Apple may eventually move away from Intel in favor of in-house CPUs

By on November 6, 2012, 7:30 AM

Rumor has it that Apple is looking to move away from Intel processors in future revisions of their Mac computers. The tech giant reportedly wants to adopt custom processors like those used in the iPhone and iPad for future models according to people familiar with the subject as reported by Bloomberg.

Researchers are apparently confident enough in their designs that they believe they’ll be able to power full-sized computers at some point. A change is unlikely to occur anytime soon but some engineers say it will happen eventually as mobile devices continue to do more tasks traditionally reserved for the PC.

Later rather than sooner has to be good news for Intel. Such a move would no doubt have an impact on the chip maker, especially now as they are experiencing a slowdown due to a sluggish market and the economy.

According to one person, if Tim Cook wants to offer consumers a seamless experience across all platforms –phones, notebooks, tablets, and even televisions – it would be easier to do so with a unified chip architecture. It’s worth mentioning that this particular source specifically mentioned 2017.

Apple first began using Intel processors for their various lines of Mac computers in 2005. As The Verge points out, Cupertino’s transition from PowerPC processors to Intel chips went very smoothly and there’s no reason expect a similar switch from Intel to their own in-house design wouldn’t go just as well.

Of course, it’s little more than pure speculation at this point. We’ve heard rumors of Apple plans before that eventually never materialized (like an AMD-powered MacBook Air) so be sure to take this with a healthy dose of salt.




User Comments: 25

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captainawesome captainawesome said:

I'm sure they will eventually do this. The key word being "eventually". 5 maybe 10 years even.

m4a4 m4a4 said:

Sure, why not? It just means that they eventually pay even less for them but charge the consumer more...

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

It could also mean a lack of compatibility with Windows X.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

SemiAccurate talked about this a long time ago, although far as I remember he said it will happen soon. I never trust Charlie, though.

Anyway, I think it's plausible. Five years from now I also expect Windows on ARM to be mainstream. I feel that Windows RT is a tentative step towards a more complete ARM solution. It's Microsoft hedging its bets, marketing it as a tablet OS but with an eye towards more serious use if the market turns that way.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

Sounds like they are just keeping their options open. Apple and Intel have had little spats in the past, if Apple is working on their own stuff, whether it be a custom ARM processor (like their A6) or a custom x86 (like AMD's compared to Intel) then they may have something they could switch to in a hurry if they need.

Apple has experience switching processors and making it pretty seamless to the user, so I'm confident that they can switch architectures without a huge disaster.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

Hmm; Not that long ago Apple was using the PowerPC chip from IBM and dropped that to get Linux & Windows compatibility. IMO, someone is not aware of the history and the growth that has resulted.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Hmm; Not that long ago Apple was using the PowerPC chip from IBM and dropped that to get Linux & Windows compatibility. IMO, someone is not aware of the history and the growth that has resulted.

On the contrary, I think someone is well aware of it. Cross compatibility between tablets and laptops could lead to growth of both.

Both Windows and Linux are ARM compatible, and (as I said in my previous post about Windows) there's a chance that 5 years from now they'll offer an even more complete ARM solution (including a lot of software), the direction doesn't look too risky.

2 people like this | Guest said:

Apple will create a new processor, the y86 and then sue Intel for patent infringement.

Guest said:

So wait you want to make your own CPU when Intel makes the best ones in the world? Oh that's a great idea, why don't you just name yourself AMD and make lower grade ones but jack up your prices because ur apple.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

The switch to intel saved their asses. It takes one stupid move like this to kaboom your company.

Camikazi said:

Sounds like they are just keeping their options open. Apple and Intel have had little spats in the past, if Apple is working on their own stuff, whether it be a custom ARM processor (like their A6) or a custom x86 (like AMD's compared to Intel) then they may have something they could switch to in a hurry if they need.

Apple has experience switching processors and making it pretty seamless to the user, so I'm confident that they can switch architectures without a huge disaster.

They can't make a custom x86, only 3 companies can make x86 CPUs at all and they are VIA, Intel and AMD no one else has a license and Intel will not give Apple one.

SCJake said:

They'll fight like crazy, but they might have to. FRAND says they have to, but there are always ways around that

Camikazi said:

They'll fight like crazy, but they might have to. FRAND says they have to, but there are always ways around that

If you are talking about x86 then no they don't cause it isn't a FRAND patent, if it was there would be many more companies that make x86 CPUs (AMD and VIA are to keep monopoly talks away form Intel). FRAND is only for patents that are integral to an industry and that without no one could do anything and x86 doesn't fit considering all the competing CPU architectures (ARM being the biggest right now) and instruction sets.

Guest said:

2 or 3 years after Apple produce their own cpu, they will sue intel or AMD for copying apple's product :D

Pan Wah said:

2 or 3 years after Apple produce their own cpu, they will sue intel or AMD for copying apple's product

Probably, but I think Apple may have "Prior Art" regarding cores.....

dawei1993 said:

Good luck to you Apple, but with your CORE being changed, do a good job and you'll ripen! Do a terrible job and you'll rot.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Suing AMD sounds good to me, because it implies that AMD will be alive and well in 2020.

But yes, I assume that Apple will try to patent whatever they can about the CPU.

1 person liked this | Camikazi said:

Suing AMD sounds good to me, because it implies that AMD will be alive and well in 2020.

But yes, I assume that Apple will try to patent whatever they can about the CPU.

Can they really patent all that much when they are using licensed CPU architecture and instruction sets? Unless they want to try and make their own instruction set (they don't have the money or R&D for that) they will have to use someone else's tech and won't be able to patent much aside form tiny changes that no one will want to copy anyway.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Can they really patent all that much when they are using licensed CPU architecture and instruction sets?

Apple designs its own ARM compatible CPU's like Qualcomm does. I'm sure it can patent everything new it uses in that design.

pmshah said:

They'll fight like crazy, but they might have to. FRAND says they have to, but there are always ways around that

In the elctronic manufacturing market in the past - with limited fabs on line - there was insistence on the part of the buyer for a "second source" without which the chips would not be adopted. This was THE reason for licensing. Currently with multiple fabs AND contract manufacturers there is no more need.

pmshah said:

Suing AMD sounds good to me, because it implies that AMD will be alive and well in 2020.

But yes, I assume that Apple will try to patent whatever they can about the CPU.

Can they really patent all that much when they are using licensed CPU architecture and instruction sets? Unless they want to try and make their own instruction set (they don't have the money or R&D for that) they will have to use someone else's tech and won't be able to patent much aside form tiny changes that no one will want to copy anyway.

You are right. Without learning the terms of licensing they have with ARM it would be difficult to hazard a guess.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Here I though Apple abandoned the old "PowerMac" CPUs, because they couldn't keep pace with Intel's offerings (since C2D). Correct me if I'm wrong, (discounting the iPhone), but aren't Intel CPUs in large part, what put Apple in the position it is today?

I'm sure somebody in a Cupertino basement is trying to reverse engineers current Intel design. Only trouble there is, I really doubt Apple would be willing to spring for a new 22nn process capable fab to crank out their own brand CPU. And if they did, lord knows how overpriced their product would be them.

Or how much outright BS they'd have to feed their "clientele", in order to justify the added cost.

pmshah said:

Here I though Apple abandoned the old "PowerMac" CPUs, because they couldn't keep pace with Intel's offerings (since C2D). Correct me if I'm wrong, (discounting the iPhone), but aren't Intel CPUs in large part, what put Apple in the position it is today?

I'm sure somebody in a Cupertino basement is trying to reverse engineers current Intel design. Only trouble there is, I really doubt Apple would be willing to spring for a new 22nn process capable fab to crank out their own brand CPU. And if they did, lord knows how overpriced their product would be them.

Or how much outright BS they'd have to feed their "clientele", in order to justify the added cost.

In my opinion the 2 moves by Apple with regards to their cpu were strictly cost factor based. They moved from Motorola 68xxx to IBM PowerPC essentially for cost benefit and the same goes for moving on to Intel CPUs. They may have US$ 100 Billion + in banks but are they willing to invest 10 % of it in the latest fab ? The whole idea of contract manufacturing is the maximum utilization of manufacturing facility. I have personally seen different premium brand TVs and pc monitors rolling out on adjacent assembly lines. Regardless of their popularity there is no way they can utilize the capacity of a new fab for captive consumption unless they plan to sell their cpu production in the open market for use by other equipment manufacturers.

If my memory serves me right the only such successful fab was the yesteryear's AT&T / Western Electric d-ram chip manufacturing facility that had the highest yield in the industry and was totally for captive consumption.

Apart from shift to Intel processor the main platform for Apple's recovery was a huge financial loan / help package from Bill Gates, which I think was from Microsoft. Without that infusion of cash Apple would have gone bankrupt many moons go.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

...[ ].... They may have US$ 100 Billion + in banks but are they willing to invest 10 % of it in the latest fab ? No, N-O, no. The whole idea of contract manufacturing is the maximum utilization of manufacturing facility. I have personally seen different premium brand TVs and pc monitors rolling out on adjacent assembly lines Well that, and you get to pawn off any labor issues on Foxconn........ Or make a half a dozen, and turn them over to a team of patent lawyers. (I'm sorry! That wasn't very nice was it? I only said that because I found out I couldn't spell "attornies" Oh here, you try. Firefox thinks I'm trying to spell "tourniquet". Go figure)

Apart from shift to Intel processor the main platform for Apple's recovery was a huge financial loan / help package from Bill Gates, which I think was from Microsoft. Without that infusion of cash Apple would have gone bankrupt many moons go. Just when I was almost over my deep dislike of Bill Gates, you come up with that. It's enough to make you want to send somebody back in time to "Kill Bill"......, so to speak.. Maybe Uma Thurman would like the work.

(I'm just kidding, of course. At least I think I am. But then who among us isn't capable of lying to themselves)..

pmshah said:

I am sure Bill

No, N-O, no. Well that, and you get to pawn off any labor issues on Foxconn........ Just when I was almost over my deep dislike of Bill Gates, you come up with that. It's enough to make you want to send somebody back in time to "Kill Bill"......, so to speak.. Maybe Uma Thurman would like the work.

(I'm just kidding, of course. At least I think I am. But then who among us isn't capable of lying to themselves)..

I am sure Bill G ( Billjee, in Indian parlance where jee suffix to the name is Indian way of respectful addressing), is regretting his decision.

Although I practically have hardly worked on Apple systems I rooted for them when they were the underdogs. But then soon as they were in a sort of commanding position with a huge bank balance the true colours showed. I lost all respect for Steve Jobs as an innovator after I read a few stories after his demise about his arrogance, vindictiveness and just plain bad attitude.

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