Apple Seriously Considered Switching to AMD in 2011 MacBook Air

amd fusion logoIn an upcoming profile of AMD, Forbes reports that the company's Llano family of Fusion combination CPU-GPU systems was under consideration by Apple to be used as the brains behind the MacBook Air for its 2011 revision. AMD lost out to Intel, however, as the necessary parts were late in being delivered to Apple and had unacceptably high failure rates.

AMD struggled with its new fabless model while trying to crank out “fusion” processors that combined a CPU and a GPU in a single part. On paper the idea was promising. A notebook processor dubbed “Llano” got a close look from Apple for an update to the ultralight MacBook Air, scheduled for launch in mid-2011.

But AMD couldn’t get early working samples of Llano to Apple on time, one former employee says. Several former AMD employees disagree on just how close AMD came. “We had it,” one says. But too many of the Llano parts were faulty. AMD lost the deal.

The company reportedly also pitched Apple on using its Brazos family of Fusion systems in the Apple TV, but Apple proved to be uninterested in the proposal.

Forbes' Brian Caulfield has more on AMD's efforts to lure Apple in a separate article in which he talks further about yield issues on the Fusion chips planned for the MacBook Air.

The claim echoes a November report from SemiAccurate alleging that AMD's Fusion platform was Apple's "Plan A" for the 2011 MacBook Air and that such machines were "on the verge of production" before Apple ultimately decided to stick with Intel.

Apple had been struggling with chip options in its small portables for several years as licensing issues prevented graphics companies such as NVIDIA from developing integrated graphics solutions for Intel's latest processors. With Apple being forced to choose between slower Core 2 Duo processors paired with fast NVIDIA graphics and faster Intel Core i-series processors hampered by slow integrated graphics from Intel, Apple opted to continue using the aging Core 2 Duo processors for much longer than it would have otherwise liked.

Improvements in Intel's integrated graphics did allow Apple to transition to significantly improved Core i5 and i7 processor in the current generation of MacBook Air models, but it seems that Apple was also weighing AMD's offerings as it sought to work its way out of the constraints of Intel's graphics issues.

Related Roundup: MacBook Air
Tag: Forbes
Buyer's Guide: MacBook Air (Neutral)
Related Forum: MacBook Air

Top Rated Comments

Inakto Avatar
143 months ago
if it works better fine by me. AMD is underrated.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
KylePowers Avatar
143 months ago
While there's probably some truth to how Apple tested AMD chips in MBAs and whatnot, I doubt they were even really considering it. Why? Thunderbolt.

They advertised Thunderbolt heavily with the MBP and iMac months before the MBA launched. So why would they produce a line of computers that weren't compatible? That couldn't use the iMac's target display mode? That wouldn't work with a TBD?

So unless AMD had a related technology, I'm guessing we would have seen it come with the MBP and iMac first, long before the MBA.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DESNOS Avatar
143 months ago
AMD's CPUs are horrible... I thought Apple cared about power usage. Intel has done quite a bit of work on that, plus, AMD's implementation of Turboboost is pretty bad...
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wikus Avatar
143 months ago
Because that'd be 5 billions wasted! Why would a company that takes pride in making top-notch product be interested in a joke of a company. If it's not for ATI, Apple would have never given AMD the light of day.

The only joke here is making such ignorant statements.

You do realize AMD is the only company giving Intel a run for its money and ultimately pumping out better processors at a lower price. I suppose you'd prefer for them to be wiped out and have only one manufacturer, slow progress and innovation and prices set to whatever Intel liked them to be?
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LachlanH Avatar
143 months ago
Back in the early 2000's AMD would have been an excellent choice. Intel CPU's used to run crazy hot and yet somehow managed to deliver less performance that AMD CPU's running at 2/3 the clock speed.

This has all changed in the last 4 years or so.

As someone who loved AMD CPU's from about 2000-2008, I would never choose one today over Intel's Sandy Bridge line of CPU's.

There is just no escaping that fact that Intel is currently producing the superior processors at the moment, and while they continue to do so, AMD is a poor choice in my opinion.

Graphics wise yes it does muddy up the issue somewhat, but we are talking about Macbook Air's here, is graphics performance even worth discussing?
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ThisIsNotMe Avatar
143 months ago
Not AMD please!

Who gives a **** what processor(s) Apple uses in its products as long as they deliver performance increases over previous models and preserve the user experience.

If Apple could put a Pentium 2 in a MacBook Air and was (somehow) able to deliver comparable or better performance, it wouldn't stop me from buying a new MacBook Air.

I really don't get why people get so hung up on 'specs' and don't focus on usability.

Apple isn't going to release a notebook that has a processor that doesn't work to its standards.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 16

iOS 16.3 Now Available for Your iPhone With These 4 New Features

Friday February 3, 2023 1:13 pm PST by
Apple released iOS 16.3 in late January following nearly six weeks of beta testing. The software update is available for the iPhone 8 and newer, and while it is a relatively minor update, it still includes a handful of new features, changes, and bug fixes. Below, we've recapped new features in iOS 16.3, including support for physical security keys as a two-factor authentication option for...
HomePod 2 White and Midnight Feature Purple Blue

Apple Explains Why HomePod Was Released Again, Wi-Fi 4 Limitation, and More

Thursday February 2, 2023 7:57 am PST by
Apple's VP of hardware engineering Matthew Costello and product marketing employee Alice Chan recently spoke with Men's Journal and TechCrunch about the new second-generation HomePod in wide-ranging interviews about the smart speaker. Apple discontinued the original full-size HomePod in March 2021 after multiple reports indicated that sales of the speaker were lackluster, but Chan told Men's ...
Apple Silicon Teal Feature

The Next Big Apple Silicon Device May Not Be a Mac or iPad

Wednesday February 1, 2023 3:57 am PST by
Apple's next device with an Apple silicon chip may not be a Mac or an iPad, but rather an advanced external display, according to recent reports. The display, which is rumored to arrive this year, is expected to sit somewhere between the $1,599 Studio Display and the $4,999 Pro Display XDR – but more exact information about the device's positioning and price point is as yet unknown. While ...
iOS 16

Apple Preparing iOS 16.3.1 Update for iPhone as Wait for iOS 16.4 Beta Continues

Thursday February 2, 2023 6:41 am PST by
Apple appears to be preparing an iOS 16.3.1 update for the iPhone, based on evidence of the software in our website's analytics logs this week. It's unclear when the update will be released, but it will likely be available at some point in February. The same logs have accurately foreshadowed the release of several previous updates, including iOS 16.0.3 and iOS 16.1.1 most recently, so they...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

Five New iOS Features Coming to Your iPhone Later This Year

Tuesday January 31, 2023 11:58 am PST by
Apple has previously announced several upcoming iOS features that are expected to be added to the iPhone this year. Some of the features could be introduced with iOS 16.4, which should enter beta testing soon, while others will arrive later in the year. Below, we have recapped five new iOS features that are expected to launch in 2023, such as an Apple Pay Later financing option for purchases ...
Apple Pay Later Quick Green Feature

Apple Pay Later Launching 'Soon'

Thursday February 2, 2023 2:10 pm PST by
The Apple Pay Later service that Apple has in the works is set to launch "soon," Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC ahead of today's earnings call for the first fiscal quarter of 2023. Cook said that Apple employees are beta testing the Apple Pay Later feature, which will help Apple boost services revenue. "It will be launching soon," Cook said. Apple Pay Later was first previewed at the...
webkit vs chromium feature

Google Working on Browser for iOS That Would Break Apple's App Store Rules

Saturday February 4, 2023 1:30 am PST by
Google's Chromium developers are working on an experimental web browser for iOS that would break Apple's browser engine restrictions, The Register reports. The experimental browser, which is being actively pursued by developers, uses Google's Blink engine. Yet if Google attempted to release it on the App Store, it would not pass Apple's App Review process. Apple's App Store rules dictate...