Apple Exploring Ways to Replace Intel’s Chips Inside Macintosh PCs with Own Designs

Apple Develops High-Performance ARM Microprocessor to Substitute Intel’s Chips

by Anton Shilov
11/05/2012 | 10:57 PM



Apple has successfully replaced system-on-chips developed by Samsung Electronics inside its mobile devices with its own processors and is currently working on high-performance ARM architecture microprocessors to cease using Intel Corp.’s chips inside its Macintosh personal computers, according to a report.

Apple engineers have grown confident that the ARM architectures used for microprocessors that power mobile devices, such as smartphones and media tablets, will one day be powerful enough to run its desktops and laptops, said three people with knowledge of the work, reports Bloomberg news-agency. Since 2006, Apple has been using Intel’s x86 processors to power Mac PCs. Before that, Apple utilized IBM and Motorola chips with Power architecture for over a decade.

While ARM architecture is generally optimized for low power consumption, not high performance, in the recent years many chip designers initiated development of server-class ARM chips, which are supposed to work faster than mobile SoCs. For example, Nvidia Corp. is working on a high-end code-named Boulder chips that is projected to be competitive against AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon central processing units. A chip with similar characteristics could be enough to run a Mac desktop or laptop.

One of the problems with transition from one processor architecture to another is incompatibility with software. For example, programs developed for Mac OS X and x86 chips will not work on Mac OS X and ARM chips.

Another problem with attempt to substitute Intel’s chips with own designs is potential inability to keep up with performance increase pace set by the world’s largest chipmaker, which would lower appeal of Apple’s computer platform compared to Windows-based solutions. In fact, Apple’s Macs started to rapidly gain popularity among consumers only after the company started to use Intel’s x86 chips in 2006.

Apple did not comment on the news-story.