple likes to control every aspect of their products. Buying AMD would let them own the chip at the heart of future Macs.

You clearly need to look at some of their previous acquisitions. They typically go for relatively small companies with talented teams. They also already bought one company, and devices running ARM make up their biggest point of growth currently.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

I wouldn't think that AMD could hold it's end when it comes to supplying Apple with enough CPU's and GPU's. Intel is way larger and has more supply capability. But if they did have AMD MacBook Air prototype's running OS X I wonder then if OS X secretly has the AMD support?

Yes ATI is part of Apple witch is actually AMD now. But thats as far as Apple is willing to take it. Supply and demand is the key.

Buying AMD doesn't actually make any kind of sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

Wasn't Apple considering on developing an A6 Dual and Quad core processor and sticking one of those into a future Mac Book Air?

No credible rumors have been out on this. If they went this way, I'd expect to see X86 on its way out for Apple. There would be no reason to transition one laptop and leave the others. You'd be creating programming headaches and product segmentation.
post #22 of 36
AMD has lost it already when Apple didn't make the jump this time. Sandybridge isn't bad, it is merely lacking the software investment in drivers, which Intel is working on, abit slowly. IvyBridge 's Graphics is good, and Haswell will be better.

The advantage of AMD's graphics department will shrink and the CPU advantage is widening everyday, not to mention the power improvement from 22nm node.

And no, Bulldozer even with Software Optimization is still a pathetic piece of crap in performance / watt compare to new Xeon E5.

Not to mention some Steep discount from Intel if Apple ever really wanted to offer AMD.
post #23 of 36
This is highly unlikely.

Intel designs Apples motherboards. Who designed an AMD board?

AMD would have trouble delivering upwards 1 million APU/GPU that Apple needs. This was the main reason why the deal fell thru: AMD/Global foundries could not guarantee enough supply.

1) Apple signed an exclusive agreement to intel for 5 years that ended between mid 2010 and early 2011
2) AMD and Apple have had meeting
3) Apple/Steve was very angry in Intel for Intel withdrawal of Nvidia motherboard license.
4) Prototype Macbook Air with ARM exists.
5) A6/ ARM15 CPU will have about the same performance as Liano, except graphics. Its more fun for Apple to pay 25 dollar for a SoC then 200-400 dollar for AMD motherboard + APU.

AMD have no feature. During all AMDs lifetime the company have lost almost 2 billion. The short times that AMD have had better CPUs then Intel is because of external factors (NexGen/Alpha).

AMDs market cap is about 5 billion. Apple could buy AMD for less then 1 Q profit. But AMD is not worth it. (especially since the X86 license have to be approved by Intel if AMD sells it)
post #24 of 36
Hi,

This is unrelated to this topic but I did not know where to post it. The fonts on all the screens are different today and very hard to read. Is anyone else having this problem? I hope it is a minor glitch and not permanent.
post #25 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

However, Apple is said to still be very interested in working with AMD. "Sources indicate that ARM CPUs are still on tap as soon as the 64-bit chips show up," Demerjian wrote.

Can anyone explain why we should pay attention to an analyst who doesn't know the difference between AMD and ARM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

Wasn't Apple considering on developing an A6 Dual and Quad core processor and sticking one of those into a future Mac Book Air?

Don't accept rumors at face value.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shompa View Post

This is highly unlikely.

Intel designs Apples motherboards. Who designed an AMD board?

I don't know if Intel design's Apple's mother boards or not. They design the chip sets, but I think Apple designs their own boards. Designing a board is relatively trivial compared to designing a chip set. That won't be a problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shompa View Post

AMD would have trouble delivering upwards 1 million APU/GPU that Apple needs. This was the main reason why the deal fell thru: AMD/Global foundries could not guarantee enough supply.

AMD currently supplies about 1/5 of the world's CPUs. Given that Apple's market share is around 5% worldwide, AMD can make enough chips for Apple and still have plenty left over to sell. Probably stop selling the cheapest garbage chips, though.
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post #26 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by shompa View Post

5) A6/ ARM15 CPU will have about the same performance as Liano, except graphics. Its more fun for Apple to pay 25 dollar for a SoC then 200-400 dollar for AMD motherboard + APU.

Especially when they won't lower the price of the hardware by a similar amount
post #27 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by am8449 View Post

I believe that since the Mac's shift to Intel (or maybe even before), Apple has wisely chosen to develop parallel versions of the Mac OS that run on different CPU architectures. That way they're less susceptible to the kind of problems they had with PowerPC. Hell, they might even have a copy of Lion running on PowerPC hardware in one of their labs. Just in case.

I'd agree that would be very logical. The rumor may have just exaggerated on nothing more than a skunk works parallel development. It is excellent news if your theory is correct IMHO as it keeps Apple free from supplier blackmail or failures.
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post #28 of 36
Why would apple leave intel? IF you believe all the articles intel pretty much does what apple says. From sandy bridge on a big chunk of the cpu design supposedly was influenced by apple.

Why would apple give that up?
post #29 of 36
Quote:
Apple reportedly prepped AMD-powered MacBook Air, dropped it at last minute

And this is related to "Current Mac Hardware" how exactly? Should not it be in "General Discussion" or even "Future Apple Hardware"?
post #30 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post

Apple likes to control every aspect of their products. Buying AMD would let them own the chip at the heart of future Macs.

The keyword is control, not own.

Furthermore, Apple has been down the road of *controlling* the microprocessor in the theirs before - the PowerPC. It is a different world now. Likewise, the mobile space is a different world, compelling Apple to acquire P.A. Semi and Intrinsity. The same need is arguably not present in the PC world.
post #31 of 36
AMD is not as power efficient as the Intel processors. For mobile chips, their CPUs are just fine consider how many tasks these days are GPU limited not CPU limited. Given how Intel is moving w/their power efficiency and their GPUs catching up, I think the window for AMD is probably closing quickly, unless they make a pretty major leap.
post #32 of 36
You do realize that AMD invented the i86_64 architecture that Macs run on these days? Going to AMD is not at all like going to ARM or some other non i86 architecture.

Even today AMD innovates in ways that Intel can't for whatever reason. Bulldozer is one example and their entire Fusion line is a far better approach to integrated devices than what Intel has on offer. It really is to bad that AMD could deliver from the manufacturing angle. I suspect that for most users a Fusion based AIR would have been a better overall deal.

Why? Well the far better GPU. A GPU that supports OpenCL and other technologies that make a difference on the Mac.

Quote:
Originally Posted by am8449 View Post

I believe that since the Mac's shift to Intel (or maybe even before), Apple has wisely chosen to develop parallel versions of the Mac OS that run on different CPU architectures. That way they're less susceptible to the kind of problems they had with PowerPC. Hell, they might even have a copy of Lion running on PowerPC hardware in one of their labs. Just in case.

The evidence is clear that they have the OS running on i86 hardware and on ARM hardware. I kinda doubt the PowerPC is much loved at Apple these days but I wouldn't be surprised. More so I suspect that they have the OS running on Sparc and possibly other hardware. If for nothing else building the OS for multiple architectures prevents the OS from becoming difficult to port over time.

DAve
post #33 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by tru_canuk View Post

As far as the Apple using AMD CPU rumors go, all I can say is thank God! If you read anything about the Fusion or Llano (I like to call "Llame") processors they're junk.

This is inflammatory BS. Llano is a damn good processor.
Quote:
Their CPU or power consumption benchmarks are nowhere near as good as Intel's.

Again BS. Llano has been shown to actually run cooler that Intel hardware, especially where the GPU is used heavily. Intels Sandy Bridge can run extremely hot and throttle its performance fairly quickly.
Quote:
The only thing they have going for them is the GPU performance but starting with Ivy Bridge Intel will start to have decent integrated GPU performance as well, on par at least with AMD.

Ivy Bridge doesn't really look all that great GPU wise and frankly AMD will be able to easily deal with it. At best the GPU has been shown to be 60% faster in one synthetic benchmark vs Sandy Bridge. on average it is barely 30% faster.
Quote:
As far as the ARM rumors go, I believe this one actually. Apple didn't buy PA Semi or Intrynsity for nothing. Apple dreams big and I wouldn't doubt if they want their entire consumer line of machines to be all ARM.

You dis AMD chips and then go on about ARM when ARM can't even come close to the performance of AMD's CPU cores.

Given that I dl believe that the entire story with respect to ARM at Apple has yet to be written. However that is the future, today Llano would make a very nice processor for an AIR type machine or even a Mini. In fact I was really hoping for a Fusion based Mini with four cores. Why? Well again today performance involves more than just the CPU cores.
Quote:
The 64-BIT ARM processors are only 2 to 3 years away. This would be a great move; have all their "consumer" Macs running ARM & their "pro" Macs running Intel for the real high performance stuff.

Nope; it would be an entirely stupid move mostly due to binary compatibility issues.
post #34 of 36
Really people here seem to think that AMD has this odd architecture that is somehow difficult to support. The facts are completely different AMD invented the i86_64 architecture at the heart of Intel processors today, it isn't like we are talking an entirely different instruction set..

Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

I wouldn't think that AMD could hold it's end when it comes to supplying Apple with enough CPU's and GPU's.

This is likely the only reason AMD did not get slotted in. AMD would have allowed Apple to offer a machine at a lower price or higher profit or both, while performing just as well as the Intel machines.
Quote:
Intel is way larger and has more supply capability. But if they did have AMD MacBook Air prototype's running OS X I wonder then if OS X secretly has the AMD support?

I would think it is a certainty that Apple does have OS X running on AMD hardware and most likely regularly tests such hardware.
Quote:
Yes ATI is part of Apple witch is actually AMD now. But thats as far as Apple is willing to take it. Supply and demand is the key.

I don't buy this either. Apple will go with AMD if it can offer up the right value for the machine in question. Well that and the chip is available in the volumes Apple needs. If you look at AMD's issues over the last quarter, its biggest issue has been actually building the chips. This has become a very public issue for AMD which they are working very hard to address. Llano has been well accepted in the market place and would be a very strong seller for AMD if they had the volume.
post #35 of 36
Quote:
Apple decided not to release move forward with the machine

Doesn't anyone check these things?

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post #36 of 36
Apple will almost always go for 'the best bang for their buck' and AMD APU's certainly do that at low wattage.

So it would seem early production problems scuppered the deal.
It is easy to imagine Intel never knew this when they bent over backwards for a 'last minute coup'.
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