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Apple not likely to ditch Intel chips for Macs in near future

Loyd Case | Nov. 8, 2012
There’s a certain sense to recent rumors that Apple may trade the Intel chips in its Macs for the company’s own processors. Apple is, after all, the poster child of a company that wants to control its own destiny: It makes its own hardware and software, and is a proponent of the “walled garden” ecosystem exemplified by its iTunes Store and App Store. Even more recently, Apple has taken deeper control of its processor design; the iPhone 5’s A6 chip uses Apple’s own custom ARM-based design, rather than taking a standard ARM core and just dropping it in, as the company has with past iOS devices.

Unpredictable Apple

Still, Apple is nothing if not unpredictable. If we assume for a moment that Apple is really relentless about completely controlling its hardware chain, the company has more than one way to make that happen.

It could move to ARM by the time the 64-bit core hits the streets; thats certainly feasible. But if so, it probably wont happen in the next generation of MacBooks or iMacs. Apple could also design its own 64-bit ARM core for Mac. As mentioned above, the company already did something similar with the A6 used in the iPhone 5. Finally, Apple could always let the Mac product line slowly wither away.

This last item seems more likely. Apple could continue with Intel as long as the Mac line is alive. Meanwhile, it could gradually scale up its iPads to be more powerful and more flexible. Once theyre powerful enough for the kind of pro graphics applications that run on desktop Macs, then the writing could be on the wall.

Or, Apple could keep shipping Intel-based Macs that are on the higher end of the performance spectrum, while also building a low-cost, ARM-based laptop that relies on iCloud for most of its services and storage, much the way Google is trying to do with Chromebooks. That way, it could test the waters for ARM-based Macs, and if unsuccessful, quietly move away from them.

But dont expect any of this soon. Next years iMacs and MacBooks will almost certainly sport Intel CPUs. In the end, Apple still needs to ship products that serve its users needs, so replacing all of its desktops and laptops with systems running on ARM CPUs is unlikely in the short term. Beyond that, is anyones guesswell, anyone who doesnt work at Apple, at least.


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