The plot thickens
A rumour published on SemiAccurate is getting a fair bit of traction today, partly due to the author and partly the seismic implications if true.
Charlie Demerjian made his name at the Inquirer, where he focused on PC chip companies and got his fair share of scoops. Yesterday he published a story entitled ‘Apple dumps Intel from laptop lines', which by itself is intriguing, but Demerjian isn't suggesting Apple's going to switch to AMD, rather to ARM-based chips.
The source of the rumour isn't revealed, and this could well be blind speculation, but the author asks us to consider the track record of him and his sources which, to be fair, isn't bad.
The story certainly couldn't have come at a more intriguing time, with Intel looking set to make a renewed push at the mobile market with its 22nm chips, and IDC predicting 13 percent of PCs will contain ARM chips by 2015. We confirmed with IDC that this means actual PCs, as opposed to tablets, and you can read what ARM's CMO thinks about it all here.
Demerjian and his sources reckon Apple wants to switch to ARM chips for its PCs as soon as possible, but that will probably mean mid-2013 at the earliest. This move is given as the reason why Apple is supposedly looking for more fab capacity from the likes of TSMC and GlobalFoundries, which gave fuel to the Intel fabbing rumour.
Apple clearly has the capability to make its own chips, as evidenced by the A4 and A5, but right now there are few examples of ARM-based chips being powerful enough to run anything larger than a tablet. Having said that, if you can support a ten inch screen, why not a 15 inch one? The other big question concerns MacOS, but if anyone can manage the transition to a new instruction set it's Apple, with its closed hardware and software ecosystem.
Analysts seem to be taking this report seriously, despite the anonymity of its sources. Barrons reports on one analyst saying there's a ‘reasonable possibility' this report is accurate (or at least semi - Ed), but that they don't expect other x86 OEMs to follow suit. Either way, it adds to the intrigue surrounding Intel and ARM's attempts to move into each other's comfort zones.