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Apple reportedly planning to switch MacBooks to ARM

by Scott Bicheno on 6 May 2011, 17:34

Tags: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), ARM

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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.


HEXUS Forums :: 28 Comments

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I really can't see this happening. Maybe if they produce a Netbook like an iPad with a built in keyboard. Having to have devs producing code for the same apps for both ARM and x86 just won't work, and R+D your own custom hardware for desktops is probably cost prohibitive.
Having apps work on both architectures really isn't a massive amount of work. Where did people get this idea in the first place? :\

Look at NetBSD, they run on more architectures than you can shake a stick at, and that's developed by a small number of ragtag developers.
I doubt it, the only reasons to do so are cost and battery life, loads of people buy macbooks anyway no matter the price and the battery life is pretty good anyway so there's hardly any point.
I doubt it, the only reasons to do so are cost and battery life, loads of people buy macbooks anyway no matter the price and the battery life is pretty good anyway so there's hardly any point.
And what if you change the battery life from hours to days? It'd be pretty nice to not have to keep the laptop permanently tethered to a wall socket unless you really need to move it.
I'd give a bit of credence to this speculation, HP already announced at the beginning of the year that it would integrate the Palm Web OS into its desktop/laptop products in the near future. That's a big tech industry player. Not to mention Googles' Chrome OS (whenever that's coming?) which adds another proposition to OEMs. HP announcement might have also led/give more credibility to Microsoft coding for the ARM architecture on its next OS. So given these facts it's not hard to assume Apple would want to switch to ARM. Could we even see a relationship whereby we have an Apple designed, ARM based chip fabricated by Intel (with some of it's ancillary technologies like thunderbolt). Win-Win?!