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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:12 AM   #1
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Apple's Potential Shift from Intel to ARM for Macs Not Implausible, But Faces Hurdles




Following up on yesterday's report from Bloomberg that has rekindled discussion of Apple potentially making a switch from Intel's processors to custom ARM-based chips for its Mac lines, AllThingsD takes a closer look at the landscape to analyze the benefits and challenges of such a move.

The report contrasts Intel's focus on performance with ARM's focus on power efficiency and notes that there is no inherent reason why Apple couldn't push ARM technology more toward the performance end of the spectrum to make the chips more suitable for desktops and notebooks.
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If a company decided it wanted to design an ARM chip that was, as [analyst Nathan] Brookwood put it, "hell-bent on performance," it could be done. "You could get a pretty fast machine," he says.

Trouble is, it would have to be not only be fast, but have a really excellent roadmap lasting well into the future that not only met but exceeded that of Intel. That's a tall, tall order.
The report points to ARM's just-announced 64-bit processor designs as being key to any move into the Mac, and notes that Russian company Elbrus Technologies has developed a Rosetta-like emulation technology that could allow ARM chips to run software written for Intel processors.

On the flip side, Intel has a long track record of being at the forefront of processor performance and a strong history with Apple since the company's Mac lines transitioned from PowerPC chips seven years ago. As a result, any decision to switch from Intel to ARM obviously can not be made lightly, and Apple is clearly taking an extended timeframe to examine the possibility. But with Bob Mansfield now heading up a division of Apple dedicated new technologies in wireless and semiconductors, it seems that there may be a renewed focus on pushing the boundaries of the ARM platform even further.

Article Link: Apple's Potential Shift from Intel to ARM for Macs Not Implausible, But Faces Hurdles
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:14 AM   #2
Mr Fusion
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This would be a very silly move.

Switching to their own chips I could possibly understand, but ARM? Eventually they're going to let them down just like IBM and Intel.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:14 AM   #3
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I would believe:
Intel -> Apple custom silicon

A lot more than:
Intel -> ARM

But I'm sure Apple have both options up and running in their lab.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:16 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the8thark View Post
I would believe:
Intel -> Apple custom silicon

A lot more than:
Intel -> ARM

But I'm sure Apple have both options up and running in their lab.
Apple's custom silicon is based on ARM design (A5). Even the A6 so doesn't mean they can't build on ARM's offerings.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:18 AM   #5
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Intel makes some damn good processors that fit well into small portable computers. The major reason I see to switch to custom arm silicon would be binary compatibility. I feel like a lot of this is idle speculation to make an interesting conversation. I'm sure Apple is considering their options, but right now Intel is an extremely compelling option.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:18 AM   #6
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Apple is just playing it smart. I'd be surprised if Apple WASN'T considering other options. They'd be fools to just blindly use Intel without any backup plans.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:18 AM   #7
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if history has taught anything to apple, mistakes like these could possibly shake things up in apple's camp

love intel, not in love with this news/rumor, what do u say guys?
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:19 AM   #8
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Wow, now we have something to digest and debate well into 2014...
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:20 AM   #9
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whatever

Biggest hurdle will be, that nobody will buy those products.

p.s. If they already have a roadmap for the switch, I hope they used "Google maps" at least.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:20 AM   #10
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Good thing Apple is looking out or its customers again. If there's one thing we need its a low power chip on all those desktops.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:21 AM   #11
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What? Did they have a fight with intel now? lol just kidding. But seriously why run the hurdle race when intel has a good product?

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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:22 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hybroid View Post
Apple's custom silicon is based on ARM design (A5). Even the A6 so doesn't mean they can't build on ARM's offerings.
I agree 100%. I think if Apple went this route they'd take an ARM base design and change it to suit their needs (just like in the iPad).
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:23 AM   #13
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looks like apple can't digest its own success and making such frivolous moves.

sales of macs increased bec of intel cpu's, this move is bad if history has taught anything to apple.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:23 AM   #14
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Bad choice.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:24 AM   #15
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"hell-bent on performance", really?

They have been that way for a long while, but if they were paying attention, they know that Intel has been putting a decent amount of effort in their Atom chips (lower power offers). They not have chips that are low enough in power usage to run on a mobile phone (the Motorola RAZR i for those that are wondering). And Intel seems to have roadmaps to get power usage even lower on their devices moving forward.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:25 AM   #16
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Good luck competing with Intel. As it stands right now, if someone hit the big pause button on Intel, it will still take multiple years for ARM to design and its partners to mass manufacture something that competes fair and square with Ivy Bridge. If Apple stuffs an underperforming ARM chip in MacBook Air and gives people better battery life - they are going to have a hard time telling people what they need the iPad and the Air for.

And Intel isn't going to sit still - they would rather they eat ARM's lunch by releasing a power efficient x86 SoC that obliterates ARM's performance at comparable power draw. They are already doing quite OK with the Atom SoC in the RAZR i.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:26 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by STiNG Operation View Post
What? Did they have a fight with intel now? lol just kidding. But seriously why run the hurdle race when intel has a good product?

Image
Cause if there is a hurdle in the future they won't have the years to design a solution. They'll have to already spent the years making the solution. Ie better to have a solution you never have to use then get caught with your pants down and no immediate solution.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:27 AM   #18
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Could go either way, but if done right there could be some real benefits for processors in the future.

I, for one, am glad that someone is doing the the research.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:27 AM   #19
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It's a clever ploy by Tim Cook to keep Bob Mansfield happily working for Apple. There's nothing an engineer loves so much as a good challenge.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:28 AM   #20
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Apple isn't this retarded people - this is all stemmed from the quarrels that Apple has with Intel.

If ANYTHING happens, Apple will design their own in-house x86/64 CPUs.. Much like AMD is to Intel.

To further build a case, I bet Apple is interested in a hybrid CPU that has a mobile-core for lightweight tasks that switches to full-power x86/64 CPU for more demanding tasks. This will improve battery life in notebooks tremendously.

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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:28 AM   #21
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Trouble is, it would have to be not only be fast, but have a really excellent roadmap lasting well into the future that not only met but exceeded that of Intel. That's a tall, tall order.
Apple can pull this off.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:28 AM   #22
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"The new ARM-based Mac Pro. For the pro in all of us"...
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:28 AM   #23
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Rosetta like clone all over again? Backwards.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:29 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by STiNG Operation View Post
What? Did they have a fight with intel now? lol just kidding. But seriously why run the hurdle race when intel has a good product?

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Because they have to keep their options open. Intel's doing great right now but that might not always be the case - the Pentium 4 was an atrocious processor and AMD trumped them in almost every way. These days AMD isn't really much of a contender due to comparatively lacklustre performance. If Intel missteps and spends another 5 years pushing a poor processor, Apple might do well to use a different technology.
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Old Nov 6, 2012, 09:29 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monkeydude View Post
If they already have a roadmap for the switch, I hope they used "Google maps" at least.
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