Today we’re blessed with what is usually the latest and greatest chips from Intel and no one complains about how pokey the Mac is. Apple surprised the world by going to Intel. Could Apple surprise Intel and stick an AMD chip inside? Or, perhaps load up the Mac with a custom designed ARM CPU?
Is Intel Inside Outside?
Apple spent hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase in-house chip design capability. It’s been four years since P.A. Semi became part of Apple.
The fruitage since then has been a string of custom chip designs for iPhone and iPad which are based on ARM technology.
These Apple enhanced chips feature lower power requirements and faster graphics than typical off-the-shelf CPUs.
In marketing, differentiation is considered key and highly valued. Apple differentiates the Mac from typical Windows PC notebooks by a clever case design and OS X. Intel’s Ultrabook specification seems to mimic Apple’s success with the MacBook Air.
Could Apple be working on a project to dump Intel Inside and move to a different chip platform to further differentiate the Mac from PCs?
It’s possible, if not probable, that Apple has a skunkworks project going on which has OS X running on either AMD CPUs or ARM CPUs, though I suspect the latter. Still, a switch from Intel to, say, ARM is a mammoth effort for what might prove to be nominal performance gains for Mac users.
Apple already sells more devices with custom ARM CPUs than Macs. The iPhone and iPad are based upon OS X, which is the core of the Mac. What would Apple gain by moving to an in-house, custom designed CPU architecture based upon ARM?
There are a number of considerations which Apple must weigh. The future of the Mac. The ability of an ARM-based CPU to outperform similar offerings from Intel. Graphics performance. Cost and control.
By switching to ARM, Apple might gain control over customized capabilities, but is still dependent upon others to manufacture, just as it is with Intel.
Apple has a strong history of doing what others cannot do well. They switched the Mac from Motorola’s old architecture to the faster PowerPCs back in the 1990s. They switched from PowerPC to Intel in 2005. If Apple thinks the future is ARM and not Intel, and they can exercise more control of CPU design, it should surprise no one to see an ARM Inside a future Mac.