Apple Moving Macs from Intel to ARM Processors?

May 6, 2011 - 17 Comments

Apple ARM Processor

Apple may be looking to move their laptop lineup from Intel processors to ARM CPU’s sometime in the next few years. According to a report on SemiAccurate, the move away from Intel is a “done deal” and that the transition to ARM processors will likely happen to Apple’s desktop lineup as well. ARM processors currently power Apple’s iOS lineup including the iPhone and iPad, while Intel processors power all existing Macs.

SemiAccurate (maybe that name is telling?) who claims to have sources with knowledge of the matter, seems absolutely certain of the move:

So short story, x86 is history on Apple laptops, or will be in 2-3 years. In any case, it is a done deal, Intel is out, and Apple chips are in. The only question left is if they will use their own core, a Samsung core, or the generic ARM black box.

They also say that waiting 2-3 years is enough time for ARM to develop higher end chips with full 64 bit support. MacRumors further notes that Apple has made heavy investments in ARM architecture, acquiring several companies to move the processor design in-house and completely under their control.

This rumor has caused quite an outrage on the Mac web, since ARM CPU’s are perceived as significantly less powerful than Intel CPU’s, although waiting a few years may be enough time for processing power to catch up. While the move may seem farfetched, it’s entirely possible considering Apple transitioned from IBM CPU’s to Intel CPU’s which caused similar disbelief and frustration, but ultimately results in more powerful Macs.

The idea of ARM processors coming to Mac hardware has also reignited the theory of iOS and Mac OS X merging down the road, as several Apple patents originally suggested such hybrid machines are in the works (touch Mac, iMac touch runs Mac OS & iOS, MacBook touch, etc). The basic idea is a single OS that transitions between an easy interface, perhaps how LaunchPad in Lion resembles the iOS switchboard, that is intended for most users, while power users would have access to a more advanced interface for things like app development and system administration.

Remember, this is all rumor, theory, and conjecture, so until you see an announcement from Apple, nothing is guaranteed.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac, News


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  1. Chris says:

    Yes, and yes again.

    I’m waiting for thar since 2005. The real Mac will be back. Apple must stop using energy hungry and poorly designed Intel processors.
    ARM are faster than you think guys. And if Apple was still on PowerPC processors we would be able to use faster machine for 1/10th of the energy consommation. Apple can do the same (or even better) with in house designed ARM processors.

    Go on guys, and bring us these wonderfull machines as soon as possible.

  2. […] quad-core chip could be coming to the MacBook Air (earlier rumors suggest a move away from Intel is […]

  3. Mauri says:

    It seems everyone here just thinks about current arm models and core counts.

    It has been proven that multiplying processing power is much easier in Arm processors than in x86-processors at the moment.

    Even if Arm will only make 8 times more powerfull processors in 3 years time (doubling processing power per year) it’s almost in-par with current offerings (A5 isn’t ARM A15 processor).

    With this kind of chip (and still low power offering) Apple could use same chip in whole line-up 1 chip in IPhone 7(?), 2-4 chips in Mac Air…. up to 16-32 chips in MAc Pro.

    Considering possible iOs and OSX merge it would be quite good pairing actually.

  4. Mike says:

    Well the ARM processors were originally created for desktop computers by Acorn (a British computer company) who installed ARM processors into their line of desktop computers (Acorn Archimedes). The ARM then became very popular for mobile devices because of the low power consumption.

    As they’ve been used for desktops before, I don’t think its too unlikely it’ll happen again.

    We used to use Acorn Archimedes at school in the early/mid 1990s and they were pretty good machines. They were quite fast and the OS was all built into the ROM just like mobile devices.

  5. Trench says:

    I doubt it’s true, but if it is, I’m going back to PC. It’s easy enough to wipe windows and start fresh with Linux.

  6. Stewart says:

    Actually I thought the rumor was that Apple was going to get Intel to create the A6 CPU.

  7. Stewart says:

    In my opinion this is hype dream up by the Android / Google crowd that hate Apple because of iPhone and iPad.

    ARM on Mac OS has a couple of problems

    1. Boot camp is out the Windows.
    2. Performance on ARM is not up to par with Intel cpus – maybe the Atom and that is even debatable. But surely not the i7 series
    3. Microsoft Windows 8 interest for ARM is likely primary for low power tablets.
    4. Compatibility issues with client code running on cpu – could be issue.

    Personally I would prefer Intel to come out with a low-power x86 cpu that would compete with ARM so one day Apple could come out with iMacPad which would basically like a MacBook AIR running on iPad form factor.

  8. JMH says:

    Won’t happen: the investment in the partnership with Intel is far too valuable for either company to walk away from. Apple’s move to x86 processors saved the company, reinvigorated competition (vs. Microsoft), and contributing factor in the increase of Apple’s market share. If ARM is 2-3 years (minimum) of building a 64 processor capable of handling today’s computing needs, then ARM is well behind the ball. By then we should be using 128 bit operating systems and processors.

  9. […] a related note, these benchmarks are exactly why I hope the rumor of Apple moving to ARM processors for the Mac is false. stLight.options({ publisher:'fe5e0a84-1fac-40de-8014-9f89fc1cbe6a' […]

  10. smakus says:

    You guys are silly. Stop speading this FUD. Intel and Apple are locked in until 2015.

  11. INTC & ARM.L says:

    You guys are all gullible as f**k, this is nothing but classic stock price manipulation. INTC dropped 1.6% on this “news” and ARM jumped 5%. The “report” is coming from a guy who used to write for a f**king tabloid known as The Inquirer. SemiAccurate should get a SemiVisit from the SEC for blatant market manipulation, what a f**king idiot.

  12. Ian says:

    Oy vey. I wouldn’t put it past Apple, but Apple is also keenly aware that they serve the creative market, and there will always need to be machines for developers. They’re not going to make this move if it will hurt their power users, so maybe Intel will stay in Pro machines while the User models get ARM. On the bright side, ARM is low power and would substantially raise battery life.

  13. Thank God for Linux says:

    Sounds like a very Apple move to me. In-house processor designs gives them further control plus even greater profit margins on hardware. All future Macs will be running some dumbed down Mac iOS boreware anyway which will be more than enough for the average goober user. Things will feel ‘snappy’ just like they do on the iPad 2 as long as you dont actually try to *USE* the device for *REAL WORK*, but again for average MacGoober that is more than enough power to send an email to Grandma.

    Time to move back to Linux when it happens.

  14. Sean says:

    ARM will have to get a LOT more powerful or this is going to be terrible.

    Look at GeekBench scores for the dual core A5 in the iPad 2, it’s 900 MHz and it scores only 900 in Geekbench, which is about the same speed as an 800 MHz PowerPC G4! In other words, SLOOOOW. Then compare that to the new MacBook Pro i7 which scores 10,000+ in GeekBench, or the Mac Pro which scores 22,000 in Geekbench. These chips aren’t even in the same league!

    Don’t do it Apple, don’t do it!

  15. David Burnett says:

    So… would this mean Bootcamp is history?

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