When Apple switched from PowerPC to Intel Inside back in 2005 I was as surprised as any. Yes, I debated the CISC vs. RISC architecture since the last century, but the Mac was getting crushed by Intel’s advancements so Apple jumped ship.
Intel Inside has been good for the Mac. It put Apple’s then flagship product on at least even footing with Windows PCs of the era, and once the switch was made and applications came on board, the Mac remained a Mac and the most flexible PC you could buy.
The Mac from the past decade or so has had the ability to run just about everything– OS X and macOS, Windows, various flavors of Linux and Unix– all at the same time if that was a requirement. The Mac has sold at record levels for few years now but there are clouds on the horizon.
Intel, something of a savior for the Mac, is now in the way of progress. Intel’s roadmap for performance CPUs that also sip power just hasn’t cut the mustard. Meanwhile, Apple bought a chip design company, stayed in bed with ARM, and designed its own high power, low cost, battery sipping CPUs in the A-Series that powers all iPhones and iPads these days. Even Apple Watch is an Apple chip design.
Today’s iPhone X, iPhone 8 line, and iPad Pro models feature A-Series chips as powerful– at least in benchmarks– as entry-level and mid-range chips that power the MacBook and MacBook Pro line. The folks at Mac360 have speculated for a few years that Apple might consider a Mac with an Apple designed ARM-based A-Series CPU inside, and Bloomberg says it’s on the way.
The initiative, code named Kalamata, is still in the early developmental stages, but comes as part of a larger strategy to make all of Apple’s devices — including Macs, iPhones, and iPads — work more similarly and seamlessly together
There is more to this initiative that meets the eye. Apple is said to be working on a way to run iOS applications within macOS, and make the process easier for app developers to create applications that work everywhere.
That’s a bit scary based upon the history of Windows Everywhere and Java, but Apple tends to pull of such major changes better than competitors.
The shift would be a blow to Intel, whose partnership helped revive Apple’s Mac success and linked the chipmaker to one of the leading brands in electronics. Apple provides Intel with about 5 percent of its annual revenue
The implication there is that Intel would be outside while Apple’s chip designs would be inside. That is not likely to happen in a year or three, especially at the high end with the new iMac Pro and the upcoming Mac Pro. Apple has not shown the capability to design such powerful chips, but that also remains a mostly niche market for the Mac maker.
Could a change from Intel Inside to Intel Outside take place? Yes. Will it take place? That’s still speculation. Intel has competition, even in the PC arena, but so far has not made much of an impact where it matters– mobile devices.
Intel chips remain some of the only major processor components designed by others inside Apple’s product portfolio. Currently, all iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and Apple TVs use main processors designed by Apple and based on [ARM] technology
Apple designs its own chips, designs displays to its own specifications, and likely batteries and other components. The company does not manufacture the chips inside iPhone and iPad, farming that out to third parties.
Still, changes are coming. What I would like to see is an entry-level Mac sans Intel Inside– a Mac notebook with a touch screen at a price point more competitive with lower priced Windows PCs. Why would Apple do this? Control. Intel’s roadmap is more akin to a snail than a technology company. Apple’s own chip design division is on a roll with hit after hit. Intel Outside would signal a sea change for many technology leaders because it signals that Apple is serious about controlling its own destiny.
Apple Inside? It’s coming. When and how is unknown.