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

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    SemiAccurate claims?



    I think that says it all, doesn't it?
  • Reply 2 of 35
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 35
    Musta been very fragile.
  • Reply 4 of 35
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 35
    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...
  • Reply 6 of 35
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 35
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 35
    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...
  • Reply 9 of 35
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 35
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 35
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,484member
    Apple likes to control every aspect of their products. Buying AMD would let them own the chip at the heart of future Macs.
  • Reply 12 of 35
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 35
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 35
    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).
  • Reply 15 of 35
    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
  • Reply 16 of 35
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 35
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 35
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member
    Wasn't Apple considering on developing an A6 Dual and Quad core processor and sticking one of those into a future Mac Book Air?
  • Reply 19 of 35
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 35
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member
    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.
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