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Pegatron Tipped to Manufacture Upcoming 'ARM-Based MacBook'
Pegatron is likely to land orders from Apple to produce an ARM-based MacBook model, codenamed Star with a series number N84, according to industry sources.
Pegatron declined to comment on what it called market speculations.
The rumor accompanies news of declining net profits of nearly 50 percent in the first quarter of 2018 for Taiwan-based Pegatron, which expects to get growth back on track in the third quarter, "in line with the peak season", implying that the new MacBook model could factor into these predictions. DigiTimes' sources often provide reliable information, but the site has a mixed track record when it comes to interpreting that information and accurately deciphering Apple's plans, although 9to5Mac has also reported that Apple’s so-called "Star" project could be an ARM-based MacBook.
DigiTimes first claimed in January that Apple would release a new entry-level 13-inch MacBook this year, due in the second half of 2018, which would serve as a replacement for the MacBook Air. Two months later, then-KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issued a research note claiming Apple has a "more affordable MacBook Air" set to be released at some point in 2018.
Kuo didn't offer any details on what to expect in an updated MacBook Air beyond a lower price tag, but DigiTimes believes Apple could upgrade the MacBook Air with a Retina display, which led to questions over whether the machine will be an updated MacBook Air or a lower-cost MacBook. However, today's report is the first time ARM-based architecture has been suggest for the upcoming model.
Speculation that Apple eventually plans to design Macs powered by ARM-based processors has been rumored for some time. A report in September claimed that Apple would build its notebook chips using ARM Holding's technology, a British company that designs ARM architecture and licenses it out to other companies.
The rationale behind the idea is that developing in-house ARM notebook chips would allow Apple to reduce its dependence on Intel. ARM processors also require less power and fewer transistors, enabling a smaller die size for the integrated circuitry – two reasons why they can be found in iPhones and iPads.
However, it's possible the rumor about ARM chips in Macs has been spun out of context: the Touch Bar on Apple's latest MacBook Pro is already powered by an ARM-based T1 chip as a companion processor, suggesting this could be the actual origin of ARM-based rumors. Indeed, Apple said last year that it had no plans for Macs powered solely by ARM chips, rather than Intel processors.
Where that leaves the latest rumor regarding a new MacBook model remains unclear. The introduction of the Touch Bar has received a lukewarm reception among users and is only available as a premium feature on high-tier MacBook Pro models. Confounding matters further, well-connected Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman has suggested the "N84" series number actually identifies Apple's upcoming low-cost LCD iPhone.
Taiwanese site Economic Daily News recently claimed Apple is working on a more affordable version of the MacBook Air with a price point of $799 to $899, while Bloomberg claims Apple is working on a new MacBook that costs under $1,000, but it still isn't clear whether it's in the MacBook Air family or a new sub-$1,000 machine in the MacBook line.
The current MacBook Air models haven't seen any substantial updates in three years. Since that time, Apple has discontinued the 11-inch model, while the only recent upgrade to the 13-inch model has been a bump to the base processor option last June, but it's still a Broadwell chip from the 2014–15 timeframe.