Apple mulling transition away from Intel chips for Macs

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Rumors have once again surfaced that Apple may be looking to move away from Intel processors to power its Mac lineup, replacing the silicon with proprietary ARM processor designs like those found in the iPad and iPhone.

The rumblings come from Bloomberg, which cited people familiar with Apple's research and development process as saying engineers are confident that the company's A-series chip designs will one day power desktops and laptops. Currently, the ARM-based silicon is limited to iOS devices, though rumors of a switch have persisted for years.

Two people claim that the change is not likely to take place "in the next few years," as Apple is currently tied to Intel's products, however a shift to proprietary chip designs is "inevitable" as powerful devices like the iPad further blur the line between mobile and PC.

Apple reportedly has a team dedicated to the project, the engineers of which imagine a lineup of machines that leverage a common chip design, much like current iPhones, iPods and iPads.

According to one of the sources, the recently-returned Bob Mansfield has long been interested in making a more consistent experience across iOS and OS X, a goal that could take shape as former mobile software chief Scott Forstall was recently ousted. Mansfield, who previously didn't have the authority to make significant changes to iOS, now leads the Technologies team which is responsible for semiconductor research, among other duties.

Apple CEO Tim Cook in also hinted that there could be a further convergence of iOS and OS X, as he said ARM chips may one day make their way into Macs.

iPad 4 Logic Board
Apple's newest A6X chip boasts a dual-core CPU and quad-core graphics. | Source: iFixit


The publication reported in early October that Apple was exploring options to phase out Intel-based machines, though at the time it was unclear what processor the company would use as a replacement.

Despite being used in Mac products since Apple switched from IBM's PowerPC chips in 2005, Intel has yet to make its way into the more popular iOS device lineup. In May, the chip maker said it was going to build high-efficiency processors in a bid to make headway in the mobile marketplace currently dominated by ARM designs.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 119
    Don't do it!
  • Reply 2 of 119
    backtomacbacktomac Posts: 4,579member


    It was fun while it lasted.

  • Reply 3 of 119


    Cue the chorus of oldsters tiring of innovation and the effort it takes to wipe the slate clean and change paradigms.

  • Reply 4 of 119
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    Seriously?! A whole "article" about a [I]rumour[/I] that "someone heard" that [B]years from now[/B], Apple will do something?

    It boggles the mind that this was even published.
  • Reply 5 of 119


    I frankly think this would be a big big mistake, unless we are talking 10+ years out. 

  • Reply 6 of 119


    Originally Posted by apersona View Post

    Cue the chorus of oldsters tiring of innovation and the effort it takes to wipe the slate clean and change paradigms.


     


    How's that Thunderbolt on ARM treating you? image


     


    And why do we need this thread? We had another one just like it only a few weeks ago. Zero information in either of them.

  • Reply 7 of 119


    Apple probably will do it when it makes sense to do it. image

  • Reply 8 of 119
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member


    On the one hand, there's the problem that this would eliminate Bootcamp and virtualization options. That's not a small loss for many users. On the other hand, this would also eliminate the possibility of Hackintoshes, but those don't take a big bite out of Apple's sales anyway.

  • Reply 9 of 119
    andysolandysol Posts: 2,506member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post



    Seriously?! A whole "article" about a rumour that "someone heard" that years from now, Apple will do something?

    It boggles the mind that this was even published.


    two people said it... two!  lol

  • Reply 10 of 119
    gustavgustav Posts: 823member
    Remember, Apple was developing Into MacOS X years before it switched. Apple is keeping their options open.
  • Reply 11 of 119
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    kolchak wrote: »
    On the one hand, there's the problem that this would eliminate Bootcamp and virtualization options. That's not a small loss for many users. On the other hand, this would also eliminate the possibility of Hackintoshes, but those don't take a big bite out of Apple's sales anyway.

    It will also lead to a massive decrease in performance - which would not be acceptable to most people.

    We're a long way from ARM even reaching current levels of Intel performance - and by the time they do, Intel will be much faster than they are now.

    At best, I could see an iPad Pro with something like a MBA form factor (and regular keyboard) which is intended to be between the MBA and iPad. This could run on ARM. Replacing MBP and iMac and Mac Pro processors with ARM? Nope.

    There is, of course, always the possibility of using AMD chips, though.
  • Reply 12 of 119


    I have no idea about any of this stuff (hardware), would somebody fill me in? I mean, I know the basics, don't treat me like a child. Give me 10 (or as much as you can) reasons why switching to an ARM architecture would be bad on a Mac...


     


    Thanks.

  • Reply 13 of 119


    Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post

    That's not a small loss for many users.




    Really, it sort of is. Macs don't sell because of Boot Camp.

  • Reply 14 of 119
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,096member


    I foresee two platforms: iOS-based and OSX/Intel based.    Laptops could move away from Intel, while desktops do not.  However, it won't be for 3-4 years, at least.


     


    Chromebook only without the suck.

  • Reply 15 of 119


    When pigs fly.


     


    There's very little doubt they've worked on porting OS X to ARM.  Why wouldn't they?  I'm sure there are much more interesting projects they are working on that will never see the light of day.


     


    Maybe someday it will become slightly viable, sensible, and beneficial to transition Macs to ARM, but that day is so far off into the future that it's not even worth thinking about.

  • Reply 16 of 119
    kkerstkkerst Posts: 330member


    Link Bait...

  • Reply 17 of 119
    backtomacbacktomac Posts: 4,579member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post





    It will also lead to a massive decrease in performance - which would not be acceptable to most people.

    We're a long way from ARM even reaching current levels of Intel performance - and by the time they do, Intel will be much faster than they are now.

     


    Indeed. At Ars they reviewed the new Chromebook running on the latest and greatest ARM processor an A15. It was substantially slower than a MBA running on a 1.6 core 2 duo cpu. 


     


    If this rumor is true, it would also indicate to me that Apple are going to abandon the creative pro market. There is no way ARM will be competitive with Intel big iron for applications like Photoshop and video editing.

  • Reply 18 of 119


    Unless ARM can do Intel i7 emulation FASTER than an Intel i7 CPU, then this is a fool's dream.


     


    Any transition has to be with a much faster CPU to do decent emulation.  All the years of Intel code won't run on ARM since ARM is too whimpy.

  • Reply 19 of 119


    Also, Intel's ATOM CPUs are CLOSE TO OR FASTER than existing ARM CPUs with just as good energy conservation.


     


    Intel simply faster than ARM on desktops and laptops.

  • Reply 20 of 119
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    In related news, Tim Cook is considering having a BLT sandwich in about a month.

    However, at the moment, he's supposedly mulling over and considering his options...
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