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Apple's Potential Shift from Intel to ARM for Macs Not Implausible, But Faces Hurdles

Following up on yesterday's report from Bloomberg that has rekindled discussion of Apple potentially making a switch from Intel's processors to custom ARM-based chips for its Mac lines, AllThingsD takes a closer look at the landscape to analyze the benefits and challenges of such a move.


The report contrasts Intel's focus on performance with ARM's focus on power efficiency and notes that there is no inherent reason why Apple couldn't push ARM technology more toward the performance end of the spectrum to make the chips more suitable for desktops and notebooks.
If a company decided it wanted to design an ARM chip that was, as [analyst Nathan] Brookwood put it, “hell-bent on performance,” it could be done. “You could get a pretty fast machine,” he says.

Trouble is, it would have to be not only be fast, but have a really excellent roadmap lasting well into the future that not only met but exceeded that of Intel. That’s a tall, tall order.
The report points to ARM's just-announced 64-bit processor designs as being key to any move into the Mac, and notes that Russian company Elbrus Technologies has developed a Rosetta-like emulation technology that could allow ARM chips to run software written for Intel processors.

On the flip side, Intel has a long track record of being at the forefront of processor performance and a strong history with Apple since the company's Mac lines transitioned from PowerPC chips seven years ago. As a result, any decision to switch from Intel to ARM obviously can not be made lightly, and Apple is clearly taking an extended timeframe to examine the possibility. But with Bob Mansfield now heading up a division of Apple dedicated new technologies in wireless and semiconductors, it seems that there may be a renewed focus on pushing the boundaries of the ARM platform even further.

Top Rated Comments

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28 months ago
Apple is just playing it smart. I'd be surprised if Apple WASN'T considering other options. They'd be fools to just blindly use Intel without any backup plans.
Rating: 23 Votes
28 months ago
Biggest hurdle will be, that nobody will buy those products.

p.s. If they already have a roadmap for the switch, I hope they used "Google maps" at least.
Rating: 16 Votes
28 months ago
"The new ARM-based Mac Pro. For the pro in all of us"...
Rating: 14 Votes
28 months ago

I would believe:
Intel -> Apple custom silicon

A lot more than:
Intel -> ARM

But I'm sure Apple have both options up and running in their lab.


Apple's custom silicon is based on ARM design (A5). Even the A6 so doesn't mean they can't build on ARM's offerings.
Rating: 11 Votes
28 months ago
Wow, now we have something to digest and debate well into 2014...
Rating: 10 Votes
28 months ago

What? Did they have a fight with intel now? lol just kidding. But seriously why run the hurdle race when intel has a good product?

[url=http://www.picgifs.com/sport-graphics/sport-graphics/hurdle-race/sport-graphics-hurdle-race-029260.gif]Image (http://www.picgifs.com/sport-graphics/)[/url]


Cause if there is a hurdle in the future they won't have the years to design a solution. They'll have to already spent the years making the solution. Ie better to have a solution you never have to use then get caught with your pants down and no immediate solution.
Rating: 9 Votes
28 months ago
Bad choice.
Rating: 9 Votes
28 months ago
Good luck competing with Intel. As it stands right now, if someone hit the big pause button on Intel, it will still take multiple years for ARM to design and its partners to mass manufacture something that competes fair and square with Ivy Bridge. If Apple stuffs an underperforming ARM chip in MacBook Air and gives people better battery life - they are going to have a hard time telling people what they need the iPad and the Air for.

And Intel isn't going to sit still - they would rather they eat ARM's lunch by releasing a power efficient x86 SoC that obliterates ARM's performance at comparable power draw. They are already doing quite OK with the Atom SoC in the RAZR i.
Rating: 9 Votes
28 months ago

What? Did they have a fight with intel now? lol just kidding. But seriously why run the hurdle race when intel has a good product?

[url=http://www.picgifs.com/sport-graphics/sport-graphics/hurdle-race/sport-graphics-hurdle-race-029260.gif]Image (http://www.picgifs.com/sport-graphics/)[/url]


Because they have to keep their options open. Intel's doing great right now but that might not always be the case - the Pentium 4 was an atrocious processor and AMD trumped them in almost every way. These days AMD isn't really much of a contender due to comparatively lacklustre performance. If Intel missteps and spends another 5 years pushing a poor processor, Apple might do well to use a different technology.
Rating: 8 Votes
28 months ago

If they already have a roadmap for the switch, I hope they used "Google maps" at least.


Rating: 7 Votes

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