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Apple is rumoured to be looking at ditching Intel chips in Macs

Intel says nothing will change for a long time
Tue Nov 06 2012, 14:08
Apple Macbook Air Ivy Bridge

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS DESIGNER Apple is reportedly considering a move away from Intel processors in its Macintosh range of computers in favour of its own ARM based processors.

Bloomberg's sources claim that Apple is considering the potential implications of dropping Intel processors in its Macintosh computers and replacing them with its own designs based on the ARM architecture. According to the report, Apple engineers now believe that "one day" ARM chips will be powerful enough to run the company's desktop and laptop computers.

Back in 2005 Apple made the drastic move from the PowerPC architecture to Intel X86 processors, a move that caused considerable pain to existing customers and developers. Intel also gave Apple an exclusive on its Merom processor to make the Macbook Air a possibility, though Apple's business is largely seen as a product showcase for Intel, as Gartner's PC shipment figures show that Apple isn't among the top five PC makers.

Intel wouldn't comment on the report, simply referring questions about Apple's plans to Apple itself, however unofficially a source within the firm told The INQUIRER that Apple won't be moving away from Intel processors anytime soon and that Bloomberg's report "cut corners".

While Apple might be evaluating ARM chips, the truth is that for general purpose computing the company has no choice but to stick with Intel, and unless Apple decides to buy AMD, which is highly unlikely given AMD's lacklustre gross margins and financials, a shift to ARM processors could be very painful for the firm, its developers and ultimately, its users.

It is far more likely that Apple is pulling a Dell. Back in the 2000s Dell, when it was the biggest PC vendor, would float rumours that it was thinking of switching over to AMD in order to try to get favourable terms with Intel. Or Apple could be trying to get Intel to fab its ARM based chips as part of a deal that would see it leave Samsung and not have to worry about capacity issues at TSMC.

Apple might be looking at ARM for the desktop, but it could find users that are attached to its full Mac OS X when they want to do real work. µ


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