Rumor: Is Apple going to dump Intel for its laptop processors?

Several years ago, Apple made the decision to change over from IBM's PowerPC processors to Intel's family of chips. Now comes word via unnamed sources that Apple may be making changes in its processor again at least for its laptops. SemiAccurate reports that the company is going to be moving its laptop products from Intel's chips to one based on ARM's designs. The article claims, "It won’t be really soon, but we are told it is a done deal."

The story claims that the move to the new processors won't happen until sometime in 2013 which the article says the first fully 64-bit ARM processors should be in place. However another web site, MacRumors.com, is already putting out some doubts on if this will really happen. In its own coverage of the SemiAccurate rumors it writes, "While Apple did previously succeed in such a transition in the past with the PowerPC to Intel transition, it was not without an incredible amount of engineering to ease the process." A new move to ARM processors for Apple's laptops would have to allow for some emulation of previously created software for the Mac OS, according to the story.

ARM has certainly generate a lot of news in recent months. Nvidia announced during the Consumer Electronics Show a few months ago that it would launch its first CPU using the ARM architecture. Microsoft also announced at that time that the next version of its Windows OS (Windows 8) will also run on ARM-based processors along with onces made by Intel and AMD.

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If people want newer architectures for General computing use, maybe Intel will modify it's Itanium series of processors and release a Desktop one...
Itanium performs well, just has software compatibility issues.

Software, especially OS, is not fungible: you need to train users, migrate licenses or buy new ones, make yourself like different things, study to get new certifications etc...

Hardware is fungible: you can use an Intel or AMD cpu, a Seagate or whatever disk (or SSD), an OCZ or whatever memory, VIA or Nvidia etc and most users would not even care... and most of your software dealing with users, excluding drivers (that users would not touch most of the times), would equally not care.

...BUT...

Intel is dominating the dominating CPU market, they are an huge semiconductor productor, and have a good maket share in SSD (The Next Big Thing), they are preparing to invade ultramobility market: they can effectively dictate the agenda of what is in the core of your current and next Windows PC, or Mac, or most of Linux based boxes.

AMD failed big time to provide a viable alternative to Intel's r&d: they are the alternative low cost solution, ages when they were leaders on research and were able to provide a more convincing solution with Athlon against P4 are lost and gone. And AMD consistently failed at this in the last 5 years, with an increasingly negative trend.

So, the OS world desperately needs a new alternative to Intel, all dominant OS like Windows, Linux and OSX offers systems largely based on HAL from at least a decade so a non x86 CPU is good enough to pose a treat to Intel: never get us struck on a P4-like nightmare or we will have a "new AMD" to force you to update your agenda and roll out decent products when WE need it, not when it is more lucrative for you.

doesn't this just mean that they will put iOS onto laptops.. since the iPad and iPhone already have ARM chips it shouldn't be such a big stretch..

Chris L Combe said,
doesn't this just mean that they will put iOS onto laptops.. since the iPad and iPhone already have ARM chips it shouldn't be such a big stretch..

iOS is pretty much just OSX with a different Cocoa implementation designed for touch screens. I would be surprised if Apple didn't have full desktop versions of OSX compiled and running on ARM chips already, even if they don't even plan to think about moving over for several years yet.

If this is true then this might force Intel to open up the number of companies to license x86 again. Surely if after MS is going to compile Windows 8 on ARM and if the Apple thing pans out then it will be crazy competitive market again. The only thing I'm worried about is how these changes in tech lately are moving toward computers that you cannot change parts out like regular PCs. If the manufactures take over DYI PC building and make everything into a consumer unit ... that would just plain suck. I like upgrading rather than buying an entire new system.

Do you know what this would mean once again? New software and new parts. A company shouldn't be changing it's complete architecture in what 6 years? If they are then they are completely stupid and don't take their users seriously. Maybe Apple's smartest decision would be to not be a hardware company and remove the restraints on OS X and let people decide between OS X and Windows and Linux.

gnuman said,
Do you know what this would mean once again? New software and new parts. A company shouldn't be changing it's complete architecture in what 6 years? If they are then they are completely stupid and don't take their users seriously. Maybe Apple's smartest decision would be to not be a hardware company and remove the restraints on OS X and let people decide between OS X and Windows and Linux.

Yeah, except that all of Apple's money comes from hardware. They don't make Macs to sell OSX, they make OSX to sell macs.

rajputwarrior said,
eff that, intel cpus are the reason gaming has come a long way on OSX, doing this will completely kill that...

I can see Apple doing it if it means significant battery life gains. Imagine thin and light laptops with 10+ hours of battery life.

Right now both the Macbook Air and the iPad 2 both have dual core processors. I don't know how they compare directly but they aren't that far apart in performance I would guess. The iPad 2 gets 10 hours of battery life and the MBA gets 5.

Stetson said,

I can see Apple doing it if it means significant battery life gains. Imagine thin and light laptops with 10+ hours of battery life.

Right now both the Macbook Air and the iPad 2 both have dual core processors. I don't know how they compare directly but they aren't that far apart in performance I would guess. The iPad 2 gets 10 hours of battery life and the MBA gets 5.

The batteries always die, is far better to be plugged, whether we like it or not. we should be migrating to powerpc arquitecture... that's really an improved architecture, just look at cell broadband or at another derivatives of it. ARM indeed it's for low consumption... but I wonder if for high performance.

error404ts said,
Any chance that switching processors will help with intel processors overheating in MBP??

Yes, if this was really happening, changing to a lower power CPU might fix it. But since it's not...

Let's not take some wild speculation from semi-accurate.com and give it too much credit, I'm sure more ARM is in all of our futures, but I'd say it's a little soon to call Intel dead in this space. That said, I'd be interested in a quad core ARM with SSD, that would be one amazing MacBook Air upgrade with (I can't guess how much) battery life to spare.

Brian Miller said,
I just hope it can still run Windows.

With Microsoft adding support for ARM processors in Windows 8, then yes, it will be able to run windows.

simrat said,

With Microsoft adding support for ARM processors in Windows 8, then yes, it will be able to run windows.

The only version it would run would be Windows 8.

People wanting to run XP and such would be screwed. And considering Apples support of Windows 7 in Bootcamp is dire, it doesn't look good, heck, they still show XP and Vista when they brag how it runs Windows on Apple.com

Benjy91 said,

The only version it would run would be Windows 8.

People wanting to run XP and such would be screwed. And considering Apples support of Windows 7 in Bootcamp is dire, it doesn't look good, heck, they still show XP and Vista when they brag how it runs Windows on Apple.com

You don't buy a new computer to run XP, FFS!

The Stark said,

You don't buy a new computer to run XP, FFS!

You're right, you don't buy a new computer to run any OS, you buy a computer do do you work. And if the needs of your work dictares you run XP, then you run XP.

Brian Miller said,

You're right, you don't buy a new computer to run any OS, you buy a computer do do you work. And if the needs of your work dictares you run XP, then you run XP.

By 2013 you'll be able to run XP in a virtual machine faster than any machine on the market could run it natively when it came out.

Stetson said,

By 2013 you'll be able to run XP in a virtual machine faster than any machine on the market could run it natively when it came out.

That's probably true. LOL

Stetson said,

By 2013 you'll be able to run XP in a virtual machine faster than any machine on the market could run it natively when it came out.

Why would you though? That's like people using Windows 98 in a VM today.

kizzaaa said,

Why would you though? That's like people using Windows 98 in a VM today.

Remember, just because you don't know the answer to your question, doesn't mean it's incorrect to run old software. There are plenty of good reasons people do not upgrade.

This rumour definitely helped to bump up ARM's share price. It's good to see a business out of UK's Silicone Valley doing well.

vanx said,
This rumour definitely helped to bump up ARM's share price. It's good to see a business out of UK's Silicone Valley doing well.

*Cambridge

Windows 7 was already shown to be running on AMR processor.. News was posted by Neowin..

Secondly, I agree about the fact of engineering to be needed to make all the software compatibility but then again, more and more competition means better product and lower pricing.. so pls, bring it on !!!

Choto Cheeta said,
Windows 7 was already shown to be running on AMR processor.. News was posted by Neowin..

Secondly, I agree about the fact of engineering to be needed to make all the software compatibility but then again, more and more competition means better product and lower pricing.. so pls, bring it on !!!

MS at least last .NET which is cross platform / architecture... Apple has ..... well they had java... nothing really native that can just go across architectures without major code changes or recompiles or an emulation layer.....

neufuse said,

MS at least last .NET which is cross platform / architecture... Apple has ..... well they had java... nothing really native that can just go across architectures without major code changes or recompiles or an emulation layer.....

.NET is great but many important applications would still need a recompile for Windows ARM.

Apple at least has pretty mature ARM tools, I would imagine that for most Mac apps all that would be required would be a tick of a check box and clicking the compile button.

Stetson said,

.NET is great but many important applications would still need a recompile for Windows ARM.

Apple at least has pretty mature ARM tools, I would imagine that for most Mac apps all that would be required would be a tick of a check box and clicking the compile button.

actually, .NET was designed to not need recompiled, however, some people want to use unmanaged hooks. thats where the problems start..... that's not a .net fault, thats the coder for using unmanaged hooks

neufuse said,

actually, .NET was designed to not need recompiled, however, some people want to use unmanaged hooks. thats where the problems start..... that's not a .net fault, thats the coder for using unmanaged hooks

Not that I like doing it, but some applications require unmanaged code, specially embedded systems, with fewer resources (when you need to have control of object disposal and can't wait on the garbage collector to do its job).

sviola said,

Not that I like doing it, but some applications require unmanaged code, specially embedded systems, with fewer resources (when you need to have control of object disposal and can't wait on the garbage collector to do its job).

You can take control of object disposal without waiting for the GC in managed code as it is... there are ways to do it

neufuse said,

actually, .NET was designed to not need recompiled, however, some people want to use unmanaged hooks. thats where the problems start..... that's not a .net fault, thats the coder for using unmanaged hooks

I meant that there are a lot of important applications that aren't written for .NET.

Being a Semiaccurate report (and from Charlie Demerjian), I wouldn't give much credibility to it.

But then, if this is true, this may mean that OSX may have it's days counted and that Apple will move to iOS on the desktop/laptop front as well, having only one platform for all their devices.

good gawd no.... not another arch to work with on the OSX side.... just stick with one for computers and one for "devices"..... ARM for devices and x86 for "workstations"

would be annoying for developers.... especially its a rosetta stone type situation then you'd have to worry about performance on desktop vs laptop since it was different processors / designs... making coding a nightmare again.... this is why MS made .NET so MSIL can be interperted over any arch that supported .NET framework, but Apple technically doesn't have a intermediate layer in place like that... heck Apple hates intermediate layers if you go by the iPhone / iPad comments jobs made


but then if they move to ARM for laptops, that just screams Apple is wanting to get rid of normal operating systems... and go with iOS type stuff for laptops too, as this probably would come from the iOS branch of the OS code not the OSX branch

Actually, if true, expect Apple to move ALL devices to ARM. It is, after all, why ARM is inventing a desktop grade CPU after all...

sanctified said,
This will lead to segmentation. Apple hates that.

Actually, I'm sure Apple's idea is to migrate it's PCs and consumer electronics products (re: iPad) to the same codebase as they have already stated they will be doing by combining OS X and iOS.

If anyone wants to confirm/debunk this, look there...

I see. So they do hate segmentation, so they will merge all their products codebase. But I wonder. Why dont use an intel solution in their mobile devices then?

Maybe it's because their mobile department is the one bringing the bucks to the house.

sanctified said,
I see. So they do hate segmentation, so they will merge all their products codebase. But I wonder. Why dont use an intel solution in their mobile devices then?

Maybe it's because their mobile department is the one bringing the bucks to the house.

Because Intel's low-power high performance solution smells bad and that doesn't look to change soon.

Just check specs for Cortex-A15 ARM, up to 4 cores each up to 2.5Ghz. They even have section on servers. This could definitely replace my desktop. Windows 8 and Linux (even Ubuntu release special version) is fully supported. I have been waiting for years. Welcome back RISC.

david13lt said,
Just check specs for Cortex-A15 ARM, up to 4 cores each up to 2.5Ghz. They even have section on servers. This could definitely replace my desktop. Windows 8 and Linux (even Ubuntu release special version) is fully supported. I have been waiting for years. Welcome back RISC.

Not defending Intel, but people seem to consider that Intel's offering won't improve both in performance and power.

sviola said,

Not defending Intel, but people seem to consider that Intel's offering won't improve both in performance and power.

They haven't really shown or promised much in the way of high performance for mobile devices with low power consumption as far as I know. Atom was supposed to target that segment but it doesn't seem to be competing with these newer ARM chips.

Stetson said,

They haven't really shown or promised much in the way of high performance for mobile devices with low power consumption as far as I know. Atom was supposed to target that segment but it doesn't seem to be competing with these newer ARM chips.

I know, but their new transistor technology is really good, and they should be getting around 37% more performance than current offerings and around 50% less power usage.

david13lt said,
Welcome back RISC.

So what you are unfortunate saying is that ARM is the next PowerPC of the traditional market. You would think the same thing if one takes a look at the announcements by Microsoft as well. It does fit. It is pretty easy to cross compile and the future in the clouds as to the flexibility of actually being platform agnostic.

The one flaw in this is Intel. They always seem to bounce back, and everyone goes back to them as quickly as they abandon them (mostly in industry news). Two scenarios come to mind. In practically, neither of the scenarios below ever really happened. AMD differently was the much more successful of the two (it just counting the traditional PPC processor) but it still didn't do much to unseat Intel as the master of its domain.

The first was the movement by many to come up with CHRP by IBM and Apple with the belief that Micrsosoft and others would come on board. It never happened. Intel seemed to have corrected the errors it made in the original Pentium. This was followed by essentially a different approach with the P6, which was kind of a blind of CISC and RISC. By no means the first time this had been attempted but no one had the facilities to mass produce the Pentium Pro and Pentium II did like Intel.

The second recent venture was a completely different scenario. It was Intel essentially defending its problem which pitted it against what was then a better product (Pentium IV Vs Athlon). This was not really solved until the Pentium M and to a greater extent, the Core 2 Duo were released.

My point being, is that somehow they always seem to pull out a well planned and computed miracle when they are in the 11th hour. I fully expect an Atom processor that literally wipes the floor with ARM or a ULV Core processor that is actually really powerful.

As if stands today, however, the idea that Intel can compete with ARM at the phone, tablet, netbook and many, many core low watt server is merely a dream. I somehow doubt it will be for long.